Reviews: Unique, Yurei, Ben&Ben, IV of Spades

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Grandma | Unique Salonga | 2018
Unique may have drawn first blood but this is hardly a win. Too early for him to brag about ‘money in the bag’ (“M”, “Cha-ching!”), for which the IVoS gave him the dreaded slow clap. Nothing here comes close to “Mundo”, nothing remotely as catchy as “Hey Barbara”. But that’s probably the point—he wants to burn ‘old disco’ (“Ozone”), cut any association with his former band. So, this has to be different, which doesn’t mean it’s good. He’s probably slightly better with lyrics than his ex-bandmates but this is also wanting. Whatever this lacks, without Zild on his side, he overcompensates—with synths. With no Blaster to provide him the funk, he wisely slows down the tempo, goes for quiet acoustic numbers. If only he could reach the depth he’s trying to reach (IVoS’s “I Ain’t Perfect” beats his “Midnight Sky” by a few inches). Emulations abound, with Beatles being the most obvious, probably late Arctic Monkeys too. But we only make do with emulations when we can’t afford or access what’s being emulated, which is nearly impossible to be impossible when you have a data plan. I’m sure my grandmother didn’t listen to this type of thing. And you don’t have to over-analyze his lyrics to find meanings which aren’t there. He’s just turned eighteen–as in legal–is all he’s really trying to say. C+

 

ClapClapClap! | IV of Spades | 2019
Unique leaving IVoS wasn’t probably as big as Ely Buendia ‘graduating’ from the Eraserheads though it also broke fans, like when Rivermaya lost Bamboo. The more accurate comparison I guess, is when Dennis split up with his brothers Jimmy and Vinggo and christened himself April Boy Regino (the other two continued as April Boys). Unlike the April Boys, IVoS didn’t even have an album yet before the split up. While Unique’s Grandma could be likened to Bamboo Manalac’s debut after he left Bamboo (No Water, No Moon: eclectic, boring), ClapClapClap! is hardly comparable to what Rivermaya had each time they were reduced to a trio (It’s Not Easy Being Green in ’99, Bagong Liwanag in ’07). The more accurate comparison would be Buhay, their first full length album with Jason Fernandez—scattershot but not without a few bright spots (“Come Inside of My heart”, “Dulo Ng Hangganan”). They may have lost the ‘old disco’ but with rehashed early 2k’s garage-funk (“Take That Man”) and new wave revival (“In My Prison”) you can still grind. All in all, the songs rise and fall with tempos, falsettos, and styles. There’s just too much here to wade through, too much to weed out. But not enough weed. B-

PS. If it’s true that it was the Autotelic/December Avenue fans who started the hate bandwagon online, I would also understand.

 

Limasawa Street | Ben&Ben | 2019 
A track or two could be played at a wedding. And they do dress look like a wedding band. But the best songs here are those which doesn’t say “happily ever after”. It sounded fresh when Up Dharma Down did something like this almost a decade ago. With Ben&Ben, it just sounds like the 2010’s version of the ’80s or early ’90s pre-Ultraelectromaneticpop (see: Bodjie’s Law of Gravity)—just with less synths, more strings, acoustic guitars. Great musicians no doubt, they’re reportedly great live, but one song featuring Ebe Dancel suspiciously sounds like one of the hits of the latter’s former band. They’re a decent singles band (“Kathang-Isip”, “Leaves”). And on this album they have few decent ‘single’ songs as well—songs specifically written for those who want to move on (“Mitsa”, “Tala-arawan”). B+ 

 

The Problem of Grunge in 2015, or How to Deal with Boredom and Other Stories, or Memoirs of My Nervous Condition, or The Navel-Gazer’s Guide to Confronting the Self, or Meditations On Life and Death in Metro Manila | Yurei | 2015 
That’s not the review yet, that’s just the title. Five long titles for an EP containing five short songs with one-word titles delivered at 320 kilobits per second. Possible problems with Windows: ‘file name is too long’, ‘the path is too long’. They don’t sound like Nirvana, I SWEAR! But their vocalist looks like a Japanese Kult Cobain. B  

Eraserheads – Carbon Stereoxide (2001)

Eheads_carbonstereoxidecoverCarbon Stereoxide, Eraserheads’ last studio album, came out almost two years since their previous record—less than a year before Ely Buendia unceremoniously announced his “graduation”. For a band that put out new materials year in, year out, from 1993 to 1999, that twenty-two month gap and the resulting album was more or less telling, indicative of things to come.

It wasn’t really like they ran out of gas. Or fresh ideas. But harness them and produce something surprising and cohesive was something they weren’t able to do this time. It wasn’t like they’ve reach the end of the road either. They’re just not sure which way to go. The resulting album is decidedly difficult, dark, anticlimactic. At times, Carbon Stereoxide is more like a pilot episode for three upcoming acts: Ely Buendia’s The Mongols/Pupil, Marcus Adoro’s Surfernando/Markus Highway and Raymund Marasigan’s Squid9.

Maybe, Raymund and Buddy tried to keep things together. And wrote the hit Ely wouldn’t want to write anymore (“How Far Will U Go”). Buendia wanted guitar-rock and probably, less drum machine, less electronic bleeps. More specifically, Ely wanted “Teeth’s early Smashing Pumpkins guitars” (the best iteration of which, could be found on The Mongols’ Buddha’s Pest). Still, little new things sprung up here and there. Marcus Adoro’s Pink Floyd plug “Wala” and “Pula”, at least, offers something different. So do Squid9 guest-appearances every two or three songs.

Marcus finally had proper songs on this album; not just token noise-rock blargh (“Southsuperhighway”), fillers (“Punk Zappa”), or a weak album opener (“Bato”). Marasigan, who also wanted the ‘Heads to make electronic-rock album, like Kid A, guests as pre-Ink Jet Squid9. And he did what the band wouldn’t do full-time, did it on the side, the fillers (“Bloodtest”, “Ok Comprende”). They were slight detours, maybe stellar as parts, but detract from the whole. Of course, there’s Buendia’s “Outside” to make up for the whole album’s apparent lack of hooks.

Coming from Eraserheads, the album’s title as well as its cover art, seem like a momentary lapse of judgment—the stereo in stereoxide, almost cliche by the Eheads standard. (Remember the color coded stems on Natin99? Or the nude chick on the piano on Sticker Happy? Did anyone bother to deliberate the choice of title and album art?) But to say the same about the songs would be a stretch for sure. Carbon Stereoxide isn’t a bad record. But it’s also lacking in that whatever elevated their previous works.

By the time they made Carbon Stereoxide, the Eraserheads—Ely, Marcus, Buddy, Raymund—were twice the musicians that they were back when they were just starting out, back when they recorded their debut. But they’re also less than the band they used to be. And in Carbon Stereoxide, one can finally see the cracks, the seams, the spaces between them.

Rico Blanco – Galactik Fiestamatik (2012)

AlbumArt_GFAt the center of Galactik Fiestamatik, is someone sweating it out on the floor. All eyes on her – she doesn’t mind. The beat isn’t catchy, it’s hardly Macarena or whatever’s the latest fad. There’s something primeval about this, this ritual – Blanco seems to be saying. And so, the songs takes a more primitive form – like a proto-EDM, if there is such a thing. More than entertainment, art, or culture, dancing as a way to survive.

Rico Blanco takes elements from synth-pop, New Order, Bjork, David Bowie (esp. the way he promoted and toured for the album) and made them into a stripped down synth-rock record. It’s just keyboards, beats (no acoustic drums, bar a couple of tracks), and Blanco’s “dry” vocals. Still, this takes a lot from the Rico Blanco we knew since his days with Rivermaya: his songwriting, his knack for catchy choruses and memorable turn of phrase (e.g., Chismis – ang pambansang marijuana / Chismis – sumampalataya).

Though it opens with the seductively dark “Amats” (the video for which features #1 Crush Megan Young) and the digitized ways of breaking up and moving on “Burado,” Galactik Fiestamatik is hardly one would call “uneasy listening”. After two “difficult” numbers, Blanco makes it clear that, no, he’s not trying to make his own Kid A or The Lemon of Pink. But that is not to say the rest are all radio-friendly stuff. Hardly. Though I don’t know what’s considered radio-friendly nowadays, much less what’s keeping the radio DJ’s busy. I’d say Blanco has a handful here for the faithful. Songs one wouldn’t get from, say, AM, FM or internet radio.

In “Lipat Bahay,” easily the best cut off the album, Blanco catalogs an assortment of ephemera, relics and soon-to-be garbage found in his apartment. And he puts them in neat carton boxes of sing-along verses and basic chord patterns. There are pop culture relics (Star Wars bedsheet, “family computer” cartridges), semi-obscure stuff (Dominique Wilkins poster), and antiquities (typewriter, encyclopedia), some or most of them, alien to today’s kids.

While “Lipat Bahay” is full of “things” – tangible stuff that can be packed and sealed in a box – the song is really about the intangible things attached to them. The Circus CD signed by the Eraserheads isn’t just about the physical disc, but the band and their music as well, the memories he had with them. And while some of the stuff tells more about fandom (i.e., a Dominique Wilkins poster for the avid basketball fan, Return of the Jedi bedsheet for the Star Wars fan, the Circus CD, for the Eheads fan), “Lipat-Bahay” is really about memories, events, experiences he had in that apartment signified by those things sealed inside the box.

The time he lived in it, the tears he shed in the bedroom, the dust on the floor, his friends’ and family’s laughter that echoed through the walls, the way the light reflects on the ceiling on a quiet night – he’s gonna miss all of them. And he wants to bring them all. If only he could.

Hindi ko yata kayang iwanan ka.


Featured image from this website.

Ang Bandang Shirley – Themesongs (2008)

a0640265112_16Themesongs isn’t really as great, much less original, as all those millennial kids who raved about it before would have you believe. Musically, it’s mostly just second-hand twee. But the songs are playful, quirky, they’d make you wanna jump, dance or chase around your hun and give him/her your tweest embrace when you catch him/her. And the lyrics, the Tagalog lyrics, well, that’s what elevates this from all other local indie-pop peeps, and somehow justifies them using a name from a song by the Eraserheads.

I mean, Ciudad didn’t call themselves Torpedo or Butterscotch, Itchyworms didn’t call themselves Scorpio Rising, Orange & Lemons didn’t go by Milk & Money, and Ebe Dancel, even though a big Eheads fan, named his band so because he’s Diabetic. Oh, well, whatever. Only Owel Alvero, Selena Salang, et al had the gall. Anyways, what I’m trying to say is, attaching Eraserheads to their band name was a risky move. I know some people didn’t like it.

If I remember correctly, there were some dismissive comments on their music video for “Sa Madaling Salita” on YouPorn. Still, I think having “Shirley” in their name quite worked for them, Owel Alvero and rest of the gang. “Sa Madaling Salita” is also quite good. The music video, not much, though at least it’s not as off-putting as Up Dharma Down’s “Turn It Well.” Also, bonus points for the band for putting the words “dumadanak ng dugo” in a love song.

Where was I? Yes, the lyrics. Ah, Patintero. Have you ever wonder before why the girls, when they started hitting puberty, they would stop playing games like Patintero (or anything that requires touching and running) or if they’d still do, their very strict lola or old maid tita would scold them and damn them to hell? Hmm… exactly. Kung ika’y aking mahuli, di ko kagad masasabi / kung ano ang una kong gagawin sa’yo. Well, he definitely knows what he’s going to do next, but it’s this kind of playfulness in the lyrics that makes the songs in Themesongs work.

Then, there’s the title track where the lovers wait for their would be theme song. Because, you know, it isn’t always like the movies, where the perfect love song plays in the background the moment the girl says “Oo.” That’s cute. But do girls still say “Oo” nowadays? I don’t know. Maybe they use some other phrases, slang or colloquial terms. Or maybe just plain lazy phrases like “wala lang” or “iyong”?

The best song here, “Tsuper Duper”, is probably the closest they have for a crossover hit. Y’know, like crossover from Nu107 to Love Radio, that kind of thing. (I know there’s a longer title but “Tsuper Duper” has better recall like ABBA’s “Super Trooper” and the best longest song title award is already taken.) And it’s probably the most Ely Buendia-ish and Stephen Malkmus-y song Owel Alvero has ever written. The moment they shouted “Solo na!” just before the guitar solo echoes Pavement’s “And they’re coming to the chorus now,” which, of course, Malkmus sings just before the song’s chorus.

There’s something in Themesongs—I don’t know—a kind of knowing or self-awareness that’s missing in their other albums. And you know what, second-hand twee or not, I’d give this one a blowjob just for this song title alone: “Kagabi Nanaginip Si Morrissey Na May Nagmamahal Sa Kanya.” It’s hardly album of the year material but it’s definitely worth a spin.

 

Ang Bandang Shirley – Tama Na Ang Drama (2012)

29784385_800_800Now this, is Album Of The Year material. Probably the most exciting local indie-rock record from the 2010’s. This sophomore effort is said to be more collegial, mature and sophisticated than the debut. The band, easily averting the proverbial sophomore slump—if there is still such a thing. All this, according to the fans, critics, and critics/fans.

The only problem is, I can’t find that same album the local tastemakers so raved about. Sure, there are hummable melodies in here, a few fuzzed and fast, if predictable tunes, and one sad song about a huge mass of slow moving river of snow. Compared with their debut, the songs on Tama Na Ang Drama are generally slower, longer, mellower, more polished—none of these, directly equates with, better. And between the strategically placed A-sides, are uninspired throwaways, redundant B-sides, and one remake that’s largely unnecessary (“Saan Na,” previously by Narda).

There are hummable melodies, LSS-inducing even, in the breezy, if lyrically-challenged “Wala Lang” and “Iyong.” There’s that, then there’s throwaway half-assery (“Distansya,” “Ewan Ko”). There’s also an irresistibly catchy chorus in “Nakauwi Na,” where the deceptively simple metaphor and sing-song quality makes up for the sleep-inducing opening verse, which reminds me of one of the best jokes in Erik Matti’s Pedro Penduko: The Return of the Comeback, the “Tabuknon” scene. Could they not get someone better for that part? Janno Gibbs would smirk and roll his eyes for sure.

Best song off the album award goes to “Glacier,” a mid-tempo miracle of a song that’s also moving. Like a sad romantic movie. And bittersweet, like shrapnel-coated chocolate. Consistent with the album’s boom and bust track sequence, the best song is followed by the worst (“Acid Reflux”), at least for its obvious lyrics (which makes one imagine and equate bad romance with peptic ulcer), second-hand Fatal Posporos vibe, and, uhm, acid reflux-inducing cheap Santana riff.

A couple more notable cuts: “Single Bed,” which should have followed “Glacier” for maximum effect, the line about “scratching one’s back” notwithstanding, and the Ang Nawawala crowd and fan-favorite “Di Na Babalik,” with its sad movie-ending feels. But before you get to them, you have to wade thru B-sides (“Baliktad”, “Pait,” “Taksil”) that are just redundant, if not obligatory, songs that don’t say any thing “Masamang Damo” or that Morrissey song haven’t said before.

Tama Na Ang Drama, despite its title being self-referential, isn’t really self-reflexive like Themesongs. The best tracks here, they’re probably more sincere than those in the first. But the whole album is also lacking a center, a unified sound or theme. It just alternates between good and bad, the mediocre and passable. You upvote the better tracks, downvote or skip the next fillers, or just pick a few choice cuts for your playlist.

Chumped – Teenage Retirement (2014)

teenageChumped’s Teenage Retirement is for the young and restless, even the young at heart, those who dance to punk, power pop, anything with fuzz as long as its fast, melodic, those who love getting drunk with friends, talk about their “shitty” lives, teenage woes. It’s an unhealthy mix of broken hearts, drunken nights, wasted time, melodic punk and emo. Perfect picture of bad health, according to one Green Day song. They may sound a bit like Paramore but they take much much more from their heroes—among them Weezer and Superchunk—more than they do second-hand post-hardcore stuff. And no, Anika Pyle doesn’t agonize and yells as much as Hayley girl does. And while Superchunk and Weezer may be their heroes, I guess this all goes back to Boston—Massachusetts, not the band (i.e., More Than A Feeling). Because every time I play “December…” I can’t help but hear Joey Santiago and Kim Deal. And whether it transcends emo-punk or not, “The Pains of Being…” with its sparse lyrics (We get older / Time moves faster / You stay the same) and intertwining guitars that echoes both Pavement and Built To Spill, is probably the album’s most repeat-worthy track. And it breaks my heart that they’ve already called it quits, in same way that my 16 year-old self bleeds a little bit every time she sings “I’m looking at you / You’re looking through me / I would wait for you all summer long and / you would turn me away.” I, WE all know how that feels.

Superdrag – Head Trip In Every Key (1998)

head-tripSome said ‘Rock is dead’ in ’98 and electronica (i.e., Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers) is the next big thing. Well, Grunge died, sort of—after Cobain’s death, Pearl Jam’s No Code flopped, and Soundgarden split up. Unbeknownst to many, Pavement’s Brighten the Corners actually saved Rock n’ Roll in ’97. And paved the way for Superdrag’s pretentiously titled Head Trip In Every Key the following year, which proved that rock ain’t really dead, it just took the backseat.

While the Superdrag boasts melodic burst after burst and glorious fuzz on their debut Regretfully Yours, they were closer to breezy power-pop of Fountains of Wayne than to the darker sound of the early nineties. And while their label were probably aiming them to be the next big thing, John Davis and his cohorts had another thing in mind: make a great rock record without repeating Regretfully Yours. The A&R guys wanted another “Sucked Out,” Superdrag gave them the power-pop equivalent of Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie, a rock album replete with horns and string arrangements, piano, organ, sitar, theremin and mellotron–even a microwave oven. It’s not just the kitchen sink, John Davis and co. throws the the whole kitchen into it. Unfortunately, Head Trip flew under the radar and never made a hit, the record label barely promoted it and dropped Superdrag off their roster soon after its release.

All this makes Head Trip an underappreciated gem. A forgotten classic. Though Superdrag never really seemed to aim for Top40 hits, Head Trip wasn’t meant to be something like Nirvana’s In Utero. They were not trying to shy away from the spotlight. They weren’t trying to alienate the Regretfully fans. Superdrag meant Head Trip to be heard and shared. And they’re just there, hanging around the corner, waiting, quietly inviting you to take a chance, grab those headphones, press play.

Razorback – Hebigat Sounds Volume One (1995)

hebigatHebigat Sounds sounds fine–but Inuman Sessions Vol.1 would have been more apt for this debut from Razorback. From the opening motif of “Tabi Ng Bulkan” to that riff that’s played repeatedly and ends “Diwata,” Razorback delivers bad-ass goods—equal parts booze, rock & roll—but not much else. “Stand by…rolling.” Self-reflexivity: Check. I took one bottle, poured half in my glass. It’s bitter. And sweet. Kevin Roy started singing about stuff: misadventures, a drinking buddy of his, among other things. But the band kicked arse mainly via the one-two punch of David Aguirre and Tirso Ripoll. Riffs, motifs and licks, after, over, and within riffs, motifs and licks. Imagine that.

I emptied the bottle. Dumped two cubes on the head. Before he could finish his fifth song, Kevin Roy must’ve been drunk already. He sang the same verse over and over. I took another bottle. Then another. And another. The band played the same verse about three times, the same chorus, three times. They must’ve been smashed already. Man, that song would have been finished two minutes ago. Damn! Then, I reached the bucket for another. This bottle’s already warm. The ice bucket was empty. A girl in black shirt showed up and took it. Then, I went to the bath room, tried to keep my balance as I walk carefully past tables and chairs. My feet following the beat from Louie Talan’s bass and Miguel Ortigas’ pounding rhythm. I heard Kevin Roy talk about things again—beer, jazz, ganjazz, another friend—all shallow stuff, “coño stuff”, including his baño song. I’m not really complaining. You play this for the riffs, the guitars. If you want songs, you’re better off some place else. (There’s more songwriting involved in their sophomore effort Beggar’s Moon.)

I was already having tamang amats by the time I went home. Before I sleep that night, I remember that fair lady in black with a pretty smile. She took that ice bucket and never came back. Then, I woke up with a supermassive hangover. My head hurt and felt ten times heavier. Hebigat, indeed. Damn, never gonna drink again.

Tubero – Kupal Destroyer (2018)

tubero

Tubero Brings Heavy Honest Pure Metal Music To The Fore

There’s no beating around the bush, no matter how thick the bush may be. They play hard, erect and direct. With songs the starts and expires as fast as one can say “Mamatay Ka Na,” titles that could make blush even the likes of Boy Sullivan and Andrew E. (“Kevin Tuwad,” “Makapal Ang Bulbol Mo,” “Walang Panty,” Continue reading “Tubero – Kupal Destroyer (2018)”

Moonstar88 – This Year (2012)

thisyearThis Year, Moonstar88’s answer to their fans, is either a long EP or a short LP. Or rather it’s more like a second disc to a repackaged Todo Combo. Only you don’t have to purchase the same album again (in case you already have) just to get the bonus disc. Nor their label needs to repackage that album to sell more, because it has already sold out. And while I initially thought of this as a teaser to their next full length, it is actually not. This is their new full length album, their first in five years. Reportedly, it took them two years to finish recording. Counting the songs, they came up with only half as much as those in its predecessor. Sound-wise, they just stuck with what works in Todo Combo. Some may call it staying in the comfort zone. But I think being a little too adventurous were among the pitfalls of their first two albums. Go check their songs “Gilid” and “Ligaw”, if you like what you hear, the rest of this mini-album would hardly disappoint. Mini-album—wow, that’s so K-Pop.

(Re-posted from my old blog.)

Kiko Machine – Kiko Machine (2004)

000 kikomachine - copyThe lads of Kiko Machine, indie/comedy/rock band composed of Fine Arts students from UP, aren’t very fine, to say the least. Not only do they idolize a second-rate moustachioed matinee, they also dream to be on the cover of Pulp magazine, and if all else fail, they’ll do everything to become boldstars. Musically, I’ll put them somewhere behind PNE, together with, though not as popular as Kamikazee. They’re funnier than Giniling Festival and definitely better than Rocksteddy. Their music maybe just as derivative as anyone mentioned above, but their gimmicks and ticks are definitely their own – from wearing costumes (their bassist dons a Spider-man costume), to rousing live performances (see their Youtube videos), to the wildly imaginative album cover and songs full of wry college humor and TV nostalgia. And underneath all the gimmickry and raucous live performances, are remarkably well-written songs. Songs that primarily evokes adolescent and post-adolescent memories spent in front of the boob tube – raving about and imitating those TV shows – be it an afternoon soap, Sunday morning cartoons or late night series. Theirs is a generation that grew-up watching Batibot, Aguila, McGyver, Takeshi’s Castle and WWF and they’re proud of it. No wonder that their best songs, aside from “Gabi”, are inspired by these TV shows. And that song about McGyver is definitely one funny gem (Suka at toyo, kayang gawing bomba / Lumang tubo, kayang gawing bazooka / Lumang bumbilya nagagawang granada).

Image taken from this blog.

tide/edit – All My Friends (2018)

Is this where it all starts to bleed together? Is this where it all starts to sound the same? I’m mean those towels hanging on the cover of IDEAS. Towels, ideas, songs—spin them thrice in the washing machine and colours will bleed for sure. Ditto with these tunes, tracks, songs.

After Lightfoot, I have little use for song titles. Without the lyrics, will I be able to easily tell Track 1 from Track 3? This one’s like a less catchy that. That, is a far superior version of this. This one doesn’t evoke Feeling A the same way Track X does in the first. The first one is X2, which is equal to A. The second is B – 1, which is 2X2 / 3 or less. What about strong melodies? Is there enough to carry on down to the twelfth track? But “strong” is subjective. What sound strong to others might still seem weak to me.

Strong powder detergents (i.e., Tide), however, could wear the colours of the fabric really fast. And by their third album, I found tide/edit’s sound kind of thinning out. The colours faded and the distinction between each track, somewhat as blurry as clothes—undies, socks, shirts—whirling inside the tub. I’d give Lightfoot A for effort and C for delivery. Early delivery. For All My Friends, I’d give it the benefit of the doubt and two and a half pouch of Ariel with fabric conditioner. ‘Cause every time I play it, it leads me to the band’s earlier stuff. And by earlier stuff, I mean Foreign Languages, the band’s evocative full-length debut. 

tide/edit – Foreign Languages (2014)

Math makes the intangible tangible, defines the imaginary, helps explain what seems to be, well, unexplainable—like our universe. With Foreign Languages, indie-rock quartet tide/edit does something—not exactly opposite—different. The tunes in Foreign Languages, they aren’t easy to describe or explain—not that one needs to—yet they could easily capture one’s attention and/or imagination.

tide/edit’s music has been labeled as post-rock, math-pop, indie-rock. The members of tide/edit just want to call it “happy music”—label that belies the songs’ complexity, the dexterity in which they are played. Also, “happy” is not just a bit reductive. Sure, most of the tracks are, particularly “Nicholas” and “Another Yes,” but not “HAIYAN” or “Odd & Even.” But we should all be happy for this singer-less, almost faceless band—their music has gained traction online and offline, their first full-length album Foreign Languages (ditto with their succeeding LPs) is also released overseas, via Japan’s Friends of Mine Records—not a minor achievement for this quartet from Manila.

tide/edit’s brand of instrumental rock, as on Foreign Languages, is probably best described with anecdotes, images, places. Sans lyrics, the listener is invited to fill the gaps—emotions, thoughts, scenic views, old photographs. It’s like watching the beautiful sunset on the way back home, or being stuck in traffic on the way to the airport, amidst a tropical storm. It’s like moments of hope, bliss, loneliness, nostalgia, longing, trapped between your ears, locked inside your headphones. Sometimes it’s sad, beautiful.

Imago – Effect Desired None (2010)

imago4Probably Not But Most Definitely had me confused. They could have easily given Cynthia Alexander a run for her money (not that record sales equates to big money in the early aughts, not that there were any significant record sales numbers to begin with), I just don’t get what the (vagina) monologues are for. What is a box? What is a bra? Somebody enlighten me please.

Take 2 is probably more focused, but the non-singles most definitely needs more variation. And the less we talk about their third, the better—after which they became one of the most hated band in the world.

Okay, not really. But some indie kids definitely hated “Taralets” to their hipster bones (inasmuch as they hated Hale) and I myself couldn’t stand “Anino” anymore and that music video where they played ABBA (i.e., Under Repair). Just to make things clear, I like ABBA.

Imago’s last album before the revamp, Effect Desired None, was touted as the band’s best by some—if only for the reason that, finally here’s an Imago album that approximates the joy of watching them live (which then reminds me again of all the energetic dancing and their awkward ABBA tribute-music video). Live, they are a tight unit and even without the dancing and jumping, they’re definitely dope to watch. But there’s definitely more to the songs themselves than to how their recorded version sounds.

Like one famous songwriter from the ’90s, Aia de Leon seems to be torn between respectability and accessibility, between what’s she thinks the audience wants and what she really wants to do. The band switched genre between each album—from folk, to rock, to pop—sometimes to mixed results. In Effect Desired None, it’s as if she/they finally found a way to balance things out.

And that’s one thing that really put this album way ahead of Take 2 and Blush, that “careful” balance—between the things we love (and sometimes hate) about them, between their folk roots, their poppy side, their quirks. PNBMD was impressive if sort of pretentious from start to finish, but the quirky monologues distracts from it. Take 2 went for heavier, darker—making the dancy numbers and freestyle rapping seem out of place. Some complained Blush was cheesy, the problem though was that there weren’t enough good songs in it. Which brings me to the other thing that sets Effect Desired None apart—the strong songwriting, their strongest since PNBMD.

With the widely different and conflicting incarnations they had with their first three albums, Aia de Leon/Imago, it seems, has finally come to terms with herself/themselves in Effect Desired None. And the results are amazing: she had me at nagpapakipot lang.

The Oktaves – The Oktaves (2013)

theoktaves-20130304-theoktaves-debutalbumcoverNot quite as dismal as the last collaboration album with Ely Buendia’s name on it. But not quite as good as Pupil’s (or Hilera’s) last album either. In case anyone’s forgotten already, The Oktaves is Ely Buendia’s kind-of-full-time-but-not-really other band, a supergroup who don’t seem to hang out together. Or maybe they do hang out, only not as much as the members of Sandwich and Pedicab.

The best cut on this otherwise solidly bland album, is the alternate take or mix of “Bungo Sa Bangin,” previously released on RockEd’s Rock Rizal. Continue reading “The Oktaves – The Oktaves (2013)”

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 Continue reading “Rivermaya Albums Ranked From Worst To Best”

Ciudad – Follow the Leader (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.

Rivermaya – Atomic Bomb (1997)

Rivermaya.atomicbombTook 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. Continue reading “Rivermaya – Atomic Bomb (1997)”

Rivermaya – RiverMaya (1994)

Rivermaya.rivermayaAside 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.

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And the album itself? It’s hard to underrate an album that houses those aforementioned hits, but compared with Trip and other debut albums at the time (Teeth, Album Na Walang Pamagat, Ultraelectromagneticpop), RiverMaya is more like a dozen different things coming at you than a knockout punch. Outside of Bamboo’s voice and irresistible charisma, the band’s signature sound is that they don’t have one. RiverMaya is split between a band album and a really good bar band (i.e., “Gravity” is well-played but says next to nothing when compared with “Shake Yer Head”), split between blues, new wave, probably grunge, among other things.

But the band gelled really well, played really well. And the production’s really good (better than Rico Blanco’s uneven work on Trip). Which gave the songs a pinch of flow, even when the genres they take inspiration from don’t seem to mix well (i.e., imagine mixing New Wave and Razorback in one album). And that also makes it easier to let the album grow on you even if the riffs are just OK (“Revolution”) and the boogie somewhat generic (“Halik Sa Araw”), even if the lyrics, outside of the radio hits, are kind of cliche (“Revolution”, “Ground”, “Gravity”) if not downright cheesy (Daanin mo na lang sa konting rock n’ roll! Eww). Which is to say, the passable tracks are passable, because they’re interspersed with the hits—after “Revolution” comes “Bring Me Down”, after “Ground”, “20 Million” and so on.


Band photo taken from this blog which has some really amazing postcards from both Eraserheads and Rivermaya.

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

Foo Fighters’ Albums, Ranked From Worst to Best

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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. Continue reading “Foo Fighters’ Albums, Ranked From Worst to Best”

Rico Blanco – Your Universe (2008)

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

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

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

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

“Your Universe”, the second single, is like a 180-degree turn from the first. It’s a comely ballad that favors acoustic guitars and string orchestration over drums and distortion, and reveals Blanco’s singer-songwriter side (think Aqualung, circa Strange and Beautiful). “Your Universe”, together with “Restless” and “Start Again”, sound like the logical progression from “Balisong” and “Sunday Driving” (off Between the Stars and Waves) and hint at what the next Rivermaya songs might be like, had Blanco stayed with the band.

“Say Forever”, on the other hand, was probably written after Blanco revisited the ’80s, for his last outing with Rivermaya; only this time, it’s more “Tupperware Party” than Joey Ayala. The cheesy keyboard lines, the angular guitars, the dance-y beats, and the friggin’ saxophone(!) at the break will get you all New Wave-y all over again.

While generally considered as a collaborative effort, with Blanco enlisting a number of well-known musicians and friends (Nathan Azarcon, Buddy Zabala, Sago‘s Pards Tupaz, among others), the songs on Your Universe range from something as grand as “Yugto”, the song with the most number of guest musicians, to something as minimal as “Para Di Ka Mawala”. In between, we got “Ayuz”, another full band set-up, highlighted by a festive horn section and a music video featuring Rico Blanco doing his best Fred Astaire impressions.

There’s also “Antukin”, in which Blanco played all instruments, including drums. Aside from doing a terrific job behind the skins, there’s also a splendid piano solo, which he probably threw in just for fun—a playful throwback to his earlier days with Rivermaya. (The Southeast Asia version of the album available on Spotify features a different mix of “Antukin”, in which the said piano part is replaced by a guitar solo.)

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

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

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Live gig photo from roxnebres.deviantart.com.

The Mongols – Buddha’s Pest (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 “The Mongols – Buddha’s Pest (2004)”

Bamboo – Light Peace Love (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.

Eraserheads – Ultraelectromagneticpop (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.

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Ciudad – It’s Like A Magic (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”.

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)

 

Eraserheads – Sticker Happy (1997)

PhotoGrid_1463325775784A 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.

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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.

Bamboo – As The Music Plays (2004)

PhotoGrid_1467121824568They 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.)

Eraserheads – Bananatype (1997)

Banana_TypeEPcoverBefore 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.

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P.S. Get free banana, here. [Link] Password: What the fuck is a gaheto?