MTV Unplugged in New York. Thor, Norse god of thunder, once said that Asgard was just like Earth — only they didn’t have cable TV. Maybe we lived in Asgard then, ’cause we didn’t have cable as well. We only had either GMA (they used to air taped week-old shows) or the ABS provincial station, depending on the orientation of the antenna mounted on a long bamboo pole. No cable, no MTV. So I’ve listened to this album many times before videos of Nirvana’s unplugged performance were on YouTube — before there were DVDs. Back then, there was so much stuff written about Nirvana that I probably spent more time reading about them than actually listening to them. One of the best pieces I’ve read about them are those written by Robert Christgau. On MTV Unplugged, he wrote, “Not only did Kurt Cobain transcend alt-rock by rocking so hard, he transcended alt-rock by feeling so deep. On this accidental testament… Cobain outsensitives Lou Barlow and Eddie Vedder in passing. His secret is sincerity, boring though that may be–he cares less than Barlow without boasting a bit about it, tries harder than Vedder without busting a gut about it.”
Dookie. Green Day’s first two major label albums were simply the most fun. They have songs about masturbation, visiting a shrink (then a whore), smoking pot, imagined sleep disorder and they have the wonderful album cover art and inserts. A friend brought a cassette of Dookie in school and it was an instant hit. It was fast, fun, snotty. And power chords were a lot easier than the most dreaded ones for forever beginners like me: barre chords.
OK Computer. “High and Dry” and “Fake Plastic Trees” are forever on my top ten Radiohead songs. But I had never listened to any Radiohead album until OK Computer. I thought this must be how critically acclaimed albums sound like: it was kind of different, kind of weird, somewhat unexciting, and the songs were not like the typical “alternative” songs being played on the radio at the time, like, say, Third Eye Blind’s “semi-charmed kind of life.” I didn’t like “Electioneering” at the time (it felt out of place) and “Exit Music (For A Film)” was too slow and depressing. Which only made sense to me after I realized that it was about Romeo + Juliet (1996) and was actually used in the closing credits of the movie—hence, the title. I’m not sure I listened to “The Tourist” that much. It was the last song on Side B, so it was prone to being fast forwarded so that I could listen again to “Airbag.” But I love “Fitter, happier”, that, I’m sure.
The Colour and the Shape. “Monkey Wrench”, “Everlong”, “Hey, Johnny Park!”—for me, this was THE rock album. Loud guitars, propulsive drumming, Dave Grohl screaming in-your-face like a three-year old who accidentally dropped his ice cream. And I’ve probably listened to this album more than I did In Utero and Nevermind. Definitely one of the best post-grunge albums of all time. If you could own only one Foo Fighters album, you should definitely go with this one.
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. The world is vampire / sent to dra-ee-yeah-eh-yeah-ain. You thought flat-earthers were dumb, this guy thought the world was a vampire. The meme was referring to Billy Corgan and the opening line of “Bullet with Butterfly Wings.” The Smashing Pumpkins, some said their music was the artsy variant of grunge, you know, the stuff, string orchestrations, baroque textures, grand piano, etc. They mixed ’70s hard rock with jazz, dreampop, shoegaze, and whatnot. This sprawling double album has 28 songs (an awful lot of them are acoustic or piano ballads) and it clocks more than two hours! Listening to this used to be a blast! That is, if you can get past Billy Corgan’s nasally vocals.
Sublime. You probably knew this band for the song “Santeria.” I haven’t met someone who loves to go to reggae parties (and smoke weed and have no-strings-attached sex afterwards) and doesn’t know “Santeria.” It’s probably like, you know, a reggae staple that’s just a bit less popular than Big Mountain’s “Ooh, baby, I love your way, everyday.” And for reasons I don’t really know, I’m endlessly annoyed by that Big Mountain song. Just the thought of it and a scene of people dancing in slow motion automatically plays in my head—with that same song playing in the background of course. And I have that scene playing in my head right now. And I’m about to throw up in my mouth. But Sublime’s self-titled album is more than just “Santeria.” There were other great cuts on this album: “Seed”, “Wrong Way”, “Doin’ Time”—the last one recently covered by Lana Del Rey on her album Norman Fucking Rockwell. This album was also my gateway to ska-punk, hardcore punk, dub, and songs about the “fucked-up situation and these fucked-up” men in blue uniform. They even have a song about the 1992 LA riots.
Korn / Life is Peachy. Maybe any thing that becomes so big is bound to suck. Any thing that becomes so popular. Like Nu Metal. The internet hates Nu Metal. Metal purists don’t even consider it metal. So what? I don’t care if metal’s supposed to be this and that. Given a choice between Bon Jovi or hair-metal adjacent Guns & Roses and Korn, I would pick Korn (or even Limp Bizkit) in a heartbeart, especially Korn’s first two albums. It’s loud, bottom heavy, and doesn’t have the usual cookie monster vocals. Not that I don’t like them cookie monster vocals. Acshualy, ang saya i-imitate yung cookie monster vocals tapos pahigop, try mo. I remember I used to listen to the first album before I sleep. And they gave me nightmares. And a few times I would wake up screaming. By the way, “Twist” is probably the weirdest rap-metal song you’d ever hear.
Live & Acoustic / Tuloy Ang Ligaya. We went to Mapua to attend this annual convention. And we stood out of the crowd because we were not wearing elephant pants. I don’t know but I’m glad that that trend didn’t caught on in the south. (I knew Nu Metal and baggy pants were in. But elephants were totally on another level of… “baggyness”. If anyone knows who started the trend or how it started, please hit the comments). If I remember correctly (my memories are kind of hazy by the way), it was less about attending the seminars than it was about two or three consecutive nights of endless drinking that I already had a fever on the third due to lack of sleep. And yes, I also bought this album. And listened to it non-stop when I got home (then I bought Tuloy Ang Ligaya few weeks/months later). At the time, some of my friends were into Kid Rock, Rage Against the Machine while some were into Slapshock, Greyhounds, Korn. Heck, some were even into Hillsong! Me, this was my Hillsong. By the way, we were all into Avril Lavigne—that we could all agree on.
Dogs Can Fly (Teeth’s Finest). There’s something about the late ’90s, the title of this album and its blue on white cover featuring a guy flying with his BMX. I remember looking at Teeth’s I Was A Teenage Tree in a record store thinking I’m going to come back and buy it. I’m not sure if a year or two have passed after that but it wasn’t there anymore by the time I had the money. It took that long for me to be able to save 120 bucks. Thought “Sorry” and “Unleaded” were really great songs and I felt sad that I was not able to get this album. Good thing Dogs Can Fly came out maybe two or three years later. And while this album doesn’t have all the songs from Teenage Tree, it has the best songs from that album plus the best from Teeth’s first and second album. I can’t remember if I first heard “Shooting Star” on the radio or if I discovered it through this album. Either way, it’s also a great song. And this album has that one rare thing you won’t find in most albums—it has liner notes. (Just so I won’t forget, I will put it here: when I get back home I will scan the inlay of this album, including the liner notes and post it in this blog. Maybe, upload it on Discogs as well.)
Flowerfish / Antics. I learned about New Wave from radio stations that play “New Wave” songs on Sundays — usually after the segment they called Folk, Rock & Country. And I kind of both loved and hated it. I hated anything with snare drums with the long bright reverb but I love songs by The Cure. But it was only in the mid-00’s that I learned about post-punk. So, early The Cure was post-punk? Anyway, let’s not muddy the water with labels and genres. I got these two awesome albums that your music snob uncle would call “that’s not post-punk.” But as I’ve said, they’re awesome, regardless of what your Joy Division-worshiping tito would say. By the way, Flowerfish is from Cebu-based rock band Sheila & the Insects and Antics is from this notorious group called Interpol — a bunch of cops usually featured in Jackie Chan and Hong Kong action movies.
Yano / Circus / Cutterpillow. Obviously, this is where it all started. And I only need to list down a few titles like “Tsinelas”, “Senti”, “Kumusta Na”, “Magasin”, “With A Smile”, “Alapaap”, “Overdrive” and “Ang Huling El Bimbo” and no explanation needed. This doesn’t mean I wasn’t a Rivermaya fan early on. I was but I became a bigger fan of theirs only later (circa: Live & Acoustic).