Category: Music

Rivermaya Albums Ranked From Worst To Best

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Rivermaya never got rejected by record labels because their songs weren’t “pop enough.” They never experienced selling tickets only so they could play in Club Dredd. If there’s anything naysayers had to say about Rivermaya, it’s that they were manufactured (they were the brainchild of Chito Roño and Liza Nakpil), they never toiled the underground and thus lacks street cred when compared to Club Dredd and Mayric’s alums like Alamid, Yano, Teeth & Eraserheads. In that sense, they were more like the Introvoyz. Only they’re better than Introvoyz at everything—charisma, songwriting, creativity, etc.

Rivermaya is also known for their perpetually shifting line-up. First, Perf de Castro was gone, then Bamboo. Then, the band made what I consider two of the best rock albums from our shore. Then, Nathan Azarcon left and three new members came in. During the ’90s, Rivermaya was the de facto number two band behind the Eraserheads. After Eheads’ “graduation time” in 2002, Rivermaya were finally the numero uno. But Rico Blanco & Co.’s reign was rather short as “Noypi” announced the return of Bamboo, which features two former bandmates Nathan and Bamboo. Needless to say, by the mid-aughts, Bamboo was just more popular than Rivermaya 2.0. (more…)

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Debris (Sandwich, 2016)

Sandwich_DebrisDebris, Sandwich’s eighth LP, despite having “Kagulo” and “Outlaw,” is a little less than their previous outing—the one which they recorded live, in studio. “Kagulo”, easily Sandwich’s most recognizable hit since “Betamax,” could have been up there with the band’s best album openers—alongside “Sugod”, “Procastinator”, and “Cheese Factor Set to 9”—if only it isn’t the third cut in the album. Instead, we have “Border Crossing” opening Debris, which isn’t just as good. I miss the charred, slow burning eponymous track that opens their last record.

The chorus of “Border Crossing” is a bummer, good thing there’s “Amphibious” to make up for it. Then, we have “Kagulo”, but it is followed by another bummer, the uncharacteristically sentimental “Buhangin.” What is it with Sandwich and beaches? Remember their awful song about getting “Sunburn”? Yes, Raymund Marasigan had another stab at a song a bout going to the beach and it still isn’t good. At least it’s not Marasigan’s worst song ever. That award goes to the song about Manny Pacquiao, which he gave (good move!) to Protein Shake, otherwise known as 6cyclemind’s brother band, who’re much less talented and just as offensive.

“Kagulo”, which roughly translate to “riotous” is exactly what the title says, Bianca King or no Bianca King in the music video. And speaking of music video, the one Sandwich made for “Outlaw” is a must-see. Set in a George Miller post-apocalyptic world, the band is seen playing instruments that look like something straight out of a Lirio Salvador exhibit. It’s a perfect companion to Pupil’s Manila as gates of hell in “Out of Control” and it would have been perfect, if not for that huge CGI creature from the Clash of the Titans remake.

Though not necessarily an improvement, the songs in Debris sounds bigger, fuller, cleaner. Fat Salt & Flame sounds a bit muddy by comparison, but that’s probably inherent to recording the songs live.

After two coherent sounding LPs, Debris finds Sandwich leaning back to old habits, the mix and match modus of their first two albums and S-Marks the Spot (arguably their weakest album). That is, the last four cuts sounds like they’re from another album. The last two cuts “Bato-Bato Pik” and “Sunriser,” stick out of the mix while “Napapanahon” and “Balintawak,” though not totally out of step with most of the tracks, might sound more at home in Contra Tiempo.

Also, with that title, I expected it to be more like this…

and to have less of this…

Maselang Bahaghari: The 20 E-ssential Eraserheads Songs, Vol.1

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I’ll let you in on a secret. The Eraserheads, the now defunct greatest local band in the land, is in the process of re-recording the songs from their ultra-celebrated but supposedly tinny-sounding first album Ultraelectromagneticpop!. Maybe I should drop “supposedly” in my last sentence, because that’s the very reason Ely Buendia wanted to re-do their twenty-five year old debut. That is, the songs on Ultra were really good, the production wasn’t.

Although Raymund Marasigan said he would rather record new materials, or in the case of “Sabado”, old but unreleased songs, it seems that they’re actually doing Ultra. Which isn’t a bad thing really considering that the band’s label had already folded and the masters were probably already lost. Also, Orange & Lemons are doing the same with Love in the Land of Rubber Shoes & Dirty Ice Cream. Yes, in case you haven’t heard Orange & Lemons are back together, but without Mccoy Fundales. Which is why Clem Castro sings and… (more…)

Follow the Leader (Ciudad, 2012)

followThe trajectory Ciudad took from Happy Bear to Follow the Leader, isn’t quite slanted and enchanted turning into bright corners until terror twilight comes in. See, Pavement references Ella Fitzgerald, not Helmet; Ciudad, on the other hand, echoes Korn, the fathers-in-denial of the bastard sub-genre called Nu Metal. Maybe they’re more like The Dead Milkmen, who ditches the punk-rock girl after they found the secret of life. But you get the drift—they started as ramshackle crew of awkward geeks and became more and more mellowed out with each release. But the problem isn’t really mellowing out—their previous effort, the somewhat Bandwagonesque-esque Bring Your Friends, is mellower, but still better. As far as Spiral Stairs knows, Stephen Malkmus never stopped being fun even when the lyrics start to reveal their meaning (i.e., The Hook, Jenny & The Ess-Dog). I guess it’s them losing touch with their younger crazier selves, their nonsense lyrics, the geeky ball-busting, fuzz face-melting, Corina Turina-shouting. It’s the crude appeal of their earlier stuff, the band dynamics, the warmth—all of which are miserably missing here.

Atomic Bomb (Rivermaya, 1997)

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Took me a long time to fully appreciate Rivermaya’s third album. Yes, the title’s cliche and the album’s more obtuse than a solid bang, but that’s not it. Only lately did I realize what’s keeping me from really enjoying this album. It’s the track sequence.

Of course, it’s just probably me but I’m thinking about those who owned this album in cassette back then and the great deal of patience required (or maybe just plain wide-eyed curiosity) to listen to this album from end to end. Because, between “Elesi” and “Hinahanap-hanap Kita” and between the latter and “Kung Ayaw Mo, Huwag Mo”, feels like lots of B-sides and fillers.

The culprit? Two-minute plus jazz interlude “Inst. 1: Spike the Mayo” and the overlong (6:46) three-part “Hangman (I Shot the Walrus)”, an obvious Beatles call-out featuring Bamboo and Rico Blanco as Phil Collins and Paul McCartney respectively. Wait, Phil Collins? Those two tracks, together with “Sunny Days”, another instrumental and “Saturday (Bakit Ako?)” slow down Side A considerably. They take away the excitement, break the momentum.

Tweaking Atomic Bomb‘s track sequence (something one cannot do with cassette tapes or without a personal computer back in 1997), placing “Wild Angel Candy”, “Hinahanap-hanap Kita” right after “Sunny Days”, putting “Hangman” near the end, and taking out the entirety of “Inst 1: Spike the Mayo”, solved my problem. With this new sequence, almost every song shines, even the B-sides (the goofy “Tea for Two”, the sultry “Ballroom Dancing”, The Kink-ish (Kink-y?) “Sunny Days”).

Atomic Bomb boasts a number of terrific singles. “Hinahanap-hanap Kita”, with its funky riffs and super-awesome basslines, is easily one of Rivermaya’s finest hits. There’s also the post-rock-ish “Mabuhay”, the guitar-propelled “Elesi” and folk number “Luha”. The album sounds eclectic if distracted at times, with traces of psychedelia, The Beatles, and Pet Sounds. And you won’t be disappointed if it’s only the four to five minute pop-rockers (“Wild Angel Candy”, “Kung Ayaw Mo, Huwag Mo”) you are after. If only the songs were sequenced better.

A-Bomb? More like Ab-Bomb. Or A-minus Bomb. As it is, Side A feels stunted, the whole album, drawn-out. I don’t have much use for either “Fever” or “Saturday (Bakit Ako?)” And even with the sequence changed, “Hangman” (obviously, “A Day In the Life” minus the wistful John Lennon part), is still a chore to listen to.

RiverMaya (Rivermaya, 1994)

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Aside from the hits (e.g., 214), Rivermaya, with this debut, gave what fans couldn’t get from the Eraserheads: a pop-rock band with considerable skills and rockstars look and feel. (Though that’s not something they couldn’t get with either After Image or Alamid.) This idea of THE perfect band and the band’s five-hit-string that parallels that of Eheads’ Ultra (214, Bring Me Down, Ulan, Awit Ng Kabataan, 20 Million), make RiverMaya a popular choice among fans when asked about the band’s best album.

They got a rockstar vocalist with an angel’s voice and range, a kick-ass bassist, a geeky songwriter on keyboards, and a drummer who’s last name recalls the same province where the Heads’ drummer hails from. And the deciding factor it seems—since the Eraserheads sucked live and Wency Cornejo’s rock antics only reminded you of Mel Tiangco—was the addition of a virtuoso guitarist, the incidental fifth member whose contributions, including iconic guitar solos in “214” and “Awit Ng Kabataan” were never incidental. That is, later and first defector Perf de Castro puts the “original” in the “original Rivermaya”—at least according to those fans who endlessly clamor for their reunion in the comment sections.

They looked perfect together, the perfect band, partly because they were (rumored to be) factory assembled, handpicked by Chito Rono and Liza Nakpil, and partly because they weren’t, meaning they were a real band, even though they hardly toiled the underground together like the ‘Heads, After Image and other Club Dredd alums. (more…)

Obligatory Pavement Post #3: Ironic Love Songs

MI0002184938“Harness, your hopes to just one person, because you know a harness, is only made for one”. Tell me that isn’t about love. Or marriage. Maybe I’m not right. But I’m sure I could not be wrong. Because seldom are there wrong interpretations, when it comes to Stephen Malkmus’ songs. At least that’s what my Literature teacher told me in school. Of course, she was talking about poetry then and not about songs written by some semi-obscure slacker from Stockton, California. That line, by the way, is from “Harness Your Hopes”, b-side to a single off Pavement’s 1997 LP, Brighten the Corners.

“That’s a love song?”, one might ask. It depends. Are you looking for a love song that is NOT a typical love song? By “typical”, I mean something that goes along the lines of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” or Bon Jovi’s “Always” or Air Supply’s… Wait. Darn it, almost all of their songs fits that category. (Wait, did I just compare Ed Sheeran’s megaplatinum hit to the cheesiest motherf*ckering songs I know? Guess what, I just did.) Going back to my question. If your answer is yes, then yes, it is a love song, or at the very least, it could be. And though the title seems to evoke some kind of Christian inspirational message like Switchfoot’s “Dare You to Move” or “Learning to Breath”, the song is mostly non sectarian. Even though there’s a line that goes “Nun is to church as the parrot is to perch,” it’s quickly followed by “And my heart’s wide open truly” which only shows that “heart” is bigger than both “nun” and “church”. It’s definitely a song about love, isn’t it? Not quite or specifically the romantic type, but it is about love. (more…)

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’.

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.

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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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