Better late than never. Listed in no particular order.
Yanggaw / Director: Richard Somes / Year: 2008
Better late than never. Listed in no particular order.
Yanggaw / Director: Richard Somes / Year: 2008
Unang una, na-disappoint ako nung malaman na yung nabasa ko sa web ay sya ring matutunghayan ko sa print version ng libro (hard copy, ika nga, at hindi e-file). Kung mababasa ko sya ng libre, ba’t ko pa binili ‘tong libro? Pero tama si Mervin Malonzo, masarap amuy-amuyin ang makulay na papel ng bawat pahina nito. (Ginawa ko ‘to kanina sa bus (yung pag-amoy), pero minabuti ko na mag-ingat. Nakakahiya kasi na makita ng ibang pasahero na inaamoy ko itong libro habang nakabukas dun sa pahina na may mga nakahubad na larawan.) Pero tama s’ya, mabango, amoy papel at makulay ang aklat na ito.
Pero sa totoo lang, mahilig naman talaga ako mangolekta ng mga bagay na tangible, tulad ng libro, CD, DVD, at hard drive na punung-puno ng mga bagay na nagtatapos sa .mkv, .mp3, at .pdf.
May ilang araw ko ring binalik-balikan ang komiks na ito sa loob ng bookstore bago ko binili. Swerte naman, may isang hindi naka-shrinkwrap, kaya ini-scan ko ang mga pahina, ang magagandang larawan at ang kwento. Inisip ko kung bibilhin ko ba o hindi, kung sulit ba na mag-gulay at half-rice ako ng ilang linggo. Pero nang napansin ko na unti-unti nang nauubos ang mga kopya, ayun na, nagdesisyon na ko.
Nagbasa din ako ng mga reviews bago ko tuluyang binitiwan ang naipon ko. At may isang review sa goodreads na medyo natuwa ako. Binanggit sa review na kinuha daw ni Malonzo ang ilang ideya nya mula kay Anne Rice at sa Twilight (cum laude pa naman s’ya sa UP, sabi pa nito). May punto naman siya, nakakatuwa lang kasi mukhang binasa n’ya talaga yung Twilight. Pero yung punto na mabango ang tao para sa mga aswang, sigurado akong hindi ito hango sa Twilight. Kasi, bata pa ako naririnig ko na ‘to sa mga kwento ng matatanda sa Continue reading “Tabi Po (Graphic Novel)”
Kita Kita (I See You) could be a distant relative of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise; only it isn’t presented in real-time, it’s set in Japan instead of France, and the male lead (Empoy Marquez) hardly resembles Ethan Hawke. And KZ Tandingan’s version of Air Supply’s “Two Less Lonely People” frequently plays in the background. Okay, the two movies are probably more different than similar. Kita Kita tells of a bittersweet love story between Lea (Allesandra de Rossi), a Filipina tour guide in Japan, who suffers from temporary blindness and her unlikely Prince Charming, whom she met after. The story follows this unlikely couple as they wander around the picturesque where-to-go attractions in Sapporo and Hokkaido. The movie happily forgoes typical romantic comedy tropes and mostly features its two leads talking to each other—the dialogue most likely improvised. In short, it’s not your usual rom-com with the best-looking couple, manufactured conflict, and predictable plot. And just when you think that that is all, it burst its own bubble by telling the B-side to the story in the second half. Truly, love is blind. And only in darkness can we see the stars. Or in the case of Tonyo, only after he got wasted drinking 24 cans of Japan’s famous Sapporo lager. Consider this as Philippines’ “thank you” to Japan for featuring San Miguel Beer in the original Ghost in the Shell. Oh, there’s a part that reminds me of Il Mare. Don’t ask, it’s a spoiler
Bliss is a well-crafted little film, an elaborate tease tinged with mild voltage of shock, a psycho-sexual thriller that approaches but never quite reaches the level of mind-fuck. The movie’s a clever play on parallels: Iza Calzado’s showbiz career with that of Jane Ciego; Jane’s to that of Abigail, the protagonist in Bliss; Jane’s real-life husband Carlo to the actor who plays her husband in Bliss, played by Ian Veneracion; Bliss’ indie writer-director Lexter Palao (Audie Gemora) to Jerrold Tarog; and that bald TV host played by Michael de Mesa to real life TV host Boy Abunda. But the most important of all is that of Jane Ciego and the nurse played by Adrienne Vergara. One child gets to live her dream of fortune and fame. The other child lives to share her nightmares with the other.
Jerrold Tarog’s script leaves clues and peanut shells along the way, makes sure you don’t get lost in the strip tease. Movies like Misery, Persona and Inception were mentioned in the film, but not Satoshi Kon’s Millennium Actress and Perfect Blue. Bliss may be lacking in full-sized thrills and effective scares, but intrigue, gratuitous nudity, and moments that are strictly not for the squeamish, more than makes up for it. That being said, claims that the film’s ending spells mind-fuck are grossly exaggerated. Bliss is nothing but a tease; like a bomba film that didn’t go full “pene” but just slides in the tip. It’s like minutes and minutes of foreplay without the actual sex.
But no sex is OK, especially when one is tired and badly needs to sleep. Like Jane at one point in the movie, getting tired of all her showbiz routines. I thought she’s much like the local movie theaters and the movie goers, already tired of looking for something different, feeling shortchanged most of the time. There should be more choices in our cinemas; not just the usual studio love teams, tepid rom-coms, and the predominant but mostly unimaginative Hollywood movies.
Perhaps this is what Bliss is: it’s the evil nurse pushing us away from the comfort zone, sending voltage of shock and sensation, rousing us, leaving us gasping for air, asking for more. There are lots of good local indie movies out there waiting for a wider audience. Bliss is just one of them. If only the local theater owners would realize, we’re more than willing to pay to see them.
Before 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.
Got 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.
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?
As 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.
Simply 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.
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.
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”.
Two excellent lovely twinkly EPs…
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.
Stargazer (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”.
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.
More 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.
Not 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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
A few of my favorite records came out in 1997. Pavement’s fourth “masterpiece” Brighten the Corners was released that year. Ditto with Radiohead’s critically acclaimed OK Computer and Foo Fighters’ The Colour and the Shape. In the same year, Teeth returned with Bum Squad EP and a healthier Glenn Jacinto. Then the Eraserheads, fresh from their first US gig, surprised us with Bananatype, a five-track prelude to their most perfectly imperfect fifth album – Sticker Happy – which also came out that year.
Sticker Happy is one helluva record; Eraserheads’ unheralded masterpiece – if there should be one. Not their best, but definitely their craziest; and one with the best damn cover art. It’s a cacophony of zany things; the Eraserheads both old and new, guitar pyrotechnics, pop songs, techno, sex, booze and rock & roll – a strange brew that spins violently and destroys everything along the way.
Looking back now, Sticker Happy may have been a bit too much for most fans to fully appreciate at the time. It was their least accessible album up to that point. It also marks the time when the band took away some of the things, fans love about their songs. No more silly love songs about Toyang, Shirley or Ligaya. Instead, we got “Kaliwete”, a song about a two-timing hottie and the band’s flippant tribute to Rico J. Instead of songs about things we could easily relate to, they gave us “Downtown” and “Balikbayan Box”.
Sticker Happy kicks things off with cartoon theme-like “Prologue”, and things go bonkers from there on. “Futuristic” is anything but. But just like “Kaliwete”, it’s built on an icky riff and sets the tone of the album; their modus operandi – in-jokes, guitars, loosely tied lyrics, melodies that stick and more guitars. Way before Hopia, Mani, Popcorn, Rico J. Puno – the mustachioed grandfather of OPM – gets the homage he rightfully deserves, via innuendos, catchy choruses, and spoken words.
At the core of Side E, are songs that best exemplify the less popular side of Eraserheads, the deeper cuts in their catalog. Lyrically dark, witty and self-referential while loops, samples and drum machines meet interlacing guitars. There is “Maalalahanin”, where Raymund Marasigan lays down the grungiest pile of noise he could muster, on top of electronic and acoustic drums. Then, Ely Buendia takes a few bong hits, and ponders on the meaning of life and caressing the future on the brilliant dark comedy “Ha Ha Ha”. Then there’s “Balikbayan Box”, a song that perfectly captures the woes of living away from home and the excitement of going back. Discord and noise has been a hit and miss in Eheads’ past albums (i.e., Monovirus from Fruitcake, Bato and Insomya from Circus); but here, we have the Luis Bunuel film-inspired “Andalusian Dog”, one of their successful attempts in marrying melody with psychedelic overtones and noise.
Not Side E is more unwieldy, and opens with “Downtown”, Marasigan’s electro-dance-funk about his escapades in downtown LA, which is also the grandfather of all Squid9 songs. The lyrics on “Kananete”, part two of Buendia’s Hand Trilogy, are nonsensical at worst, but the lumbering guitars and driving basslines more than makes up for it. Buendia and Marcus Adoro then get rid of their fuzz boxes and let Buddy Zabala take over the drums, on a song about disbelief and love. It’s a well needed rest; a few minutes of lull. Then things get dark, drunk (“Spoliarium”), heavy and funky again (“Ambi Dextrose”), before they go for an early closing, with a sober sorry song – the piano ballad “Para Sa Masa”.
Sticker Happy isn’t perfect; almost, yes. I could do without “Everything They Say” and “Bogchi Hokbu” could have been a minute shorter. On some days, “Ambi Dextrose” is fine. On some days, it is like The Matrix Reloaded or Return of the Jedi – the weakest part of a trilogy. But these are minimal trade-offs, considering the extent to which the band tried to expand their sound on this album. Plus, the album cover is just fucking unreal – white skies, a red balloon, green grass, mountains and a beautiful piano undressed in stickers.
They caught and drowned the front man of the world’s worst rock and roll band. He was out of luck because nobody gave a fuck. The jury gathered all around the aqueduct, drinking and laughing and lighting up, reminiscing just how bad he sucked, singing “Throw him in the river, throw him in the river – throw the bastard in the river”.
And way up in the sky is the leader of the greatest band of all time. Blasted from a plane headed back home from the U-S-A. The people gathered all around the radio to hear the transmission from the devil’s soul. (They’re) locked and stung and sick and cold of toasting their bald hero, toasting their bald hero. A toast to their bald hero!
The underground is overcrowded. The underground is overcrowded. The underground is overcrowded. The underground is overcrowded.
(~Slightly modified lyrics from the Archers of Loaf’s Greatest of All Time.)
Before Sticker Happy came out late in 1997, Eraserheads released an EP called Bananatype. For a band that has released one LP every year since 1993, a stopgap midyear release was nothing short of surprising. They just have too many songs for the new album that they have to put away some of them, the band explained. But maybe airplay also came into play. Their label possibly wanted a radio single that has nothing to do with Frannie Wei – something not from the underpromoted Fruitcake. So, after the third single “Trip to Jerusalem” (the music video for which, is arguably the dopest of all Eheads music videos) didn’t fly as expected, the plan for a fourth single – which could have been “Lightyears” – was squashed, probably.
And so we got Bananatype, a five-track album that hardly connects the dots between Fruitcake and Sticker Happy. “Harana”, the lead single, or A-side, has all the trademarks of an Eheads hit – ingenious lyrics, melts in your mouth melodies, and the hookiest hooks one could ever ask for. It’s a song that retreats back to the catchy folk-pop of Ultra and yet, foreshadows the effects-heavy sound of Sticker Happy, through loud guitars and an extended outro.
Much like the Fruitcake EP, there are only two outstanding cuts here – the aforementioned “Harana” and the closing track, “Tikman”. The latter is a lo-fi quickie that leans toward the psych double-entendre side of Cutterpillow. It’s an underrated gem, a commercial jingle that could have easily been a hit single. (If you’re not convinced yet, you can watch an Eraserheads trio perform it live on this grainy video.) The other three songs – Police Woman, Bananatype and I Can’t Remember You – aren’t anywhere near bad, but would be best appreciated by diehard fans.
This isn’t just fantasy superband come true. This is the superband that supersedes all other superbands in recent memory – Bamboo, Franco, Audioslave, Atoms for Peace, and even the Oktaves. I mean, c’mon, this is Rivermaya’s main man and one-half of the Eraserheads – two godhead bands from the 90’s – in one album.
Okay, maybe not really a superband, but Rico Blanco’s third studio output, is a superb band album. An album that thrives on Menshevist approach and recalls updates the sounds from Blanco’s former band (i.e., Trip, Free, Tuloy Ang Ligaya) and the more straightforward side of Your Universe (i.e., Antukin, Ayuz). Blanco will never make another It’s Not Easy Being Green or Free, but what we have here, is almost as good as those. Much like Joss Whedon’s superhero ensemble few years back, this one benefits from its bandleader/captain’s singular vision, the bang-up production, each member’s contribution and whatever is the equivalent of a well-balanced script. This is the sound of four distinct personalities contrasting and complementing each other; four guys hammering it on, delivering the goods.
Side A opens with “Parang Wala Na”, an upbeat new wave-y number about the slow death of a relationship, slows down a bit on “Sorry Naman”, then closes with “Videoke Queen” – the splendid first single about videoke singing that’s also perfect for, uhm, videoke singing. (The last time Rico Blanco went meta, he name-checks Odelay in a song that’s apparently inspired by Beck.) Side B continues the fading romance on “Wag Mong Aminin”, then fastforwards to the aftermath on “Umuwi Ka Na”, in which the beautiful arpeggiated guitars remind me of Radiohead, circa In Rainbows. Then, Blanco and Co. get all cranked up, distortion and all on the final track, where Blanco shares one painful truth about love – Hindi mo kayang umibig/ kung ayaw mong masaktan/ mag-chess ka na lang.
All in all, this is Rico Blanco and Co. bringing back the old and familiar – the alternative pop the Eraserheads and Rivermaya pioneered in the 90’s – with a new spin. It’s all killers, no fillers – an album for the Spotify generation, full of radio friendly unit shifters. One of the best from last year.
Like with any guitar-heavy rock band, one can namedrop the usual suspects with ease – Nirvana, Pavement, Husker Du – as usual. But one has to realize how tonally and aesthetically disparate those bands were and that their least common denominator is a RAT pedal. Yes, the singer strains his cords like Cobain and the guitars are dirty as fuck, but every time I listen, it seems to me, that they’re leaning more toward a The Strokes/The Vines/Arctic Monkeys kind of vibe than any of the aforementioned bands. And it only confirms my doubt that they’d get off to Karen O rather than Bikini Kill. But the guitars are loud alright, and the drums are forceful. Sometimes he sounds like Casablanca trying to outdo The Vines. That said, this gets a thumbs up nonetheless. Plus, they’re giving it away for free. So, I took a bite and it’s alright. You might also want to try.