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