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.

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)”

Have you ever wished you were a 90’s kid? FYI, the 2000’s was awesome too!

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

salaginto

“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?

Continue reading “Have you ever wished you were a 90’s kid? FYI, the 2000’s was awesome too!”

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.