Carbon Stereoxide, Eraserheads’ last studio album, came out almost two years since their previous record—less than a year before Ely Buendia unceremoniously announced his “graduation”. For a band that put out new materials year in, year out, from 1993 to 1999, that twenty-two month gap and the resulting album was more or less telling, indicative of things to come.
It wasn’t really like they ran out of gas. Or fresh ideas. But harness them and produce something surprising and cohesive was something they weren’t able to do this time. It wasn’t like they’ve reach the end of the road either. They’re just not sure which way to go. The resulting album is decidedly difficult, dark, anticlimactic. At times, Carbon Stereoxide is more like a pilot episode for three upcoming acts: Ely Buendia’s The Mongols/Pupil, Marcus Adoro’s Surfernando/Markus Highway and Raymund Marasigan’s Squid9.
Maybe, Raymund and Buddy tried to keep things together. And wrote the hit Ely wouldn’t want to write anymore (“How Far Will U Go”). Buendia wanted guitar-rock and probably, less drum machine, less electronic bleeps. More specifically, Ely wanted “Teeth’s early Smashing Pumpkins guitars” (the best iteration of which, could be found on The Mongols’ Buddha’s Pest). Still, little new things sprung up here and there. Marcus Adoro’s Pink Floyd plug “Wala” and “Pula”, at least, offers something different. So do Squid9 guest-appearances every two or three songs.
Marcus finally had proper songs on this album; not just token noise-rock blargh (“Southsuperhighway”), fillers (“Punk Zappa”), or a weak album opener (“Bato”). Marasigan, who also wanted the ‘Heads to make electronic-rock album, like Kid A, guests as pre-Ink Jet Squid9. And he did what the band wouldn’t do full-time, did it on the side, the fillers (“Bloodtest”, “Ok Comprende”). They were slight detours, maybe stellar as parts, but detract from the whole. Of course, there’s Buendia’s “Outside” to make up for the whole album’s apparent lack of hooks.
Coming from Eraserheads, the album’s title as well as its cover art, seem like a momentary lapse of judgment—the stereo in stereoxide, almost cliche by the Eheads standard. (Remember the color coded stems on Natin99? Or the nude chick on the piano on Sticker Happy? Did anyone bother to deliberate the choice of title and album art?) But to say the same about the songs would be a stretch for sure. Carbon Stereoxide isn’t a bad record. But it’s also lacking in that whatever elevated their previous works.
By the time they made Carbon Stereoxide, the Eraserheads—Ely, Marcus, Buddy, Raymund—were twice the musicians that they were back when they were just starting out, back when they recorded their debut. But they’re also less than the band they used to be. And in Carbon Stereoxide, one can finally see the cracks, the seams, the spaces between them.