“Sugod” by Sandwich | It’s July, which means it’s time once again for Great Philippine Song Hits, where we cover a whole month with classics from Filipino musicians. (This is the fourth year we’ve done it; here’s what we’ve done so far.) And there’s no better way to start this than with an act who marked twenty years just a few months ago – conveniently covering up the fact that I have been holding off on featuring these guys for so long because I didn’t want to run out of material so fast. But, really, twenty years of Sandwich? I’ve said this a few months ago, but they still sound as potent now as they did then. It’s interesting where camaraderie and musical restlessness brings you. At twenty years, bands can get a bit complacent, or worse, people lose interest in your new stuff. But these guys have stuck to their guns by not sticking to them. Whenever I start listening to a new album from the band there’s always a thrill of not knowing what will happen. There are constants, sure, but they aren’t obvious – and I’m thinking that’s why they’re still up there after all these years, whether you be left of center, or decidedly to the right, of musical tastes. They’re a band to be envied. How else would we start this month’s batch of song hits? [NB]
“Sunburn” by Sandwich | Yes, it’s almost July, but, well, why not? I was at the beach over the long weekend, and suffered my first case of sunburn in a while. And so did Shalla, which meant we were both rolling in bed in pain. You know what I mean. We really should’ve brought the aloe vera along. Still, a good time to revisit a song people always revisit when they’re fresh from the beach (complete with “here she comes, na-sunburn” reappropriation). Shalla and I were arguing about the lyrics, and I’m pretty sure I am right. [NB]
As they crept back to the underground – whatever that means for a band that still represents the best of the Filipino alternative scene – Sandwich has embraced the crunchier, snappier side of its rock and roll. Sure, they can still churn out a good power pop delight, but – and this is a good thing – their recent releases have been rowdy, chaotic, and just outright fun. Debris, their latest release, continues with the tradition: forty snappy minutes where hints of their old power pop – considered, deliberate, sometimes a bit inane – with the sheer power of a loose jam. When you’re in the right mindset, it hits you hard and it gets you; otherwise, it’s all just a blur. While listening to the album I oscillated between the two – my interest best captured by the first two Filipino tracks, “Kagulo” and “Buhangin”, and then swinging to that blur by the middle, where everything sort of sounded the same. Your reaction may be different. But this is for sure: Sandwich still do what they do very well. That much, they know. That much, you can be assured of. At their best they’re a force to be reckoned with. When that “best” is completely depends on your frame of mind. [NB] | 4/5
Friday night’s Jack TV MAD Fest was, arguably, a festival built around the fact that they got Kimbra to perform. I mean, save for the four DJs that followed her – I didn’t watch them for obvious reasons, and also because Rainy and I were really tired – the acts were limited to three songs each. But it was a nice way to be reacquainted with the best Filipino music has to offer: a good mix of established acts and new ones bubbling under, making you wonder what the hell happened to “OPM is dead”? So, in the following paragraphs, my five highlights, plus a quick run through the rest.
To mark 150 years since the birth of Andres Bonifacio, Rock Ed Philippines released Rock Supremo, eleven tracks (and, later, a “rock ballet” with Ballet Philippines) loosely riffing on the life of the revolutionary leader. Not having seen the show – I heard of this and it was too late – I’ll have to stick with the songs, which are decidedly random (well, loose) and reflect on the collaborating artists’ styles and approaches – as well as that tendency for Filipinos to boil everything down to romantic love – rather than being a cohesive work, which, from where I stand, it a bit disappointing. But no matter: it’s always nice to hear Ebe Dancel do his sweeping ballads (“Lakambini”), Pedicab’s gone surprisingly, defyingly melodic (“Ang Dakilang Duwag ng Katipunan”) and Radioactive Sago Project is acerbic as always, even in death (“Hoy Emilio”). Too bad Rico Blanco can’t be arsed to do something new, deciding instead to contribute an old single, “Yugto”. Or am I just not that familiar with the rest? [NB] | 3/5