“Ang Huling El Bimbo” by the Eraserheads | This list will never be complete without “Ang Huling El Bimbo”. Never. Never. So. What else is there to say about this song? What else is there to say about what is arguably the most iconic song off the Philippine alternative scene? It’s happy. It’s hopeful. It’s very much bittersweet. I’m listening to it again now, as I write this. I still get the same rush listening to this song now when I did when this song was first released almost twenty years ago. (Cutterpillow, the album this was from, was released in December 1995.) The Eraserheads have always been called the Philippines’ answer to the Beatles, and it’s not hard to see why: career trajectory aside, it’s their keen sense of melody (whether it be melodramatic or something more radical), their restless exploration of the middle and the fringes of everything, and the ability to speak to every Filipino regardless of age, status or sensibility. In my lifetime, no musical act has transcended this divided country as much as the Eraserheads. The goodwill its members still have thirteen years since their first split – there have been several one-off reunions since – is testament to this. (Thanks to Bryan, Sars, Kim and Miko for the suggestion.) [NB]
It’s been five days since September began, and six since news that the Eraserheads are releasing two new songs via the latest issue of Esquire Philippines filtered out. It’s been five days since I tried looking for those issues, to no avail. It’s been four days since the songs – “Sabado” and “1995”, SoundCloud links via Radio Republic – got their first radio airplay. It’s been three days since I gave up the search. If anything, this tells us one thing: people will still buy music, as long as the content (sorry for putting it in very business-y terms) is right and the appeal is, too. People resort to piracy not (necessarily) because they want a free thing, but because they can’t get it any other way. Also, it helps that the Eraserheads are the Eraserheads. Anyway, the song review I wish I was able to do earlier: both songs sound like outtakes, but I like “Sabado” more, because, well, if you’re listening to the Eraserheads it’s because of the whole nostalgia feel, and that nails the whole vibe better.
“K.U.P.A.L.” by Oktaves | I was supposed to write about this song two days ago, but I never had the time – it’s been a busy past couple of days. Heck, I was supposed to write about these guys weeks ago, when I first heard that Ely Buendia has a new band. Fresh off the Eraserheads’ North American reunion tour, and Pupil losing a record deal when Sony Music shut down in the Philippines, now he’s with the Jerks’ guitarist Nitoy Adriano and the guys of Hilera. Say hello to Oktaves – a bad name, I must admit, but the music is classic Eraserheads-ish (in the words of Jayvee, who sent this over) but with a little more kick, thanks to Ely’s new collaborators. An interesting take on the supergroup. Let’s hope they get more traction. (Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)
“Pare Ko” by Johnoy Danao | I was a bit surprised to see yet another Eraserheads tribute album, just years after Jam 88.3’s buzzy compilation. Turns out it’s for the upcoming ABS-CBN movie The Reunion – interesting premise, been-there-down-that storyline, and I’m only basing this on the trailer I saw last night. Anyway, I heard Johnoy Danao’s version of “Pare Ko” on Love Radio last week, and thought it’s quite nice. Johnoy hasn’t done wrong in the few times I heard him, and this is yet another example: that quintessential Eraserheads anthem turned into a campfire song without losing its melancholic bite. It’s quite refreshing. And, dare I say, better than Sponge Cola’s cover of the same song on that Jam 88.3 compilation.
“Balikbayan Box” by the Eraserheads | A few weeks back I sent Jeany, my friend from New York, three CDs from the Philippines, just so she can have a taste of what alternative music here sounds like. Inevitably, one of the albums is from perhaps the most important Filipino band of the 1990s, the Eraserheads. Lots of albums to choose from, but I ended up giving her their 1997 album Sticker Happy. It’s more aggressive compared to their earlier (and more memorable) work, but it has my favorite Eraserheads song ever, “Balikbayan Box”. (I know. It’s not “Ang Huling El Bimbo”. But I must add, its music video totally captured my imagination back then.) It still has their original sound, the usual mix of ambiguous melancholy in a relatively happy package. Never mind that the song’s in Filipino, which means she’ll never understand it…