Pinoy Blonde (Peque Gallaga, 2005)

pbRemember Pinoy Blonde? That plot-less Tarantino send up that doesn’t seem like it? Not sure if this was obvious enough, but I’d assume most didn’t realize that Peque Gallaga & Lore Reyes weren’t really channeling Quentin Tarantino, unless they’ve read Peque Gallaga’s Playboy interview, in which he also expressed his dislike for Lav Diaz’s films, prior or after watching the film. (By the way that issue has a stunning cinema-themed cover and a popcorn-covered girl on its centerfold.) Some people thought it was cool. Some people said the filmmakers thought they were cool. Some said Pinoy Blonde was to Pulp Fiction as Tataynic (a Dolphy movie) was to Titanic. That we don’t have the so-called “originality”. That we ripped off Hollywood. Again. What does “originality” really mean, anyway? Um, okay, let’s not get into that. Those who liked the film probably said that those who didn’t, just didn’t get it. But the question is, did they? Did they know it was supposed to satirize Quentin Tarantino movies? Sure, it was trippy. With the movie’s point—that Tarantino, in making his movies, just masturbates to his favorite films and that Gallaga, in this movie, is showing him how it (masturbation) is properly done, or, how not to do it—is lost in the movie’s non-sense and pop culture rabbit hole. I don’t know. If I recall correctly, there’s a scene where Ricky Davao’s character suggests that the finest Filipino filmmaker is neither Lino Brocka nor Ishmael Bernal—as the film’s two main characters endlessly argue about—but Joey Gosiengfiao, the guy behind the camp classic Temptation Island. There’s also a short animation a la Kill Bill. But that’s it, it was a forgettable movie with a few memorable scenes. Cool soundtrack tho’.

Ten Books, Asterix, Regina Spektor, and The History of the World, Part 1

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So this is the cover Manuel L. Quezon III was talking about.

Coming up with a list of my favorite books, within a few minutes and without thinking too hard, isn’t really as easy as, say, whipping up my top ten punk/rock records while making peanut butter sandwich or coughing out my top ten superhero movies while reading a white paper on vibration analysis. Which is to say, I haven’t read that much to warrant a top ten list. If you read the list below, keep in mind that there are only a few titles that I left out.

Even though I like the idea of reading books, I’m not really much of a reader. It’s like, you know, like being in love with the idea of being in love with someone, without really loving that someone. Books, like girls, you can smell them up close, only a book would smell paper, instead of cologne or shampoo. You can read, write annotations, fold the pages, decrypt the text to see if you can find some hidden meanings or you could read between the lions (Clever band name!) You could even sleep with them if you want to—the books, not the lions. Just make sure you don’t spoil the pages.

I’ve always find reading books to be more consuming, that it requires a little more (time, money, effort, imagination, thought) than watching movies, listening to the radio, or reading magazines, song hits, komiks or just about anything found on the internet. Also, there weren’t really many books around the house back then, aside from the ones we get from school.

Lucky I was able to read komiks back when there were real komiks (e.g., Funny Komiks, Romance, Aliwan, Wakasan, Horror, heck, even ST Komiks). Heck, I was even able to read a comic version of the bible—yes, most of the books from the Old Testament in comic book form. No, not the monthly publications from the Sisters of Canossa with kid-friendly comic strips that features Jesus, but a real bible. It’s a bible from the kind sisters from Jehovah’s Witness. Believe me brother, there’s nothing more awesome (and religious at the same time), than reading about Moses, the ten biblical plagues of Egypt, and the parting of the Red Sea, or how Samson would dispose off his enemies with ease—doesn’t matter if it’s a lion, a beast, or an army—in a way not so different from those in the modern day superhero movies. All those colorful stories had me thinking up to this day: Did Delilah really love Samson? Were there really three tablets instead of two and fifteen commandments instead of ten? Yet, despite all the wars, the killings, the burning of cities, despite all the violence and possibly, hatred, there’s Ruth and her mother-in-law, in a story full of kindness and compassion.

We also had a few issues of Liwayway magazine back then. I remember a serialized short novel called “Paru-parong Burgis” (about a playboy and his activist girlfriend, if I remember correctly) and a comic serial called “Dugo sa Disyerto”, an action-thriller about three Filipino women caught in the Gulf War. I also used to collect clippings from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the sports stories and sometimes, the editorial cartoons. Inquirer used to feature really good NBA Finals stories back when we live far from the city and we didn’t have Cable TV.

My first foreign comic book was this French-Belgian comic Asterix, which my first-grade teacher brought into our classroom when the year was about to end. During free time, me and my friends would browse the books from cover to cover. We loved the artworks, every panel, every page, and we finished the books without really reading them. We loved how the Romans always outnumbered the Gauls, but the Gauls would always send them home flying, bruised, bleeding, with lots of broken bones.

Sooner or later, I was finally able to buy or borrow books. A friend who printed out in the office a copy of Harry Potter from an e-file, twenty to thirty pages each day until he finished reading the book, introduced me to The Silmarilion, To Kill A Mockingbird, and Bob Ong. I’ve read a few Bob Ong’s. But dude, is he prolific. Between reading Stainless Longanisa and Ang Paboritong Aklat ni Hudas, which I didn’t even finish, Bob Ong was able to release more books than I could remember. What’s the use of catching up, I thought, it isn’t like it’s the Hunger Games series. And I don’t even read Hunger Games, or watch the Hunger Games movies even though I like Jennifer Lawrence. But I like Shailene Woodley more than Jennifer Lawrence, so I watched the Divergent one time it was on Star Movies.

Long before I was able to get my hands on one of his books or stories, I knew and read about Nick Joaquin, partly from school, but mainly from a movie where Rica Peralejo’s portrayal of a woman possessed by the fertility goddess was so unintentionally funny, therefore memorable, even if mostly un-erotic. She made it looked like she was possessed by a hybrid of an evil spirit (like something from the Evil Dead movies) and a succubus. The movie was directed by no less than Tikoy Aguiluz, based on a play adapted from Nick Joaquin’s “Summer Solstice”. If I remember correctly, the film was part of that year’s film festival. But my favorite Nick Joaquin short story (among those that I’ve read and I’ve only read a few) is easily “May Day Eve”, where Joaquin mixes romance, superstitions, time travel, and historical fiction in a sad magical story about a failed marriage, a failed revolution and a magic mirror.

 

Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, Marshall McLuhan & Quentin Fiore
A Question of Heroes, Nick Joaquin
Heroes & Villains, Carmen Guerrero Nakpil
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
Asterix the Gaul / Asterix and the Banquet, René Goscinny & Albert Uderzo
Dylan Dog: Dawn of the Living Dead, Tiziano Sclavi
12, Manix Abrera
Elmer, Gerry Alanguilan*
Stainless Longanisa, Bob Ong

 

*You can read Gerry Alanguilan’s first ever comic book Wasted here. Just a bit of trivia, Barbie Almalbis’ “The Dance” was inspired by and written after reading Wasted.

2017: Movies & Music Year-end List

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Movies

I missed some pretty big movies this year. Just like the previous year. And the year before that. And the year before the year before that. And the year before the year before… Oh, this could go on forever. By “pretty big”, I mean movies like Blade Runner 2049 and Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Or the last Star Wars movie. I also haven’t seen Okja and Get Out yet, smaller movies that definitely deserve no less. But I’ve seen a few films, both big and small.

Among the best reviewed films, I thought Baby Driver and Logan were overrated. So was Wonder Woman. I liked Baby Driver but there’s something lacking. I’m not really sure Logan was better than X-2 or Days of Future Past and I liked Deadpool better for sure. Wonder Woman, I liked for having the right balance between humor and pathos, which most Marvel movies lack, but the third act was just disappointing. Speaking of disappointments, Kong: Skull Island was simply the most disappointing movie I’ve seen this year, mainly for wasting the scenic locations in Vietnam for a generic thrill-less CGI mayhem. Comic book/superhero movies reached a new high in 2017. Of the three movies from Marvel, Spider-Man: Homecoming was OK and that’s the problem, it’s a merely OK movie. I’ve seen three movies featuring Vin Diesel this year and I thought two of them (xXx: Return of Xander Cage and Fate of the Furious) were a total waste of time.

Listed below, in no particular order, are the ones that made into my “best of” list.

Happy Death Day (Horror, Comedy, 2017)
The Big Sick (Romance, Comedy, 2017)
Tale of Tales (Fantasy, 2015)
Take Me (Comedy, 2017)
Kita Kita (Romance, Comedy, 2017)
Headshot (Martial Arts, Action, 2016)
Westworld (Science Fiction, 1973)
The Mermaid (Fantasy, Romance, Comedy, 2016)
Free Fire (Action, Comedy, 2016)
Logan (Superhero, 2017)
Baby Driver (Action, Crime, 2017)

And my favorites are below with added explanation, extra toppings, or one line review:

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Wonder Woman Mainly for that jaw-dropping sequence in No Man’s Land. That and Clio’s twelve volumes of ancient texts on girl-on-girl erotica.

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Thor: Ragnarok This is easily Marvel’s funniest with Hulk vs. Thor at the center and that fight sequence that burns Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” for fuel.

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Bliss Jerrold Tarog’s pycho-sexual thriller featuring Iza Calzado is the most elaborate tease of the year.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 James Gunn’s we’re a happy family of A-holes strikes back in Marvel’s most spacey and outlandish adventure yet.

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Blade of the Immortal Forget about Logan, this is the (fast-healing) superhero film of the year. Takashi Miike’s 100th film about the titular hundred killer is a killer.

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Birdshot Easily the most beautiful film I’ve seen this year. Part-Brothers Grimm, part-Miyazaki, Birdshot is a coming of age tale awash in blood, violence and corruption, a haunting political parable told through visual poetry.

 

***

 

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Music

Now, 2017 is quite a huge year in music. So huge I’ve only managed to discover five new songs to add to my playlist.

Ely Buendia and Co. goes the soul/Rn’B/funky route with Apartel. “Guijo St. (Makes You Wonder)” is something Michael Jackson would have written after listening to “With A Smile” on repeat. “Better Off” has this Al Green vibe to it but starts off like that song by this Native American band to which Star-Lord danced to in the opening sequence of Guardians of the Galaxy.

I liked Sharlene San Pedro‘s “Stars & Caramel Bars” the first time I saw it on MYX. Sharlene San Pedro covers one from Mayonnaise and one from a band I never heard of. The former child star from “Going Bulilit” isn’t writing her own material (yet) but at least she knows what she likes and I like what she likes.

I’m not really into funk or soul. Yet somehow I find myself liking IV of Spades’ “Hey Barbara”. And Barbara is cute.

The unreleased studio version of “Lift” (a.k.a. the greatest unreleased Radiohead song), finally surfaced with OKNOTOK. And it did not disappoint, unlike the new version of “True Love Waits”.

Here are my top ten songs for 2017:

ApartelBetter Off / Guijo St.
RadioheadLift / Man of War
IV of SpadesHey Barbara
UDDUnti-Unti
Sharlene San PedroStars & Caramel Bars / Paraan
Temple of the DogHunger Strike
SoundgardenThe Day I Tried To Live

 

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.

Continue reading “High & Dry: My Top 5 Radiohead LPs”

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 ng 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 ano man ang sinasabi nila sa lyrics.

Sa kabila nito, may isang kanta sa Sticker Happy 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 sa huli, na hindi pala. Mga bagay na pinaniwalaan natin nang bata pa tayo. 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, tungkol ito kay Papa Jesus. Napaisip ako noon. Sabi ko, hmm, may point sya. ‘Yung linyang “suffering is what you get for living” naman, nito ko rin na-ii-relate sa mga nababasa ko tungkol sa spirituality, sa Buddhism, at sa Tuesdays with Morrie. Life is suffering, yun ang totoo at “wala ka nang magagawa kundi sundin ito.” Ganun 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.

 

Ang mga larawan ay hiniram lamang sa Facebook page ng ERASERHEADS : The Greatest Filipino Band Ever(Believe it or else.) at nilikha 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.

Continue reading “Your Universe (Rico Blanco, 2008)”

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.

Continue reading “Buddha’s Pest (The Mongols, 2004)”

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?

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

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.

Continue reading “10 Things I Learned In Japan”

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)