“Kunwari” by Sponge Cola | In a rush to seem cool (and, perhaps, to constantly prove that Filipino music is not dead) we do forget about the bands that are chugging along, playing music to an audience we don’t really want to associate ourselves with. Yes, that’s how serious this entry is going to sound. We’ve got a mixed history with Sponge Cola: I liked the band in their early days, but I’m a bit uncomfortable with their complacency these days. But, still, when they do good, they do good. Well, it’s evident in how they’re still getting radio hits. I’m not fond of “Tempura”, but it’s a matter of taste, that. “Kunwari” is a song I enjoyed, and I was reminded of that last week when, on a short errand run, I ditched the iPhone and played Win Radio instead. (Nice to hear the things we overlook because of the bubble we’re apparently in.) It’s in that line of steady pop-rock tracks that does the work and quietly gets you. Also, it’s nice to be reminded of how nice Yael Yuzon’s growl is, especially when it’s the high point of the song. [NB]
“KLSP” by Sponge Cola | Sponge Cola’s had a weird history, at least in my eyes. My sister and cousin – them, again – were quite into the group when they debuted. Palabas, their first full-length, was a constant at home. “KLSP” was their biggest single, although I was more fond of “Lunes”, and I’m sure someone will make a case for “Jeepney”, both of which previously appeared in a self-produced EP. Now, thanks to some combination of fame and complacency, the band’s somewhat faded from memory. They’re still around, but I don’t pay much attention. But remember when this group led the so-called “pogi rock” movement? These guys, Hale, and, um, Cueshé? There was the accusation that all they have are good looks and incredibly emotional songs. But good songwriting is good songwriting, whether you choose to see it or not; otherwise they wouldn’t be popular. In Sponge Cola’s case, they also had an adventurism in themes that attracted top-notch collaborators (I remember one song on that debut was penned by Ely Buendia) and Yael Yuzon delivered it with a winking charm. Those were the days indeed. [NB]
Sponge Cola may have gotten a bit complacent over the years – or maybe it’s my teenage years around the time of their debut talking – but they’re still able to pull out a good pop song every now and then. Sinag Tala, their latest album (or double EP, as they’re wont to put it) continues the trend: a perfectly serviceable record with some gems and some puzzling decisions. Thankfully that latter part comes on the first half (“Pasukan Na Naman” is supposed to be half-juvenile, right?), getting it out of the early. “Butterflies” could have tanked but was salvaged by commitment. “Pagtungo” is a solid anthem. “Bahaghari” worked better as an acoustic track, though – say what you want about the band, but they still do heartfelt songs pretty well (especially with Yan Yuzon on the right mode). Ultimately, I think Sinag Tala hit a snag because it’s designed to be a double EP put into one. The halves are glaring not because they’re very much different, but because you have a case for a full album with a bit of rearranging. [NB] | 3/5
In the past few years we’ve seen more relatively out-of-mainstream acts perform in Manila. Gone, it seems, are the times when the only foreign artists who would stop here are 60s and 70s bands targeting baby boomers, or the obviously big pop acts. Now we’ve had visits from Grimes, the xx and Tegan and Sara. We’ve had the Wanderland Festival last April, an attempt at bringing summer festival culture to the Philippines (albeit with half of the line-up being Aussie acts with, likely, a very small following). And, of course, there were the bigger acts, like Joss Stone at Malasimbo (which has been going on for a while and has been, so far, mostly under the radar) and, last month, the Killers.
“Mahaba Pa Ang Gabi” by Sponge Cola | Once upon a time, I liked Sponge Cola. By the time these local bands swept back into the mainstream in the middle of the last decade, I just liked their sound – it’s your usual lovey-dovey alternative rock, only with a bit more flair, so to speak. And then I fell out of love with them, thinking they drifted towards the landfill sound. I did call them a “pogi rock” band once, out of frustration. Today, I’m writing about their latest single, “Mahaba Pa Ang Gabi”, partly because I felt I need to write about local music more. And I actually like it. Or, at the very least, it doesn’t annoy me as much as their material from their third album onwards. Or maybe it’s because I haven’t listened to them for the longest time. Thus, I don’t know if I’ll stick with them this time, but I’m hopeful.