Rico Blanco – Dating Gawi (2015)

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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 back-to-basics 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 of the year.

Rebelle Fleur – The Blashuvec (2013)

a0517027165_10Like 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.

Green Day – ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tre! (2012)

greendayThese three words – shouted to signal the start of every song or set – as a title is in and of itself, very punk in spirit. But there’s no other way to put down this trifecta, but to take it as a whole and describe it as the most bloated American Punk Idiot albums from whom the punk police called questionable punks. And I used to like Green Day – from way way back, before they learned their politics, before they became cool again. Back when they struggled with a follow-up and street cred, back when they were fast becoming uncool. This trilogy is a threefold wastage of digital space – which only proves that most aren’t immune to The Weezer Paradox, even Green Day.

Pavement – Shady Lane (Japan Tour Ed.) (1997)

IMG_20160428_125020Japan could be last bastion of selling tangible music. Not only because Japanese people still love to buy CDs and LPs – but also because a lot of people from outside Japan go there just to buy these stuff and to see Ochanomizu‘s great collection of guitars. And the girls of AKB48 are cute. Maybe not all of the above are true, but I’m sure one thing is absolute – Shady Lane, the EP exclusively sold in Japan, is really awesome – it’s rad. It’s almost as good as the full length album that preceded it. There’s an alternate mix of “Stereo” (by Steve Fisk), just as awesome as the original, a pair of Meat Puppet-inspired numbers – “Slowly Typed” (countrified version of “Type Slowly”) and “Cherry Area” – and an instrumental number about an epileptic seizure – all rare materials every good boy like you and me deserves. PhotoGrid_1463488158097And if you look really hard into the back cover, you’ll find an Easter egg, you’ll find a hidden EP, inside. Shady Lane EP in itself is already nice. But an EP within an EP? That’s Last Year at Marienbad! So, we got four more bonus tracks. The first about Salem Witch Trials isn’t that bad – it’s one of the best pop songs Pavement ever released – if only Malkmus could sing. Then we have the oddest of oddball oddities – “Gangsters and Pranksters” and “Saganaw” – the best freakout fillers outside of Wowee Zowee. And d’you know what’s not fair? That short sweet song about moving to Australia (“I Love Perth”) – they also gave it to Japan.

Sandwich – Fat Salt & Flame (2013)

PhotoGrid_1463069239517Fat Salt & Flame opens with grinding of the axes that segues into a series of build up and release – a layer cake of feedback and guitar screech. Around the two minute mark, you start to wonder – either they forgot the lyrics or somebody forgot to switch on the mic. But it never overstays its welcome – it actually feels shorter than its actual length. Pretty much like the whole album.

Fat Salt & Flame marks Sandwich’s fifteen years as a band (or shall I say Sandwich S-marks their anniversary with a BBQ-flavored disc). It’s a celebration in a rock-band kind of way. And there’s no better way of celebrating fifteen years together, than going to the studio to bake your birthday cake.

After the raucous title track, comes Track No. 2, the first single that has a very important message to say – Sandwich is here to stay. Track No. 6 is, for better or worse, typical Sandwich on assault mode. The proceedings take a different turn on Track No. 8. Here, Mong Alcaraz and Myrene Academia take turns on the mic, delivering the sweetest bitter lines on top of Mike Dizon’s skipping rhythm – it’s heartbreakingly beautiful. Ultimately, Track No. 9 closes the album with an epic guitar solo that’s really effing good – they should actually do this kind of shit, more often.

Despite being another birthday bash of sorts, FS&F does not come off as mishmash of things we’ve come to love and expect from Sandwich. This might be intentional since they did that already with <S> Marks the Spot, their tenth-year album. <S> Marks was roller-coaster ride, with small and big surprises revealed in every twisted turn. FS&F, on the other hand, upholds the same narrowed scope and focus of their previous (and arguably best) outing, Contra Tiempo, with a dash of moon dust from Thanks To the Moon’s.

Pupil – Zilch (2015)

PhotoGrid_1462695497194Three albums in and Pupil goes back to zero – a restart, a new beginning. Yan Yuzon’s out and erstwhile Mongol Jerome Velasco comes in. The angular riffs and dream-pop soundscapes are out – traded for the more compact ones. The alt-rock palette with strong post-punk leaning, they decided to explore no further. We saw the band’s sound evolve from Machines to the Infinity Pool – what we have here is the same sound overhauled. Forget about My Bloody Valentine and Interpol then, Zilch has Pupil defaulting to rock – with shades of Smashing Pumpkins, The Cult and Pixies, thrown in to thicken the mix. This time, arena-sized wails, metallic riffs and a drum kit straight out of ZoSo, are front and center.

The Ornussa Cadness starrer “Out of Control” is the funkiest of the lot – also contains Ely Buendia’s wittiest wordplay in a while. Second single “Why” faintly echoes the Pumpkins’ “Quiet” from Siamese Dream, but the chorus is totally Buendia’s – and it’s catchy as hell. Speaking of hell, “MNL” spells some irony about the titular city, a.k.a. the gates of hell, in between metallic riffs and furious pounding. Where Zilch falls short, is in providing breaks between the din, in the same way “Cheap Thrill” pours like ice water, on this hot hot summer. And this is where the rivets start falling. Compared to Buddha’s Pest, in which the dreamy shoe-gazers splinter the grungy ones, Zilch has lesser variations one can latch onto. Not a total loss, not remotely bad even. Yet somehow, it feels like this is where the winning streak ends.

P.S. The cover art is irresistibly hot, despite its black paint mud and cold metallic feel.

Eraserheads – Pop U! (1991)

000 cover_popu - CopyNot the first ever indie, rather self-released cassette of dozen songs already worth a proper album. Some of which already recorded for what is now known as “garjam” demo, and half of which would later appear on their major label albums. Sound-wise, it’s a combination of pop, post-punk and whatever they heard inside their heads, muddled up ingeniously. Production-wise, it is akin to Slanted and Enchanted, albeit unintentionally. Aside from confirming that their strength is on song craft, more than studio cookery and technical cockiness, it also provides glimpse into the band’s early days. Not a masterpiece, but a rarity – the Holy Grail for the die-hards, a remarkable addition to any music fan’s collection.

Foo Fighters – The Colour and the Shape (1997)

PhotoGrid_1462693049920This is how rock music should be – loud guitars, propulsive drumming, plenty of hooks and catchy choruses. All these check boxes I’d like to tick – Foo Fighters’ The Colour and the Shape has them in spades. It has parts loud, abrasive, and unruly – ruckus intertwined with melody – and parts quiet and tender. There’s the post-breakup catharsis of “Monkey Wrench”, angry rant on “Wind Up”, the inspirational “My Hero”, pogo starter “Enough Space” and the loud-quiet-loud staple, “Hey, Johnny Park!”, which would have been a classic by now, had it been released as a single in ‘97. For the quiet and tender, there’s the ultra-mushy “Everlong”, the first half of “Up In Arms”, jangly opener “Doll”, the X-Files-utilized “Walking After You”, and “February Stars”, which features the album’s loudest whispers. Needless to say, The Colour and the Shape is chock-full of post-grunge goodies that come in big radio-ready packages – some of which would become Foo Fighters’ biggest hits. This is post-grunge at its finest.

 

P.S. The Michel Gondry-helmed “Everlong” MV is fucking surreal. It’s funny people always mention Inception, when “Everlong” is way way better – funnier and scarier too.