13 Reasons Why I’m (Not) So Excited About Avengers: Infinity War

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Can’t say I’m not the least bit excited about Avengers: Infinity War. It is after all an Avengers movie. Something I have always looked forward to more than any other series or sub-franchise in the ongoing Marvel universe. Outside of the Guardians of the Galaxy, of course.

One reason I’m not too excited about Infinity War is that the Russos are directing it. And the writers of Captain America trilogy are the guys behind the script. Sure, Civil War had some funny, sometimes witty back and forths, but it’s not the same as when Joss Whedon was still Marvel’s go to guy. Of course, Age of Ultron was a massive let down but so was Civil War.

At their best, the script for the last two Captain America movies, were just a little more than serviceable. Except for The Winter Soldier‘s bone-busting, fast-cut ADHD-style and a little shaky fight sequences (not really that good, if you ask me, since they tend to get repetitive in the long run), and Civil War‘s airport scuffle, those movies didn’t really stand out from the rest of the MCU. They didn’t have a distinct look or tone. Neither the triumphantly comedic/dramatic as the Guardians, nor as outrageously “out-there” as Thor: Ragnarok, and never as heartfelt as Ant-Man. Nothing really inventive or out-of-the-box.

Speaking of out-of-the box ideas, that scene in where Loki was falling thru nothingness for thirty minutes is one of the most inventive sequence I’ve seen among recent MCU films. Sure that sequence is simple on the surface, not much CGI required to pull off, but it definitely required more than a bit of imagination to come up with. Yes, it was played for laughs and didn’t really forward the plot but it’s actually great in that, it demonstrated Strange’s power, his magic, it fleshed out the contrast between characters Loki and Strange (not so quippy this time), and also, it was very funny. My complaint with Doctor Strange is that it wasn’t magical enough, it wasn’t really strange. (Should Waititi take on next Doctor Strange movie, I would be excited for that.)

Going back to Cap’s movies, on pure technical aspects, they’re as exciting as Ant-Man. Outside of things mentioned above, they look so run-of-the-mill. Too bad for them, Ant-Man had a smaller but more relatable, not to mention more convincing, story to tell.

So yeah, the trailer is out. And it was different from the one shown in D23, which already leaked thru the internet. Trailer breakdowns are everywhere. This guy found 13 reasons to be so excited about this movie coming out next year. So I decided that I’d rip him off and give my own—kind of contrarian—take on the list. Here we go:

Vision Goes Through Changes
Not a big fan of Vision. Though I like Age Of Ultron more than the next guy, Vision’s origin is one of those sub-plot in that movie that left me… I don’t know. It’s was kind of magical and dumb and also very contrived. I like Scarlet Witch. There’s a part in Ultron where Hawkeye told her that none of these (the things happening in the movie) makes sense, and it was followed by her character transformation. I also like her being paired with Vision in Civil War. But that brings me to one of my biggest gripes about the movie: Where the hell is Vision during that Lagos mission?

Anyways, the trailer shows Vision in human form which tells me that there’s probably something going on between him and Wanda in Infinity. That something will happen between them but we’ll not be able to witness it because they have to do it off screen. And that means Vision will have to grew himself a man-dick. (He made his own cape, remember? Or, more like, it grew out of him.) He needs a really good android equivalent of the human penis. The same way Ego did.

Banner Is Back On Earth
Honestly, after I saw Thor: Ragnarok, I hoped he’d just stay there in Sakaar or some other alien planet. With Thor, of course. And Korg. And Valkyrie. Loki? The Revengers? The Other Space Avengers? (Or is it The Other Dimension Avengers?) Yes, I’m OK with that as long as Waititi’s on board.

New Team-Ups
Exactly what’s new and so exciting with that? Iron Man has teamed up with Rhodey as early as MCU’s third movie.

Loki And The Tesseract
Loki seems to be offering the green cube to someone, either Thanos or one of his children—finally, after five long Earth years (and who knows how many MCU years) since the first Avengers. Mad Titan Thanos must be very titanically mad at this point. The question is: Is Loki of any use to him after he gets what he wants? Most likely not and he’s gonna dispose him off as quickly as possible. But Loki can always fake his own death, right? Hmm.

Enter Thanos
If you think the MCU kind of sucks, it is Thanos’ fault. It’s his fault some movies are heavily built on these McGuffins, that the MCU is plagued with boring villains because he’s the “Big Bad”, because the MCU needs to make 19 movies before he’s finally “in” the movie. Which is to say, we had to suffer a slew of unmemorable villains before the real Big Bad comes out. All I’m saying is, this movie should be worth all the trouble and the wait. To quote Tom Hanks’ famous last words in Saving Private Ryan, this movie should: Earn it. And prove that those villains that came before him: Red Skull, Whiplash, Malekith, Ultron, that Doctor Strange villain who’s not Dormammu, and Scott Adkins didn’t die for nothing. That they didn’t die just to make way a perfectly fine movie. Because at this point, Perfectly Fine ain’t just Enough.

Spider-Man’s New Suit
I thought Homecoming was about ‘I’m not nothing without the suit’. What happens to Peter’s genius then when Stark keeps supplying him the goods? It looks like they’re setting Peter up for future movies. Iron Spider? Sure. Are they going to have Peter take over Tony’s mantle in the next installations? And let Miles Morales take over Peter’s? Holy Genius Marvel! But this is what most Marvel movies have always been: elaborate set-ups for future projects. Of the 17 movies they’ve already released, how many of them felt like genuine stand alone movies? Almost 20 movies in and they’re still opening loops instead of closing them. On the other hand, maybe Thanos will destroy Spidey’s armor. Then Peter will have to use his other suit, the hi-tech underoos, which would be ruined by some “black goo” from other dimensions during Avengers 4 (aka Secret Wars). Then, voila, Black dancing Spidey all over again!

Hulkbuster Iron Man Is Back
We’ve seen Hulk fight the Hulkbuster in Age of Ultron. And I wasn’t really thrilled. That sequence was more exhausting than fun to watch. I want something that makes you care about the characters, the outcome, and no matter how serious it should still be fun. Like Kick-Ass‘s fight sequence near the end for example. Or the bank robbery sequence in Spider-Man 2. Though it was still a fun sequence, because it has Downey Jr.’s banter-heavy fighting technique, and also because he’s slugging it out with no other than the strongest Avenger, there was a also dragging seriousness to it. It was a little bit pointless in that it only repeated the Hulk-destroying-the-team ploy of the first movie. And it pulls the focus of story to wholly different direction (to show that peoples and governments started thinking the Avengers are dangerous) mainly because it’s a set up for another movie: the forthcoming Civil War.

Just how powerful Thanos is? Could the Hulkbuster do him any harm? Or more importantly, will he have some “what the fuck” moment the same way Ronan did in GotG? Remember that part of the movie? Groot just died saving his friends. Then Ronan was about to kill them all with his war-hammer. Then out of nowhere comes Quill dancing in front of him and the look on Ronan’s face was priceless—no, it was more precious and powerful than the Infinity Stone embedded in his hammer. And it’s followed by that kick-ass dramatic sequence that ends with “You said it yourself bitch, we’re the Guardians of the Galaxy!” That’s the kind of sequence I’m seriously hoping for. A rollercoaster ride of emotions. And Infinity War should pull off something like that, even if only remotely as good. Because Ronan is no greater than Thanos. Because this is the movie with the Big Bad we’re talking about. It should be nothing less than Epic.

Thanos Vs. Spider-Man/Thanos Vs. Vision/Thanos Vs. Iron Man/Lots Of Fighting
I kind of feel like Infinity War will set the record for the most number of punches thrown in an MCU movie, if not in all action movies ever. I’m calling Guinness now. So they can create a new category: Punchiest Movie of All Time. And maybe they should start counting now. And if we are to compare different superhero/comic book movies and franchises, it’s safe to assume the MCU is way ahead of the competition. Which is kind of tiring if you think about it. Could the fights be more playful? Or have more focus perhaps? And not a hundred dozen things all happening at the same time.

Avengers Assembled
The Avengers arguing among themselves with the Mind Stone in the middle, in the first movie and the Mjolnir-lifting contest and later, Ultron’s dramatic entrance in the second, is the heart and mouth of those two Avengers movies (Also, Cap and Iron-Man’s “Language!” banter which HISHE used as a punchline in at least two of their videos.) Will we get something as memorable from the Russo Brothers’ next two movies? I really hope we’ll do.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Assemble Too
The cast of GotG should remain in character, which means, they get to be the A-holes that they are, regardless of the script. I mean, they could just improvise the way the Revengers in Ragnarok did. And if they do, and if they take at least four-tenths of this movie’s running time, I’m sure I’m in for a treat. But that’s quite unlikely since there are three separate teams and locations (at least for now) based on the trailer.

*Bonus* Captain America’s Got A Beard
Facial hair’s a big deal nowadays. Just ask the guys behind Justice League. Also, that beard looks good on Cap. And based on the trailer, I think it’s 100% real, not a speck of CGI on Cap’s face. That’s a big plus. Now seriously, I hope that by the end of Avengers 4, whether Cap’s gonna die in it or not, they’d give him a really good reason to shave, something along the lines of Jude Law’s Civil War deserter W.P. Inman’s reason in Cold Mountain.

But shave or no shave, CGI or real, I have to say this: Please Marvel, if Cap’s gonna go down in Avengers 4, please don’t let him die a virgin. Because if that happens—now THAT would be really, really, really devastating.

 

Infinity War Poster from: http://camw1n.deviantart.com

Trailer GiFs from: https://gmanfromheck.com

Shuffle

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I listen to music on my way to work. Like breakfast, it’s one of those morning things I couldn’t skip. I used to listen to full albums, but one time, I got tired of picking which album to listen to, got tired of the choices (Local H’s Nirvana-esque post grunge, Imago’s last album with Aia de Leon, Modest Mouse, Kate Torralba, The Flaming Lips, etc., or Pavement).

Then, I had this bright idea—I would use this one amazing feature in Android phones. It’s called the “shuffle”. And it’s so amazing it allows you to turn your phone into an FM radio station minus those annoying “hirit” lines from those dumb-ass DJ’s from Love Radio.

So I picked Kate Torralba’s “Pictures” as the first song—a terrific pop song. Then, I pressed shuffle. And this is what my awesome Samsung Galaxy Y cooked up for me.

club8(Note: This page is “dial-up” friendly. Click on the song title to open the link on YouTube.)

All I Can Do – Club8
Twee with a touch of bossa, or maybe bossa with a touch of twee. Either way it’s perfect for just sitting around. Maybe not so perfect to listen to while walking—an old Japanese lady on her bike nearly hit me when she passed by me.

Four Sticks – Led Zeppelin
Some cocky el gradioso numero to shake up the usual 90’s staples.

wateryFrontwards (live) – Pavement
A great live version of one of the unsung classics from Watery, Domestic.

Pikit Bukas – Pupil
About pork barrel and is actually an alternate version of Gusto Ko Ng Baboy. (This doesn’t make sense to me now. I can’t remember what I was thinking or why I wrote this.)

Kentucky Cocktail – Pavement
2nd of the four Pavement tracks in this list. I paid attention to Gary Young’s drumming.

Get It Over – Eggboy
One of those rare happy tune sad bastard lyrics combination that actually sounds so effortlessly perfect. (That said, I didn’t really read or tried to understand its lyrics.)

In The Mouth A Desert – Pavement
While studying Gary Young’s use of hi-hats, I was wondering what chords Malkmus was playing in this song. (Answer: C, G, and A but not in standard tuning).

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Sa Ngalan Mo – Imago
I will miss Aia’s Imago songs. The new vocalist is hot tho.

Embassy Row – Pavement
This is Malkmus singing about politics. The first statement is false.

eggstoneHomerun – Sandwich
One of those Sandwich songs that features that Diego-Raims-Marc triple-hit guitar combo. (I totally have no idea now what this song sounds like.)

Bukas – Teeth
Tomorrow, not today.

Brass – Eggstone
A great non-album track from this Swedish trio. Which is to say, when it comes to twee-pop, Eggstone should be your go-to band.

Tomorrow Not Today – Shiela and The Insects
A dark (sounding) song to end the playlist. I was not in the office yet, so I pushed the “Repeat All” button. Then…

 

Feelings (feat. Paul Buchanan) – Up Dharma Down
… I was surprised when I heard a guy moaning softly before another song properly starts. It’s a bonus track, from UDD’s third. It’s like one of those songs on the radio on a lazy Sunday afternoon when you want to sleep but you can’t, because…

Mababa Ang Buwan – Fando & Lis
More heartaches. I need to sleep. Why won’t you, why won’t you let me.

 

Sleep.

High & Dry: My Top 5 Radiohead LPs

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“Hey, here’s the new Radiohead album”, a friend offered few months ago. I put it on, listened. So this is how they sound now. Interesting, I thought. But theirs is not the kind of music that I need. At least for now. Some people find meaning in lyrics that reflects the despairing things happening around the world. I already had enough of that—not from music, but from other things.

I need music to unwind, to unplugged myself from the system—by plugging in to another. I listen to songs that could remind me of things that “brighten up the corners“, not songs that reminds me of the opposite.

What is this called? Neo-classical-rock? Wikipedia says it’s considered art-rock. Art-rock, but not as in Mellon Collie and Infinite Sadness‘ prog-meets-jazz-meets-metal-meets-grunge art-rock. It’s just old Radiohead cut in half, then half of them replaced with strings, orchestrations and whatever. Which can also be said of their other albums starting with Hail to the Thief. Hail to the Thief is half electronic, half guitars; In Rainbows is half made with laptop, half made with live musical instrument; TKOL is half old Radiohead, half beats.

And no, I’m not trashing their newer albums in favor of the old ones. Unlike with Foo Fighters, I just cannot dismiss the last three albums just because I didn’t like them. Radiohead is one of my favorite bands too, and “interesting” is probably the worst I could say of their last two or three releases. And this isn’t rare—that I like OK Computer but not In Rainbows or The King Of Limbs. Some people I know started liking the band with In Rainbows and finds anything before it inaccessible. Some even went as far as saying that Pablo Honey is the only decent Radiohead album, that all the rest reeks of arena-rock grandiosity.

So how would I rank all of Radiohead’s LP’s? Which one’s the best? I can’t rank all of them. I haven’t really listened to their last two albums. But from those that I have listened to, I’d pick my top five. Here it is.

OK Computer
1997. We were so into rock music. And boy bands. Green Day, Blur, The Smashing Pumpkins, our semi-charmed kind of life. Radiohead’s OK Computer descended upon us in the form of a cassette. And a news article on a broadsheet proclaiming “Radiohead returns to save the universe” on its headline. The tape was passed from one to another, never returned to its original owner. I spent a week playing it in the old radio cassette player. I never heard anything like it before or since (until Hail to the Thief). Then it disappeared. Like a dream. Never saw that tape again. Never knew who it ended up with. But the music haunted me in my wakeful dreams.

The Bends
“High and Dry” and “Fake Plastic Trees” are my most favorite Radiohead songs. They’re the equivalent of “In My Life” and “Here, There, and Everywhere” by the Beatles. To me, at least. They were my favorites even before OK Computer; even before I recognized that the song played in Romeo+Juliet’s closing credits was “Exit Music (For A Film)”. This album also got them riffs (i.e., Just, The Bends), more than Jonny Greenwood’s chugging guitars right before the chorus of “Creep” (the part which Parokya Ni Edgar replaces with “coughs” in the parody “Trip”).

Hail to the Thief
2005. This is the very first Radiohead album I owned. And this is the album that introduced me to Radiohead’s electronic-rock. It’s the post-90s album of theirs I found easiest to like. And it sounds like a direct follow-up to both OK Computer and Kid A / Amnesiac. This would be the last time a Radiohead album would grab me right on the first track. It leaves a lasting impression too: of dread, hopelessness and gloom, a wolf at the door. It’s probably the last true physical rock record I bought before the internet totally took over the music industry, or whatever’s left of it.

Kid A / Amnesiac
This would make five a six. Whether they should be counted separately or… Yeah, I’m just lazy, that is. But yeah, they’re twin albums, a year apart. Just like The Strokes’ Is This It? and Room for Squares, just like tide/edit’s Lighfoot and Foreign Languages. It’s electronic-rock, like Radiohead trying to be DJ Shadow or Aphex Twins. Kid A plays like one big song, without much peaks and troughs—it’s very consistent. Amnesiac is a little less. But with the highlights (Pyramid Song, Knives Out, You and Whose Army?, I Might be Wrong) reaching higher highs than those in the first.

Pablo Honey
1998. Pablo Honey, or the tape I borrowed from someone who also borrowed it from someone and never returned. I wanted to listen to The Bends, while “No Surprises” haunted my dreams. But there I was, stuck with the album that houses that well-worn hit “Creep”. It has a few hidden gems (Prove Yourself, I Can’t). Then I remember Rico Blanco, in the middle of one of their songs, singing a few lines from “Stop Whispering” (And the thin man said I don’t wanna hear your voice) in one Rivermaya gig in Saguijo. And it was such a spiritual experience, being one of the few souls in that specific moment, who knew the words he’s singing and from what song they’re taken.

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Picture of the floppy from feelnumb.com.

Matigas Paniwalaan

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Eraserheads’ Sticker Happy Turns 20

They called themselves Eraserheads. They took it from David Lynch’s surreal horror film, which was released in 1977, the same year Punk exploded. Eraserheads took off in 1993, two years after Nirvana and grunge broke into the mainstream. Apparently, Lynch’s film was still popular among late ’80s – early ’90s film school circles. Punk, on the other hand, was on the verge of another revival. The Eraserheads were never punk, though they flirted with punk and discord more than once (i.e., Insomya). What they surely had in abundance though, especially in their early days, was “punk attitude”. Twenty years after David Lynch’s film debut came Sticker Happy. And twenty years later, the girl in front of the upright piano still has her back on us, but that’s OK—the songs are still sticky, colorful. We, the fans, happy.

Wala lang. 20th anniversary kasi ng paborito kong album na Sticker Happy. Oo, tama yung may nakahubad na babae sa cover. Wala na sigurong mas iconic pa dito. Kahit yung cover na paborito kong Abbey Road (yung LP ha, at hindi yung EP na may “The” sa title)? Walang sinabi yun. Pero di tulad ng Pavement, Radiohead at Nirvana walang inilabas na re-issue o special edition ng Sticker Happy (ganun din naman yung mga naunang albums ng ‘Heads). Samakatuwid, walang Wowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinel Edition o Slanted & Enchanted: Luxe and Reduxe. Pero OK lang, pwede namang magpatugtog ng mga live recordings nila circa Sticker Happy mula sa baul ni Schizo (unfortunately, wala palang bootlegs sa mga panahong iyon).

Mahirap i-describe ang mga kanta ng Eraserheads. May mga kantang malungkot ang tema, pero masaya. Maganda ang melody pero maingay din kung minsan. Pangkaraniwan ang boses ni Ely, di tulad nina Bamboo o Axl Rose, pero kakaiba ang dating ng mga kanta nila. Hindi masyadong teknikal, pero magaling. Madaling sakyan pero hindi baduy. Pero ibang usapan na pagdating sa Sticker Happy. Mas mahirap i-describe. Lalo na yung sound nila. Heto lang masasabi ko: medyo bastos yung “Kaliwete”, wasak yung “Ha Ha Ha”, walang sense ang “Kananete”, at di pa rin ako sigurado kung 100% sincere si Ely sa “Para sa Masa”. Maganda yung “Milk and Money” at “Andalusian Dog”, parehong lumang kanta na binigyan nila ng panibagong areglo, pero ayoko nang himayin pa kung anong sinasabi nila sa kanta.

Sa kabila nito, may isang kanta dito na simple lang, pero malalim. Hindi sya maingay, walang masyadong gaheto—distortion man o sampler—pero mabigat. Tungkol ito sa love, tungkol sa faith. Tungkol sa mga bagay na akala natin ay totoo, pero malalaman natin na hindi pala. Mga bagay na pinaniwalaan natin dati. Napag-usapan namin dati yung line na “someone up there is waiting with arms open wide and smiling”. Sabi ko, ang pagkakaintindi ko, tungkol ito sa mga trapo, na tunay na tao lang pag malapit na ang eleksyon. Sabi ng kaibigan ko hindi, si Jesus ang tinutukoy sa kantang yun. Napaisip ako noon. Malalim pa sa balon. ‘Yung linyang “suffering is what you get for living” naman, nito ko rin lang lubos na naintindihan. May mga nabasa ako tungkol sa spirituality, sa Buddhism, sa Tuesdays with Morrie na parang umaayon dito. Ganun na din ang mga pagkahaba-habang pelikula ni Lav Diaz. Naalala ko tuloy nung minsang napanood ko yung Melancholia. Tapos kinabukasan umuwi ako sa amin. Habang nasa bus, narinig ko yung “Gusto Ko Lamang Sa Buhay” ng Itchyworms. Muntik na akong mapaluha. Sa unang pagkakataon matapos mapanood ang walong oras na pelikula ni Lav Diaz, nakaramdam ako ng tuwa. It’s hard to explain. Matigas ipaliwanag. Basta, maganda yung kanta.

 

Ang mga larawan ay hiniram lamang sa Facebook page ng ERASERHEADS : The Greatest Filipino Band Ever(Believe it or else.) na nilikha naman ni ACIII. This blog entry is brought to you by the numbers 6 and 9 and by the letter Ng.

Foo Fighters’ Albums, Ranked From Worst to Best

Foo Fighters

The Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl’s solo studio project that quickly evolve into a full band, are now well on their way to becoming a “classic rock” band. More than two decades old and they’re still at it. For better or worse. They are like the granddaddies of corporate rock now—irrelevant and boring—in the same way Van Halen and Aerosmith were during the nineties. But that’s not to say the Foos never had excellent albums. They had a few. And before you start typing a hundred word vomit in defense of your favorite rock band, hear this: they’re my favorite band too. Or at least they used to be on my top five. Until they eventually slipped, around the time they released another album produced by Gil Norton, around the same time their concerts got bigger and bigger, while their songs started to sound more and more like lesser variations of their older hits.

One by One (2002)
The band’s least favorite album is also their worst. That makes sense. Over-produced, formulaic, and over-compressed—while arguably not their weakest set of songs—One by One is easily their worst sounding record. Tellingly, the best song from the album is the raw acoustic version of “Times Like These”, which can’t be found on the actual album.
Notable Tracks: All My Life, Have It All

Sonic Highways (2014)
You can resort to all sorts of gimmicks—TV documentaries, record your songs in different cities, invite your idols—or you can write your best damn songs and never worry much about the extraneous stuff. None of the eight tracks here are downright bad, none half-assed. If anything, they’re more likely to be full-assed or over-assed (i.e., one song features three guitarists plus the guy from Cheap Trick). But none of which are Continue reading “Foo Fighters’ Albums, Ranked From Worst to Best”

Your Universe (Rico Blanco, 2008)

AlbumArt_YUBefore we were re-introduced to the now solo Rico Blanco, the story went like this: the then-Rivermaya frontman went MIA; his former band, reduced to a trio, released the brilliant Bagong Liwanag, then staged an overblown TV search for a frontman, a new member. Meanwhile, some speculated Rico Blanco formed a new band and he’s called it Blanco.

Then came the signal fire: the five-minute plus “Yugto”, an anthemic folk-rocker replete with strings, tribal beats and horns; chorus that echoes Joey Ayala at Ang Bagong Lumad’s “Lumiyab Ka” and bridge that alludes to the Battle of Jericho. In short, it’s big, gigantic. A song one could easily put alongside the Eraserheads’ “Ang Huling El Bimbo”, “Center Of the Sun” from Wolfgang’s Acoustica, and Rivermaya’s “Alab Ng Puso” from Live & Acoustic or their live rendition of “You’ll Be Safe Here”, at the 2006 MTV Asia Awards in Thailand. We’re talking about epic numbers here.

After the ballsy first single, comes Your Universe, Rico Blanco’s first solo album. Contrary to what some fans have expected (myself included), Your Universe isn’t Magkabilaan with electric guitars, or something along the lines of Rivermaya’s punchier, darker oeuvre. Rivermaya’s version of “Ilog” and “Padayon” could have been the perfect jumping-off point for Blanco to get on full folk-rock mode; instead, the other nine songs in the album has Blanco exploring different avenues, revisiting past excursions while also charting new territories.

Your Universe marks a new chapter for Rico Blanco, but it also signifies the end, the closing of another. It neatly sums up Blanco’s past works, as both singer and main songwriter of Rivermaya, while also introducing his first solo output.

“Your Universe”, the second single, is like a 180-degree turn from the first. It’s a comely ballad that favors acoustic guitars and string orchestration over drums and distortion, and reveals Blanco’s singer-songwriter side (think about Aqualung circa Strange and Beautiful). “Your Universe”, together with “Restless” and “Start Again”, sound like the logical progression from “Balisong” and “Sunday Driving” (off Between the Stars and Waves) and hint at what the next Rivermaya songs might be like, had Blanco stayed with the band. “Say Forever”, on the other hand, was probably written after Blanco revisited the ’80s, for his last outing with Rivermaya; only this time, it’s more “Tupperware Party” than Joey Ayala. The cheesy keyboard lines, the angular guitars, the dance-y beats, and the friggin’ saxophone(!) at the break will get you all New Wave-y all over again.

While generally considered as a collaborative effort, with Blanco enlisting a number of well-known musicians and friends (Nathan Azarcon, Buddy Zabala, Sago‘s Pards Tupaz, among others), the songs on Your Universe range from something as grand as “Yugto”, the song with the most number of guest musicians, to something as minimal as “Para Di Ka Mawala”. In between, we got “Ayuz”, another full band set-up, highlighted by a festive horn section and a music video featuring Rico Blanco doing his best Fred Astaire impressions. There’s also “Antukin”, in which Blanco played all instruments, including drums. Aside from doing a terrific job behind the skins, there’s also a splendid piano solo, which he probably threw in just for fun—a playful throwback to his earlier days with Rivermaya. (The Southeast Asia version of the album available on Spotify features a different mix of “Antukin”, in which the said piano part is replaced by a guitar solo.)

If there are any weak points here, that would Blanco’s forays into electronic rock. “Outta This” and closer “Metropolis”, aren’t in any way bad, but would probably sound better in a more coherent-sounding record than here.

While his former record label put out a number of best-of compilations from Rivermaya over the years (Rivermaya: Greatest Hits (2006), Silver Series (2008), 18 Greatest Hits (2010))—an increasingly redundant way of re-introducing the band to old and younger audiences—Rico Blanco had another thing in mind. With Your Universe, what he offers is a mix-tape, a compilation of his best and latest, not necessarily hits. It is like a “greatest hits”—only there’s not a single old song in it.

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Live gig photo from roxnebres.deviantart.com.

How the Foo Fighters Got Old Really Fast

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In the closing scene of The Hurt Locker, Sgt. William James told his son that “As you get older, some of the things you love might not seem so special anymore.” Function of age, I guess.

The Foo Fighters were news to me back ’97—“Monkey Wrench” on MTV, a friend’s got a tape of The Colour and the Shape, Grohl’s new short hair, Pat Smear’s gay, etc., etc.

Are they still news to me now, twenty years later?

Hardly. Actually, hardly anything not about Stephen Malkmus, Pavement, Eraserheads and a few other artists/bands could pass as music news to me. It just so happen that I was trying to write something about the Foo Fighters, so I searched them and found this news article.

Foo’s latest single “Run” was released on June 1 and it’s already got six million views on YouTube. Good for them. If you haven’t seen or heard it yet, it’s good—but you’re not missing a lot. Nothing exceptional. Except maybe for the fact that the video reminds me of “Kick the Can” from The Twilight Zone.

The Twilight Zone—that’s a nice movie, that one you shouldn’t miss.

Buddha’s Pest (The Mongols, 2004)

mongbudGot Buddha’s Pest few months ago—got it pre-loved, second-hand, from eBay. As advertised, it is in mint condition. The CD inserts, with production notes and lyrics, are still intact—means the previous owner really took good care of it. It’s quite amusing though, that the liner notes come with directions and precautions, warning about the dangers in playing it loud and listening closely. That at full volume, it is no different from the red pill that could lead you down the rabbit hole; that it’s as potent as any mind-altering substance that could trigger mental time travel or worse, disorient and fuck the brain.

Buddha’s Pest is Jesus “Dizzy” Ventura’s (a.k.a. Ely Buendia) first proper release, post-Eraserheads; The Mongols, his first formal band since “graduation”. Like the five-track EP Fraction of A Second, which was sold in their gigs in CD-R format, Buddha’s Pest is also self-produced by the band, released via their own Criminal Records, but under a major label imprint for wider distribution. Much like Teeth’s unintended swan song I Was A Teenage Tree, Buddha’s Pest  is criminally underrated.

Quite interesting that The Mongols open the album with repeated sampled noises (which echoes, whether intentional or not, the electronic beats and loops from the Heads’ last outing), before kicking the flood gates open with “The Keeper”. What follows is a string of tunes that not only recalls the early ’90s—particularly shoegaze and grunge—but also reminds of Ely Buendia’s witticisms and penchant for melody—with the latter having gone a bit suspect on Carbon Stereoxide.

The Mongols mine old gold, both tuneful and mouthful: whether it’s the fragmented lyricism of “Bulakbol”, Buendia’s internal monologues in “Bakit Nga Ba?”, or his parade of comic-book characters in both the Billy Corgan-esque “Wig Out” (a troglodyte, a silent sentry, the Minotaur) and the impossibly sublime “Irish Spring” (the dragon-slayer, his lady fair, and the little monster). The words aren’t just sounds that flows with the tunes. There are stories in there, floating in a whirl of fuzz and distortion. Needless to say, this is easily Buendia’s best set of songs since Sticker Happy.

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Complementing Buendia’s full-on comeback is Teeth’s Jerome Velasco. Velasco’s guitars provide grit and nuances, shifting between chunky distorted riffs and dreamy soundscapes between and within songs while the band flies high on intricately layered song constructs and simple chord progressions.

But to credit everything to guitarists Buendia and Velasco would be harshly unfair to the rest of the gang. There’s the dreamy “Pony”, a song about a girl who loves to tell stories about girls and bands, penned by Yan Yuzon and Bogs Jugo—the other half of the band, relatively newcomers whose names suspiciously sound like they were lifted from comic books. Then there’s “It’s Over”, another solid contribution from Yuzon, which is not really for the embittered Eheads’ fans (So hold my hand/ We’ll take a bow/ The world can do without us now).

This album has plenty of highlights, but for me, “Heroine”, a song credited to all members of the band, takes the cake. This is where all hell breaks loose. Mid-song, there’s a campy exchange between GOD (played by Buendia’s muse, Diane Ventura) and Satan that sounds like a scene straight out of the first Heavy Metal movie—it’s hilariously grungy and head-bangingly cool. But what sets this apart is the chorus; it is heavenly—like the whole band speaking in tongues—a modern haiku for the ages.

I promise you my heart/ we’ll never be apart/ I’m gonna fuck you like there’s no tomorrow.

No other band—not the Radioactive Sago Project, not Wolfgang, not the Eraserheads, not even the Urban Bandits—has ever gone this pure. This magical. This visceral.

“Heroine” is its fuckin’ nirvana and Buddha’s Pest is bliss.

 

*Album inlay from Schizo Archives.

Have you ever wished you were a 90’s kid? FYI, the 2000’s was awesome too!

Note: This was originally written in September 2016, around the time everyone was going crazy over a TV ad featuring the Eraserheads.

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“We grew up listening to the music from the best decade ever.”

                                                             – Lariat (Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, 2014)

Everyone wants to be a 90’s kid these days. Everyone wants to relive those times when “Pare Ko” hits the top of the charts; when “Alapaap”, “Banal Na Aso” and “Laklak” almost got banned; when Rivermaya premiered their music video for “Elesi”; and when the boys of Parokya Ni Edgar debuted on national TV, wearing skirts and dusters. Nostalgia moves in mysterious ways. There’s probably another Eraserheads reunion brewing around the corner (or maybe that’s just how a certain Telco giant wants us to think and feel). There’s also this rumor spreading around of the band re-recording Ultraelectromagneticpop. But the Eraserheads and their fans aren’t alone on the reunion bandwagon. Four out of five members of Rivermaya’s 1994 lineup had a one-night reunion last January. For some, it was a night to remember, with or without Bamboo; for the others, their wish remains the same – the reunion of the “original” Rivermaya.

We’re halfway past the 2010’s already. It makes me wonder. Are we gonna be nostalgic soon for the previous decade, as we were for the 90’s ten years ago? In case you forgot, Ultraelectromagneticjam came out in 2005, a few days before the 10th year anniversary of Cutterpillow. And if you want to gauge how nostalgic we were back then, just think about this – Ultraelectromagneticjam was a tribute album for a band that disbanded merely three years prior. Yeah, that’s how badly we missed the Eraserheads, specifically the Eraserheads of early-to-mid 90’s (the Eraserheads of late 90’s to early 2000’s? Not much, I guess).

How about the 2000’s? Doesn’t anyone want to go back to the early to mid-2000s? Are we not going to see our collective nostalgia snowball into a Sugarfree reunion? Or at least make the members of Orange & Lemons play together again? Would there be online petitions for the members of Bamboo and Rivermaya circa 2004, to double-bill one big concert?

Honestly, that would be awesome.

There’s no denying that the 90’s was great for local music, but I’m afraid that we’re very much inclined to overlook a lot of things – bands, music, albums – that came out after the 90’s. As far as I’m concerned, the 2000’s was just as good, if not better.

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Here’s a list of notable/favorite albums from the previous decade. And they are just as good and as interesting as the best albums from the 90’s. I think Peryodiko’s self-titled debut, which was produced by Robin Rivera (Eraserheads, Dong Abay, Sugarfree), is an underrated gem. Ditto with Archipelago’s one and only CD. Among the albums listed below, those from Ciudad, The Purplechickens and Narda are probably the hardest ones to find – which is quite sad because those are among the finest indie records from the last decade. If you don’t like MYMP because of their sappy acoustic covers, you’d be surprised that their debut album, has nine originals and only two covers (The Police’s “Every Little Thing” and Bob Marley’s “Waiting In Vain”). And Juana’s only album, which sounds very 90’s (think of Prettier Than Pink, only better) is actually fine.

A is for Alternative: Free (Rivermaya); Tuloy Ang Ligaya (Rivermaya); Live & Acoustic (Rivermaya); Bagong Liwanag (Rivermaya); Behold! Rejoice! Surfernando is Here Nah (Markus Highway); Travel Advisory (Archipelago); Peryodiko (Peryodiko); The Noontime Show (Itchyworms); Sa Wakas (Sugarfree); Flipino (Dong Abay); Beautiful Machines (Pupil); Wildlife (Pupil); Buddha’s Pest (The Mongols); Thanks to the Moon’s Gravitational Pull (Sandwich); Contra Tiempo (Sandwich); Bigotilyo (Parokya Ni Edgar); Your Universe (Rico Blanco)

Indie Darlings: Hello! How Are You, Mico the Happy Bear? (Ciudad); Is That Ciudad? Yes Son It’s Me (Ciudad); Formika (Narda); Discotillion (Narda); A Postcard From (Narda); Swerte (Narda); Rhomboids (Monsterbot); Here’s Plan B (The Purplechickens)

Jazz Folk & Funk: Urban Gulaman (Radioactive Sago Project); Rippingyarns (Cynthia Alexander); The Powder Room Stories (Skarlet); Is Love (Out Of Body Special)

Pop Princesses: Misbehavior (Juana); Suntok Sa Buwan (Session Road); Kitchie Nadal (Kitchie Nadal); Soulful Acoustic (MYMP); Todo Combo (Moonstar88)

Punk Post-Punk New Wave: Flowerfish (Sheila & The Insects); Guerrila Ballroom (Agaw Agimat); Bitch for Change (Reklamo); Nut House (Hilera); Strike Whilst The Iron Is Hot (Orange and Lemons)

(Photo of Narda’s Salaguinto’t Salagubang EP by Rain Contreras.)

Light Peace Love (Bamboo, 2005)

lightAs The Music Plays, more than anything else, was about how “ecstatic” the band was, that its principal songwriter’s friend, the rockstar vocalist had finally came back, after deserting them, some five years ago. It was good—that debut/comeback album—but not without its flaws. The lesser songs, I could barely remember now.

This rushed follow-up is a bit more ambitious, at times, more interesting; but fumbles on the attempt to produce a single that matches their previous hits. Much of their earthly charm (e.g., Hudas, Masaya) were gone, overtaken by swagger and the fast ballooning self-importance that seeps through its three-word title. As if between the lines, the liner notes read—Bono was here.

“Hallelujah” had (almost) everybody hail hallelujah to the GOAT—I thought the guitars could have been louder, fatter, thicker, or dirtier. “F.U.” was probably directed at their detractors, haters, who in turn found more reason to dis them after it was released as second single. (Who would’ve thought they were so environment-friendly, that they’re kind enough to recycle the melody from the first single). Luckily, there were still leftovers of the band magic they had on their first: “04”, “I-You”, “Peace Man” and “Truth”, the real winners here. The more interesting parts, like “Diner at 6”, are just that—interesting. “Much Has Been Said”, is soulful but also a bit boring, which also informs us where Bamboo would be headed, once he ditch his band-mates again.

10 Things I Learned In Japan

Disclaimer: No offense meant for people who usually gets offended by lazily written articles that contain stuff like compact discs, bikes, and Maria Ozawa. Also, no offense meant for Spotify-lovers.

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Stand on the right, walk on the left. It’s not just for the work-crazy Japanese, always rushing to get to work. It’s also for us who are always rushing to get back home from work, those who are rushing to the next big sale in the mall, those who are rushing on their way to work to catch the morning bell. We’ll probably take years to learn this simple trick. Not because we’re slow. But because we love to break rules. Or simply, maybe, we hate rules and prefer chaos over the orderly.

Trains are cool, trains are great. They’re fast, effective and convenient too. I remember Jello Biafra saying something like “9/11 might have been averted if America was as crazy about trains as they were about airplanes”, that it would be “more fun to travel across the states in bullet trains.” We only have four train lines in Metro Manila. Imagine if we could double that number. It wouldn’t be much compare to Japan, but it would surely felt heavenly for commuters. Or, it could be worse. Imagine all of them not in good working condition, with all trains taking hours to arrive, and you have to suffer long lines before you reach the turnstiles.

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They even have dedicated walkways with color coded tiles for the blind. Color coded tiles. For the blind. Go figure.

Book-Off is a record collector’s paradise. You can buy old stock CD’s—lots and lots of them—for as low as ¥250. You would usually find albums from the most popular 90’s bands: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Green Day, Garbage, Radiohead, Foo Fighters, NoFx and The Offspring. If you’re lucky and patient enough to check all those alphabetically arranged racks every once in a while, like me, you’d probably find some rare items—something from either the Pixies, Stephen Malkmus or My Bloody Valentine.

There are also lots of old (e.g, The Beatles, Ramones and Jimmi Hendrix) and current (Imagine Dragons, anyone?) stuff, but not in the bargain section; which means you need to bring more cash with you if you are into them. Or you can wait till one of those CD’s gets transferred to the cheap section. Like the time when I found a very mint copy of Sgt. Pepper’s priced at ¥500 and I went straight to the cashier. The next time I saw another Beatles album sold for less, it was The Abbey Road. If you guessed that I grabbed it right there and then with all my might, you are most probably right. But that’s not saying I’m one big Beatles fan. I’m not.

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Hard-Off is pure hard-on. From bikes, to turntables, to gaming consoles, to electric guitars, it’s haven for those who don’t mind owning pre-loved items.

A for Effort, Z for Delivery. Putting effort means putting more hours. Even if it means being inefficient. For as long as you look busy and focused (even if at times, you’re only pretending) and stay at the workplace for as long as you can, your boss will appreciate your effort. You cannot relax and show that you’re really enjoying what you do by humming a Barry Manilow song while your hands are on the keyboard and go home at 5pm. Applying the take-a-break-every-30-minutes rule, is also a big no-no.

Japanese girls in yukata will bring out the inner samurai in you.

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It’s almost impossible to lost your wallet with all your important cards and ID’s in it. If you have a contact number in it, you’d most probably get a call. If you lost it on a train, you can contact the train station. One morning, there was this one guy reading manga while on the train, who just left the manga inside the train when he dropped off at the next station. The following day, I rode the same car on the same schedule and found that same guy reading the same manga he was reading the previous day.

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If you find one of Jimmy Page’s guitars displayed in a store in Ochanomizu, you’re not allowed to touch it. Unless, in our case, we didn’t know that there is such a rule. So, the store owner had to rush to us and tell us not to touch it after we already did. There goes my fingerprints side by side with those of the great Led Zep guitarist.

Maria Ozawa is overrated; Manami Hashimoto is the shit.

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Images taken from here, here, here, and here.

Rock is Dead, Mellon Collie & The Nicene Creeders Slackerful Mysteries

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Despite all the press, an MTV hit and all other atrocities ascribed to them during their heyday, Pavement was one of those bands whose popularity (or rather lack thereof) flew under my radar during the nineties. And I’m rather thankful for that.

I am endlessly grateful that I’ve had Stone Temple Pilots, Silverchair, Green Day, The Offspring, The Smashing Pumpkins—the “alternative” bands of the nineties. That a friend lent me his Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness so I could spend hours and hours of boredom listening to the said double album, rather than someone hand me a tape of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain or Wowee Zowee. Because I would have probably made the mistake of dismissing these slackers as unrelatable, lousy and lame. Or simply because they’re no Better Than Ezra. But missed them totally I did not. For when the second single off Brighten the Corners hit the DWEB weekly countdown two Saturdays in a row, I was all ears—listening to “Shady Lane”, trying to separate the song from the noise, beneath all static and radio hiss, which was due to poor reception (DWEB was four hours drive from home). That became my then only Pavement experience. And to think of it now, the experience was not so different from listening to Westing or Slay Tracks—because the version of “Shady Lane” I knew was all wrapped up in static and white noise.

brightenAside from my broken radio experience, there were other things, from which I came to know of Pavement’s existence. There was this music magazine “Hot Hits” that features the lyrics of “Stereo” and “Shady Lane” and a picture of the band. The band’s picture was almost nondescript—any group of regular looking guys could actually pose as them. And on the last page of the mag was the previous week’s Billboard Modern Rock Tracks, in which both songs had charted, among other unfamiliar songs and bands. The magazine’s main feature and the reason I bought that issue in the first place were The Smashing Pumpkins, with the complete lyrics and chords for all the songs from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. There was also a Jim DeRogatis article about the said double album, reprinted from Rolling Stones (with permission I suppose). Later, on a separate issue of the same magazine around early ’98, there was an article in which the editor proclaimed that rock is dead; that aside from Radiohead’s OK Computer and Pavement’s Brighten the Corners, 1997 was filled mostly with duds. Or simply, most alternative bands got boring and people already grew tired of grunge. Hence, the “Rock Is Dead, and electronica is taking over” banner. In reality, it was really more like, the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync took over.

My re-discovery of Pavement took longer time than Spiral Stairs could have ever imagined. It was somewhere between the release of LA’s Desert Origins and Sordid Sentinel Edition that I was able to listen to “Shady Lane” again. This time, with the other eleven tracks on the album—from the opening basslines of “Stereo” down to the “Infinite Spark” fade-out.

I was looking for the band’s hits compilation then (this was years before Quarantine the Past). While I read mostly high recommendations for Pavement’s first three studio albums, I decided to go with Brighten the Corners because of “Shady Lane”. I also read somewhere that it is their most accessible LP, so I thought I’d give a try. Initially, I was only interested on the hits and someone told me to check the first three or four songs on the album, but also suggested that I might as well check the whole album. So spin the whole album I did. And since then I found myself sitting stuck in this Velcro seat, every time I play it.

To be continued…(Maybe.)

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Ultraelectromagneticpop! (Eraserheads, 1993)

eraserheads-ultraelectromagneticpop-20130824Simply put, this is the local equivalent of Nevermind. Instead of a nude baby in the pool, we got these four flaming lads gracing the cover, chill as fuck and wearing chucks, with two of them holding what appear like rolled-up joints. Like Nirvana, the Eraserheads toiled the underground, signed to a major label, hit big and made a whole lot of impact in the music scene.

Musically though, chuck-sporting lads is just a very different album from little baby blue. Nevermind is a hurtling punk-rock album, while Ultra is an unabashed pop record, though one that is hardly representative of pop music of the early ‘90s, local or otherwise. The former helped popularize rock music with loud distorted guitars. On Ultra, however, one gets the nagging feeling—which the band themselves pointed out and griped about—that the guitars could have been louder.

Guitar mixing and other recording/production issues aside, the tunes flow from start to finish. Whether they take their cue from Manila Sound (“Easy Ka Lang”, the glorious “Ligaya”), Motown (“Shake Yer Head”), try and fail to make 100% reggae (“Maling Akala”), graft both Nat King Cole and Paul McCartney into a sped-up reggae folk number (“Toyang”) or do punkish take on a straight pop song (“Shirley”), the results were no less than perfect. And when delivered with such verve, one tends to overlook that production-wise, it’s got nothing on the aforementioned album that bears the name Butch Vig. Purists and fans alike described its sound as “tinny”. But whether this “tinny” sound diminishes the bands outstanding song-craft, creative sheen and the songs’ ultra-magnetic appeal, is surely up for debates. Me, I say tinny sound my ass! Ultra is a lo-fi pop masterpiece, its lack of polish being incidental notwithstanding.

The word Beatles-esque has been attached to Eraserheads’ music since the time they knocked Jose Mari Chan off the top of the charts. But there’s nothing anglophilic about the timeless post-basted, group support therapy (a.k.a binge drinking) session of “Pare Ko”, or in the cutesy, t-shirt parading, thesis-making love song “Ligaya”. “Tindahan Ni Aleng Nena”, the one song they deliberately tried to channel the Beatles is very much Pinoy at heart—its story revolves around a sari-sari store and migration to Canada. There’s no fake Brit accent on “Shake Yer Head” either. And despite referencing “Silly Love Songs”, “Toyang” is unassailably Pinoy; with bitso-bitso, Coke 500, Sky Flakes, and “Bahay Kubo”, all in a song about true love.

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Looking past its cultural impact and significance, Ultraelectromagneticpop! isn’t so much groundbreaking as it is an excellent pop record. The songs may sound pretty dated by now, but back in 1993, they did sound unlike anything else. Thanks mainly to the local mainstream music, which back in 1993, sounded like it was still 1983. The Apo Hiking Society, Gary Valenciano, Smokey Mountain, Donna Cruz, Regine Velasquez, and the Introvoys—they were all stuck in the ’80s, sleeping for so long with their hair rollers on, only to be awaken by the noise from an underground scene, already bursting at the seams.

It’s Like A Magic (Ciudad, 2005)

ciudad-magicSadly, this would be the last of the fuzz/fun side of Ciudad. After this album, they got more sober, their lyrics started to make sense, and most of all, they seem to have lost most of the fun—and the fuzz. It’s Like A Magic is hardly on par with Ciudad’s first two albums, but when taken in this context – a collection of old songs that never made it to their first two albums, not so different from an outtakes or b-sides compilation – it’s actually up to snuff.

With lowered expectations already met, this shall surely delight all those who already love the band. For those who are new to the band, this is not the best place to start. That would be Hello! How Are You, Mico the Happy Bear? But since said LP is out of print and is not available on either Bandcamp or iTunes, one should check Is That Ciudad? Yes, Son, It’s Me instead, their equally superlative second album.

But that’s not to say “Cool Nerds”, “So?”, “Job Well Done, Wow!” and “Justin’s Saturday Night” aren’t worth a dime. Or that sifting thru the rubble just to get to “It’s Been Another Day” is more trouble than it’s worth. It is quite a bumpy ride (14 tracks, with roughly eight good ones), but also a fun-filled one. But if you really wanna become a fan with this album, then zoom in straight to the A-sides; dive into the mopey “Benny & Betty”, the freakishly juvenile “Escape”, twist ‘n turn with “Fixing The Radio” and savor the slacker-heaven beauty of “What A Girl”. Only then can you go down the rabbit hole, and listen to a song about a camera or the one that references Deadeye Dick’s “New Age Girl” – you know, that 90’s hit that goes “Mary Moon, she’s a vegetarian (Mary Moon, Mary Moon)…she don’t eat meat but she sure likes the bone”.

A Scanner Darkly / Bugs

The opening scene of A Scanner Darkly, Richard Linklater’s 2006 film based on Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name, set to Pearl Jam’s “Bugs”.

Other notable films by Richard Linklater – Suburbia, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Walking Life.

“Bugs” is off Pearl Jam’s third album Vitalogy.

Ourselves the Elves, The Strange Creatures

Two excellent lovely twinkly EPs…

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It’ll Be Alright (Ourselves the Elves, 2013) What elevates this from the rest of female-fronted bands of local indieland, I don’t know exactly. Maybe it’s the lack of synths. Or the lo-fi prod perhaps? Maybe it’s the untamed cymbals occasionally clashing with the guitars. Or maybe it’s the intimate air that makes me feel I’m in the same room with them – and they’re giving me the finest 12 minutes of twee-folk I can find – online. Or maybe it’s Akira Medina and Alyana Cabral’s call and response on “Shelter”. And maybe because their music reminds me a bit of Camera Obscura, only it’s more stripped-down and folksy. Or maybe it’s Kidlat Tahimik, who once asked why yellow is at the middle of the rainbow. Yes, I guess that’s the one.

the-strange-creaturesStargazer (The Strange Creatures, 2014) The title track, as beautiful as Van Gogh, gets me sick of long distance calls and makes me wish time travel, teleportation and magic are all not impossible, so we could just gaze at the stars instead. So I looked on the bright side to get some retro-hope despite everything and put the first single on repeat until I got hooked on it. Like a potent pharmacological substance, it gives me natural high and I can’t help but slyly smile every time they come to the lines, “step inside of my space ship, and give me a heeaad—trip”.

Free Download/Streaming: It’ll Be Alright (Bandcamp), Stargazer (Bandcamp, Soundcloud)

 

Sila (Sud, 2015)

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Found this music video last night. Couldn’t remember if it was the recent controversy or something else that made me click on it. The song is fine, suave, horn-y (or make that sax-y) and reminds me of pop songs from the pre-Ultraelectromagneticpop days – something like Bodjie’s Law of Gravity’s “Sana Dalawa Ang Puso Ko”, though the vibe is probably more like I-Axe’s “Ako’y Sa’yo at Ika’y Akin Lamang”, with less cheese. And yeah, that line “Walang sagot sa tanong kung bakit ka mahalaga” is a keeper.

sudsilaMore intriguing than the song itself, is the music video – a well made short film that could have a life of its own outside of the song. I like how the characters knew that they have crossed certain boundaries and that it’s probably wrong; yet they couldn’t stop seeing each other. I like how the last few scenes they were together were framed like they were being spied on. I like how it made me think that there won’t be a happy ending. And I like it that I didn’t get the ending until I read the comments and re-played the video a few more times.

The local music scene is a field full of landmines. You’ll never know it from afar, but you’ll surely know when you step on one. La la la la, whatever.

Baby I’m-A Want You

Screenshot_2016-08-11-16-48-26Not All Songs with the Word Baby Are Wussy

The word baby, like love, is one of the most frequently abused words in popular music. From Peter Frampton’s 1975 single “Baby I Love Your Way”, to the annoyingly ubiquitous Big Mountain cover of the same in the mid-90’s, to Ed Sheeran’s 2014 hit “Thinking Out Loud”, there have been countless times the word appeared in songs’ lyrics and titles. Needless to say, the word has been used and abused by singers and songwriters, especially in the pop and R&B genre. So that when someone posted a question on the internet, asking about songs that have the word baby in the lyrics, someone answered that it’s probably easier to list down songs that don’t contain that word.

Overusing the word in songs surely cheapens its meaning and intended impact. The good news is, creativity knows no boundaries. Yes, there are countless forgettable songs with the word baby in them, but there are also songs that made use of the word in ways more imaginative than just rehashing same old variations of “baby, I love you”.

Below is a list of songs that use the word baby, but not in a way most songwriters have used them. This list will not include songs that go along lines of Bon Jovi’s “Always” or Guns & Roses’ “Patience”. So, songs like Pearl Jam’s “Last Kiss”, a straight-ahead cover of an old 1961 non-hit that eventually became the Pearl Jam’s highest charting single; 3 Doors Down’s maudlin and watered-down post grunge ballad “Here Without You”; and Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby”, which is actually fine, will not be included. And definitely not “Thinking Out Loud” – because even at its best, Mr.Nice Guy’s song sounds like a low-rent version of Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love”.

Screenshot_2016-08-11-17-26-14“Can’t Lose You”, F4

That one song that has a chorus that sticks to your head like glue – even if you don’t understand the lyrics except for the words, my and baby. Forget about what they’re actually singing in it. In the years before Google Translate and smartphones – good looks, hair mousse, catchy chorus and the lines “Oh baby, baby, baby/my baby, baby” were enough to make a hit as big as this Mandopop meteorite.

Screenshot_2016-08-11-16-59-02 “…Baby One More Time”, Britney Spears/Travis

Britney Spears’ 1999 hit made the cut mainly for Travis’ sort of impromptu and knowing cover version of it. On second thought, the original gets half a point for having the words hit me and baby in the same line – undeniably, an artistic achievement in teen pop music. Some people mistook it for S&M, some, misogyny. Turns out the guys behind the hit only meant “call me”. So, despite all the suggestive dance routines in a school girl outfit, it’s actually quite harmless. But Travis’ version is hilarious, and probably the best version there is. Like the audience in that concert, I had good laugh the first few times I heard it.

Screenshot_2016-08-11-17-29-01“Tender”, Blur

Before Vampire Weekend, Mumford & Sons, and [insert recent cool indie band here], there was Blur. And before Blur, there were Faces, The Kinks, and well, The Beatles. “Beetlebum” and “Song2” may be their most recognizable songs, especially in the US, but the band is way much more than the noise-guitar band that they were in 1997; as can be heard on their previous singles like “The Universal” and “Girls and Boys”, and on this first single off their 1999 album 13. “Tender” was a departure from the sound of Blur (the album that houses “Beetlebum” and “Song2”), and features both Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon on vocals (with Coxon singing the “oh my baby”-part) backed by the London Community Gospel Choir. With all the aggression that dominated rock in the late nineties, this break-up tune with the line “Love is the greatest thing (that we had)” was like a beacon of hope shining across the dark Nu Metal-infested landscape.

Screenshot_2016-08-11-17-03-07“Antukin”, Rico Blanco

There’s a very thin line between clever and lame and Rico Blanco probably crossed it more than once on one of the best tracks off his debut Your Universe. This is one of those where he played all the instruments (and he was splendid on drums!) And whether the lines “Gumawa na lang tayo ng paraan/Gumawa na lang tayo ng (baby)” is clever or not, this remains as one of his all-time bests – a hopeful love song that acknowledges his keyboard-man role in Rivermaya and pays homage to his namesake thru its Tag-lish lyrics and one off-color joke.

Screenshot_2016-08-11-17-09-02“Radiation Vibe”, Fountains of Wayne

You probably knew them for “Stacy’s Mom”, a.k.a. the MILF song, which is also their most popular hit. The music video for which, pays homage to Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Outside of the said song, Fountains of Wayne is hardly the type of band that thrives on peddling sophomoric jokes, as one might assume based on that song. Most of their songs tell stories (i.e., Leave the Biker, Hackensack (yes, the one covered by Katy Perry)), but Fountain of Wayne’s first single “Radiation Vibe” is lyrically ambiguous. And that’s probably the reason it was a minor hit, despite the ear-worm melodies and knockout musicianship. The lines “Baby, baby, baby/Come on, what’s wrong?” aren’t really the most ingenious part of this song – it’s the melody with which Chris Collingwood sing those lines. It’s the way the song transitioned from the seemingly bottled up verses then burst into the chorus like an exploding bottle of soda. Sounds exactly like the kind of vibe the song is referring to.

Screenshot_2016-08-11-18-28-03“Kaliwete”, Eraserheads

Here’s another song that pays tribute to the one and only Rico J. Puno. The inspiration for the song came one time the Eraserheads did a show with him. The lines “Mag-ayos lang daw ng upo”, according to them, came from one of Rico’s joke that night. Whether the joke was about sitting in general or specifically about sitting on the toilet, we don’t know. What I know is that the word baby is uttered somewhere in this song. And I didn’t catch it until about…a few months ago? Sticker Happy came out in 1997 and I’ve been listening to this song sporadically for almost twenty years. (Damn, I really need to quit on loud music now and go visit an ENT specialist before I totally lose my ears.)

Screenshot_2016-08-11-17-12-47“Superstar”, Carpenters/Sonic Youth

Whether it’s the 1971 Carpenters version or Sonic Youth’s fuzzed up tribute to the former, one can never go wrong with this classic. Written and first recorded in 1969 (by a bunch of musicians who were so in loved with themselves that they had to write a song about a groupie longing for someone who’s really good with guitars – someone like Eric Clapton), Richard Carpenter took the song and turned it into what is now the most popular version of it. One might think that this made use of the common “baby, I love you” line and does not belong in the list. But it’s not a cutesy boy-who-plays-guitar-meets-girl kind of story. More like rockstar-meets-groupie-had-one-night-stand-and-then-goodbye. Of course, I don’t hear it that way. What I hear is just a good schmaltzy song – a bit naïve, romantic and sweet. And that’s the kind of magic only Karen Carpenter could make. The same magic Sonic Youth destroyed and reconstructed in the 1994 version.

Screenshot_2016-08-11-17-34-06“Stereo”, Pavement

The most sentimental song on the list, Pavement’s “Stereo” is actually the long lost answer to the previous song – the Carpenters classic. “Hey, listen to me! I’m on the stereo! Stereo-oh!” is definitely about a guitarist addressing someone who’s listening on the radio (i.e., the groupie). And on the next line, Stephen Malkmus appropriated Karen Carpenter’s “Baby, baby, baby…” line, before shouting “Give me malaria! Hysteria!”

Wait, that didn’t sound right.

Okay, maybe this isn’t really the answer to “Superstar”, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is one of the greatest slacker songs ever—not to mention having the balls to make fun of Geddy Lee’s impossibly high register. Which isn’t really surprising given that they once dissed both The Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots before, in one of their songs. Which only proves that, Pavement is ultimately, definitely, and absolutely rad.