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music

Song of the Day.

Just because: Eraserheads, “Huwag Mo Nang Itanong” (Cutterpillow, 1995)

Hika ang inabot ko
Nang piliting sumabay sa’yo
Hanggang kanto
Ng isipan mong parang Sweepstakes
Ang hirap manalo

Ngayon pagdating ko sa bahay
Ibaba ang iyong kilay
Ayoko ng ingay

Huwag mo nang itanong sa akin
Di ko rin naman sasabihin
Huwag mo nang itanong sa akin
At di ko na iisipin

Field trip sa may pagawaan ng lapis
Ay katulad ng buhay natin
Isang mahabang pila
Mabagal at walang katuturan

Ewan ko hindi ko alam
Puwede bang huwag na lang
Nating pag-usapan

Huwag mo nang itanong sa akin
Di ko rin naman sasabihin
Huwag mo nang itanong sa akin
At di ko na iisipin

Ewan ko hindi ko alam
Puwede bang huwag na lang
Natin pag-usapan

Huwag mo nang itanong sa akin
Di ko rin naman sasabihin
Huwag mo nang itanong sa akin
At di ko na iisipin

Huwag na lang
Huwag na lang

Categories
music Pinoy

Sembreak.

Just because I felt like it (okay, there are other undisclosed reasons as well) — from the 1994 Circus album, this is “Sembreak,” arguably the greatest Eraserheads song ever:

Dear kim kamustang bakasyon mo
ako heto pa rin nababato
bad trip talaga itong Meralco
bakit brownout pa rin dito
walang silbi sa bahay
kundi bumabad sa telepono
o kaya’y kasama ng barkada
nakatambay sa may kanto

chorus
naalala kita pag umuulan SEMBREAK
naalala kita pag giniginaw SEMBREAK
naalala kita pag kakain na SEMBREAK
naalala kita ilang bukas pa ba
bago tayo ay magkita
ako’y naiinip na bawa’t oras binibilang
sabik na masilayan ka-ha-hah

sira pa rin ang bisikleta
may gas wala namang kotse
naghihintay ng ulan
basketball sa banyo
sana ay may pasok na para at least
meron ng baon
cutting classes dating raket
rock and roll buong taon

chorus

walang kayakap kundi gitara
nangangati sa kaiisip sa ‘yo
hanggang sa mabutas ‘tong maong ko
tsaka bibili uli ng bago
hanggang dito na lang ang liham ko
salamat sa atensyon mo
tsaka na lang pala ang utang ko
pag nakagkita na lang uli tayo oh wohh

chorus

naalala kita SEMBREAK
naalala kita SEMBREAK
naalala kita SEMBREAK

Check it out.

Categories
music

The Eraserheads, Part Three: The Circus Years

And here’s part three of the Eraserheads article. I wish I’d finished it — in particular, with a little analysis of my favorite Eraserheads song ever, “Alapaap.”

The Eraserheads, Part Three: The Circus Years

But for the second album, Circus, an album of the highest order, the Eraserheads made a stunning leap into the sphere of Pure Pop Perfection, already more than hinted at by ultraelectromagneticpop! From the sly, skewed and skewering humor of “Punk Zappa” to the irrepressible longing of “Sembreak,” the album probed, with sparkling insight, the vagaries of the everyday: insomnia, drinking, smoking pot, pornography, semester breaks, obsessive music fans, pining for the one you love. Never have the Eraserheads been so earthbound and yet so transcendent at the same time.

The torch song “Kailan,” for instance, is both an uncanny doo-wop imitation (albeit one filtered through an Apo Hiking Society sensibility) and an in-joke, with only the slightest hint of irony. The often-abused “unplugged” or acoustic version – usually meant to convey some sort of sincerity about the music – actually works here, in “Kailan Lounge.” Buendia’s vocals are incredibly expressive here – but then again, so is the rest of the band. Adoro’s guitars sound extremely assured on “Wishing Wells”; Zabala’s bass-playing is fuller and more complex on “Magasin“; Marasigan drums up a storm on rave-ups like “Insomya” and “Alkohol.”

The sheer unpretentiousness of the Eraserheads’ music can be seen in concert; obviously they aren’t “too cool” to not lead the crowd on a sing-along to the chorus, or to not play a crowd-pleasing medley. The wonderful shamelessness in incorporating harmonizing vocals or pa-pa-pa-pa bridges attests to a certain kind of musical sincerity. (Buendia actually gets away with singing “Let me hear you sing it” between the doo-doo-doo-doo refrain in “With a Smile.”)

Circus, as I had pointed out, represents an incredible stylistic jump from the first album, taking listeners along with them on their forays into different musical territory. But it is, at the same time, quite cognizant of their musical influences, from the Apo Hiking Society to the J. Geils Band.

Which brings me to the amazing “Magasin,” which at first listen sounds like a pale ripoff of the J. Geils Band’s “Centerfold.” This is hardly the case: the Eraserheads make the latter sound completely leering and adolescent. (Okay, so there may be deeper philosophical implications found in “My blood runs cold / My memory has just been sold,” but I doubt it.) Their plots are similar: guy picks up a nudie magazine, and discovers (the former) girl of his dreams inside. Buendia’s protagonist is momentarily guilt-stricken (“Sana’y hindi nakita“), but in the act of looking his entire world has suddenly changed (“Iba na ang ‘yong tingin / Iba na ang ‘yong ngiti / Nagbago na’ng lahat sa ‘yo“). “Magasin” is more complex, more in tune with the turmoil and guilty pleasure of seeing one’s boyhood fantasy naked to the world. It shouldn’t be this way, he must say to himself. She is not the same anymore. But then he looks. And looks. By the time we get to the song’s punchline of sorts, he has succumbed to the temptation. Such drama in a pop song!

Categories
music

The Eraserheads, Part Two: The UltraElectro Years

The first album, ultraelectromagneticpop! rightly shook up the Philippine music scene, and with much good reason: only a precious handful of albums before 1993 (Gary Valenciano‘s Moving Thoughts, for one) arguably captured the intensity of OPM’s earlier mid-to-late-’70s Metropop heyday. (How thrilling it must have been to turn on the radio and hear Freddie Aguilar, VST and Co., Hotdog, early Apo Hiking Society, the Juan de la Cruz Band and Asin on one station!) The playing, as with Buendia’s vocals, was still pretty raw around the edges, but the album, with its complete lack of pretensions, would be a refreshing contrast to the Chicago / Toto / power-ballad template that underlay some of the more slickly-produced, histrionic OPM singles of the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Indeed, the music scene during that period was, in my opinion, rather bleak. The lessons learned from new wave did not last very long; only The Dawn, with its tight trio playing (and only really on its first album), would follow through with their synth-laden hooks. One must also remember that there was also a mini-generation of listeners suddenly tuned in to Citylite 88.3, ultimately just a more “sophisticated” version of the Mellow Touch. (I have a long theory about Citylite, the marketing of the yuppie aesthetic, and the EDSA Uprising of 1986, but this is not the place nor the time.) The significance of the fact that the recalcitrant NU 107, devoted to college rock, was situated at the very opposite end of the radio dial should not be lost on the reader. Indeed, one can only gauge the stagnation when saxophonist Eddie Katindig (or Eddie K), in a misguided attempt to imitate the moniker of an American lite-“jazz” artist of the lowest species, was reduced to producing sad little covers of Top 40 hits. The social consciousness pervading mainstream music only a decade earlier would at least find its resurgence in Joey Ayala’s re-recordings of his older cassette-only albums, but lightweight pop singles and ballads were, unfortunately, the norm. Listen, for instance, to Martin Nievera‘s “You Are The One”; what actually passed for drama was the mere raising of an octave for every iteration of the chorus. Or the entire Constant Change album, by Jose Mari Chan, which threatened to engulf the whole of Philippine radio with its utter blandness.

However, ultraelectromagneticpop! is still, in my mind, an uneven debut, but for every iffy track like “Maling Akala,” “Shake Yer Head” (if I wrote “Well I ain’t no stupid fighter / I go for flower power,” I guess I’d be kind of embarrassed) or “Toyang” (just what is it with Pinoys and medleys?), there would be an absolute stunner of a song like “Ligaya,” or a flat-out work of irresistible genius like “Shirley.” (The squall of guitar noise at the beginning, anchored with that little throwaway piano riff, is alone worth the price of admission; it’s not very often you can pogo along to a song which so perceptively traces the fall and rise of a relationship.) The breathless, melodic complexity of “Tindahan ni Aling Nena” transcends its novelty-song origins. The humor of the album, as well as the goofy liner notes, was already a nod to the wacked-out anarchy that would pervade later albums.

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music

Eraserheads, Part One

Here’s an unfinished fragment of an overblown, gushing, and frankly embarrassing essay about a Filipino pop band — the Eraserheads — which I wrote in 1995 or so. Alas, what I write below is not true anymore (about which I can write later), but for one moment there (after the release of their Cutterpillow album, one of my favorite albums of all time) they truly were the greatest band in the world. (Otherwise everything’s still the same: I still love the Beatles, and Yo La Tengo still rules.

This is Part One; Parts Two and Three continue next week.

Eraserheads, Part One

The Eraserheads are the greatest band in the entire world. This is a fact. And I write this with the same equanimity as making a statement like “The sky is blue.” For no other pop music group (well, there are exceptions; see below) has produced a body of work that has consistently challenged my intellect, stirred my emotions, and on the whole produced such limitless listening enjoyment as the Eraserheads have.

Of course, I could qualify my sweeping generalization with a modifier of time, i.e., the Eraserheads are the greatest band in the world right now, and to follow that up with something like the Beatles are the greatest band in the world ever. Or a modifier of place, such as Yo La Tengo is the greatest band in America and The Eraserheads are the greatest band in the Philippines. But such qualifiers needlessly diminish the drama of my original, monumental statement, when all I really want is for the impact of my affirmation to remain. So let me write it again: The Eraserheads are the greatest band in the entire world.

Again, it should be understood that I state this with no shred of objectivity whatsoever. Certainly a kind of ethnic sentiment clouds my judgment; I am Filipino, after all, and the fact that the ‘heads are from the Philippines means everything. But do not let that sway the uninitiated listener from experiencing music that is both refreshingly experimental and reassuringly consistent at the same time; music chock-full of damnably catchy melodies and lyrics both silly and worldly-wise; music which, with dead-on accuracy, has painted a portrait of an entire generation of Filipinos over the course of a mere four albums; music that rewards the listener with different, deeper meanings with every listen. As with the Beatles and Yo La Tengo, who would have known a three-minute pop song would yield up such an embarrassment of riches?

Take, for instance, just one couplet from the song “Ligaya“: “Gagawin ko ang lahat pati ang thesis mo / Huwag mo lang ipagkait ang hinahanap ko.” Is this not an altogether brilliant pledge of love and devotion? How could the listener dare doubt this? (Side note: the Eraserheads have long been compared to the Beatles, a comparison that is not only trite but irrelevant as well. For what band, except for that empire in which James Brown reigns, does not come from the Beatles? Or, to take a different tack, it is not as if the Beatles originated vocal harmonies, or verse-chorus-verse structure.)

My appreciation for the Eraserheads has been, oddly enough, in a kind of media vacuum; I have yet to see them interviewed, or any of their music videos, including the much-heralded one for “Ang Huling El Bimbo.” Their career began and rocketed as I was out of the country and unplugged from any Filipino radio station; perhaps that explains as well my obsessive, repeated listenings, trying to glean any little information I could about who these pop geniuses were.