Parokya Ni Edgar – Khangkhungkherrnitz (1996)

TVJ’s Tough Hits is the blueprint they patterned this from. And anything by Yoyoy Villame. And since they’re three heads harder than TVJ, the goofs are sandwiched between originals and parodies come in full form. Radiohead’s first hit became “Trip,” a tale about addiction to siopao made in Shaolin House, one from The Clash became “The Crush,” and “Tatlong Araw” was supposedly borrowed from Yano’s “Mc Jo.” The originals are no less catchy and memorable (“Buloy,” “Maniwala Ka Sana”). If Stephen Malkmus and Spiral Stairs once made up a story about getting into a fight while auditioning for Beverly Hills, 90210, PNE has a song about trying it out for the Tuesday Edition of Kuya Germs’ That’s Entertainment. Up to this day, I’m still apprehensive about playing “Lutong Bahay” really loud, that my neighbors—elderly folks, mothers, from Batangas and elsewhere—would find the play on cuss words and innuendos offensive, disrespectful. That Darius Semana’s mother (they’re from Lipa Batangas) is probably cool with and even proud of it, I find a bit comforting. Still, a song about eating your girlfriend’s mother’s special pancake in the morning isn’t something your girlfriend and her mother would probably want to hear. A- 

Parokya Ni Edgar – Buruguduystuntugudunstuy (1997)

It’s slightly less funny the second time around but you can always have a second helping. This has better packaging than the first. And I like it that they’re superheroes this time (probably a reference to Wilce Portacio’s work on Rivermaya’s Trip) and Chito Miranda’s superpowers is that of a metro aide. And much better title too—it sounds like a drum roll minus the cymbal crash at the end. With parodies reduced from three to one (“Alimango”, based on Pearl Jam’s “Animal”) one expects more of their own (“Sayang”, “Sampip”). Not all fillers are killers. Not all non-fillers are killers. But give ’em props for adding “tubal” and “walanjo” in the wiktionary and for giving their most earnest straight-faced ode to the bird without being too cocky or dicky about it. Have to thank them for salvaging “Harana” too, even though it is probably that one song that opened the doors to the sappy acoustic ballads that took over after (i.e., Aiza Seguerra, Paolo Santos). A- 

Parokya Ni Edgar – Bigotilyo (2003)

I remember listening to this on a bootleg tape a friend gave me, which was a bit weird at the time when pirated CDs come as cheap as 3-in-1 briefs from the baratilyo. IIRC this cassette has slightly different track sequence. It starts with “Mr. Suave”, then “The Yes Yes Show”, and so on. And I listened to this tape for weeks on end and was surprised to see a different track listing when I finally saw the CD. Surprisingly, there are only two fillers, which says a lot for a band who could probably put out a greatest hits fillers compilation. The parodies aren’t anywhere near as good as the old ones (“Chikinini”, parody of Yano’s “Banana Asshole, Suck on the pie Yo!” is OK, “Katawan”, possibly among their worst) but they have more songs than ever! And they’re all effing good (“Alumni Homecoming”, “Choco Latte”). Heck, even the deep cuts are hellishly gewd (“Absorbing Man”, “Ted Hannah”). And while their songs have always been varied as their antics (this has parodies of kundiman, hip-hop, bossanova, there’s even a Led Zeppelin-esque guitar solos near the end of Side A) this is slightly more varied than the usual. PNE shows noticeable growth and maturity here. That they’re sporting fake mustaches on the cover might be the most ingenious joke they ever thought up, or maybe, just pure coincidence.

Introvoys – Back to the Roots (1991)

R-2958583-1580667158-2860“Calling All Nations” is like a late ’80s pre-internet “Pump Up Kicks” with a cliche positive vibes instead of a quiet kid with a gun. You know, the ’80s was so obsessed with ‘world peace.’ There’s ‘world peace,’ then there’s overt objectification in “Maynila.” The chorus goes “Sa Maynila ka makakahanap ng magagandang babae,” as if beautiful girls were cars, tall buildings, and every thing that screams Manila and not provincial. The whole thing’s hardly worth your bandwidth, save for “However Which Way” which is good. C+

Introvoys – Breaking New Grounds (1993)

For the record, this broke no new grounds. Though this one at least makes a little more sense than them going back to the roots. It was their first outing so, back from where? “Stay” is catchy, like a synth pop Bon Jovi and “Are You Happy” is a passable hair metal ballad that isn’t hairy enough, ballsy or cocky enough. “Will I Ever Survive” is the first true winner here, this album’s “However Which Way,” a pop-metal ballad a la White Lion tho not as epic and memorable as Rockstar’s “Parting Time.” “Di Na Ko Aasa Pa” was also kinda big. B-

Introvoys – Line to Heaven (1994)

“Kailanman,” “Line to Heaven,” and whatever’s the big deal with Geneva Cruz and Paco Arespacochaga. Well, there’s clearly no “Kailanman.” Just ask KC Montero. Like the previous albums, this is ripe with cliche, kind of (and I’m probably being generous here) generic sounding songs and a couple of passable radio singles. There’s probably more objectionable content in the lyrics (i.e., Maynila) in all these three albums but fortunately, you won’t care to listen any harder because the music is, uh, kinda meh, more often than not. C+

Oh, Flamingo! – Oh, Flamingo! (2015)

They have some really nifty guitar-indie pop, with some odd, maybe not African-inspired beats (maybe) that you’d wish they have something more interesting to say. Or at least, interesting way(s) to say them. Maybe their latest, “Parara,” “Naubos Na” were attempts in trying to do that. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking because, here’s a band narrowing the gender gap among other things (i.e., they got a cute girl drummer). So I just turn up the volume for those tasty guitar parts. Though I wish some real feelings poked through more often, like in the song they’ve curiously hidden, after the “final track.” B+  

Oh, Flamingo! – Volumes (2020)

Probably underrated their first EP the first time around. And it wasn’t until I revisited it for reference, that I realized what I missed—that it’s probably the closest one can get to a certain brand of [guitar] indie rock in this day and age. My initial disappointment though with how plainly they state things sometimes, still holds true. And carries on to this second EP. They’re less obvious this time. I’ll give them that. Though I don’t think it’s the type that makes one bother to look up for hidden meanings, none of which, the band haven’t already willfully revealed. And ideally, it isn’t enough to wear your influence on your sleeve and sing about the same things they already sang about before (e.g., love, sunsets)—and better—no matter how much psychedelic wizardry you mix them with. Like in their first EP, the best cut comes last. Though with the image of their sweaty guitarist stuck in my head, it makes me regret to have read about the song’s backstory. Wish I could unread it. Hint: It’s not about a sweater like the Weezer song; he’s the sweater. Kind of not clever really, if you think about it. B+ 

Ourselves the Elves – It’ll Be Alright (2013)

What elevates this from the rest of female-fronted bands of local indieland, I don’t know exactly. Maybe it’s the lack of synths. Or the lo-fi prod perhaps? Maybe it’s the untamed cymbals occasionally clashing with the guitars. Or maybe it’s the intimate air that makes me feel I’m in the same room with them – and they’re giving me the finest 12 minutes of twee-folk I can find – online. Or maybe it’s Akira Medina and Alyana Cabral’s call and response on “Shelter.” And maybe because their music reminds me a bit of Camera Obscura, only it’s more stripped-down and folksy. A-  

Ourselves the Elves – Geography Lessons (2015)

Not only a little less “less produced” than their first EP. Perhaps it’s even overproduced, taking their debut as reference that they kind of lose some of those earthly charms. No more “recorded live and in the same room” feels, but no less inviting. Because the crystal clear production also added a magical dimension into the songs (“Longing For,” “Uncertainly”). Magical, like elven, but think Kidlat Tahimik, not Tolkien. Also, why is it that sad songs resonate more than the relatively less sad ones? A- 

Loop – Flirting with the Universe (2014)

Don’t be tricked into dismissing them for that nondescript album cover or be deceived by the non-Google-friendly name, the familiar one-word titles (“Runaway,” “Lost,” “Lite”). Vanilla or just another female-fronted band they’re anything but. The words may be mere when you read them but not when Kim Trinidad sings, feels them. As the old adage goes, you can’t tell a book, er, digital album by its cover. This is a dreamy pop-rock record layered with cake, jam, cream – perfect to go with that overpriced coffee one of the songs took its title from (“Peppermint Mocha”). I’m usually not a fan of great singers (all my favorite singers couldn’t sing) but after watching Loop live online, I wanted to write a song that starts with “Dear Kim.” No, not Sembreak — Eminem. A- 

Kai Honasan – In Your Face & Other Songs About Other Faces (2014)

You know the type—soft-strummed cutesy girly pop that either makes you roll your eyes or makes you feel sleepy—songs that somehow, typified the ukulele. Not when Kai Honasan is the one wielding it. Not when she can smack you with it right in the face. Not when the producers, Eheads vets Buddy Zabala and Sancho Sanchez, recognize that the songs need more than four strings—drums, keyboards, maybe a little kazoo. You may admire the songs about the annoying guys she knew or dated but you’d surely like her song about the one who always gets her tongue-tied (I could write a hundred words for every second in this melody / Make a bunch of metaphors saying how it should be you and me) and the one where she gave her all—a la Mariah Carey. And that song about the desaparecido/rebel and his muse that sounds like a lilting serenade on a firefly-lit night? There’s no more perfect way to cap this (mini)album. A- 

Radioactive Sago Project – The Radioactive Sago Project (2000)

This bop-rock posse mixes horns and riffs, low brow and literary, drunken conversations and frenzy orgy, all in a smoky bar where a drunk-ass poet intone his spiels in one dark corner. From pigs to pork barrel, somebody probably thought we were never ready for “Gusto Ko Ng Baboy.” Truth is, we were never ready for this whole album, where Andrew E.’s “Humanap Ka Ng Panget” gets a blow-job makeover (Palagi s’yang nakahalik sa aking *bleeeep*). The early aughts was weird. You have Sandwich, Sago and those “kupaw” bands while the popular radio plays Aiza Seguerra. A-   

Radioactive Sago Project – Urban Gulaman (2004)

Reimagined old Manila as if it was all neon, funk and jazz. Squatterjazz instead of Squatterpunk. Lourd de Veyra jettisoned the non-Tagalog numbers for ones written spoken in the vernacular. Whether it’s de Veyra having written his best spiels yet or the band being in the perfect groove or both, this set is wittier, sharper, funnier at the same time more immediate, more accessible than the first (“Hello,” “Kape,” “Masarap”). There’s no question “Bad Motherfucker” is a bad motherfucker, but maybe you need at least a liter of gin pomelo in your blood to dig “Gin Pomelo.” And as Malkmus once said, words—they’re diamond-sharp today (“Magbanat ng buto at gawing bulalo,” “Burak sa kape, gamot sa ubo, sa utak ng gago,” the whole of “Alaala Ni Batman”). Also, sage advice: Wag Kang Maingay May Naglalaba. A  

Radioactive Sago Project – Tanginamo Andaming Nagugutom Sa Mundo Fashionista Ka Pa Rin (2007)

Not exactly as wasak as Sago covering songs by other nominees that year in the NU rock awards but damn close. (Or was it MYX? MTV? Can’t remember.) And maybe, just as cluttered. This is the sound of a band who “carte blanche” after two albums—ram in every damn ideas that they could. Sage piece of advice: Alak, Sugal, Kape, Babae, Kabaong. B+ 

Radioactive Sago Project – Ang Itlog At Ang Demonyo (2014)

A somewhat sober return to the forms they already bastardized and butchered before, and more. Actually, less. Either you thought they couldn’t top that last album and you’re proven right. Or, that this is just a little more focused than the last one. “Miting Ng Mga Atay” is probably their catchiest sing-song in a while. As usual, music good for uneasy listening—that comes with great album art—that comes in the worst of digipak packaging from Terno Recordings.

Pavement – Shady Lane (Japan Tour Ed.) (1997)

Japan could be the last bastion of selling tangible music. Not only because Japanese people still love to buy CDs and LPs – but also because a lot of people from outside Japan go there just to buy these stuff and to see Ochanomizu‘s great collection of guitars. And the girls of AKB48 are cute. Maybe not all of the above are true, but I’m sure one thing is absolute – Shady Lane, the EP exclusively sold in Japan, is really awesome – it’s rad. It’s almost as good as the full length album that preceded it. There’s an alternate mix of “Stereo” (by Steve Fisk), just as awesome as the original, a pair of Meat Puppet-inspired numbers – “Slowly Typed” (countrified version of “Type Slowly”) and “Cherry Area” – and an instrumental number about an epileptic seizure – all rare materials every good boy like you and me deserves. And if you look really hard into the back cover, you’ll find an Easter egg, you’ll find a hidden EP, inside. Shady Lane EP in itself is already nice. But an EP within an EP? That’s Last Year at Marienbad! So, we got four more bonus tracks. The first about Salem Witch Trials isn’t that bad – it’s one of the best pop songs Pavement ever released – if only Malkmus could sing. Then we have the oddest of oddball oddities – “Gangsters and Pranksters” and “Saganaw” – the best freakout fillers outside of Wowee Zowee. And d’you know what’s not fair? That short sweet song about moving to Australia (“I Love Perth”) – they also gave it to Japan.

Tubero – Kupal Destroyer (2018)

821915No beating around the bush, no matter how thick the bush may be. They play hard, erect, direct to the point. With songs the starts and expires as fast as one can say “Mamatay Ka Na,” titles that could make blush even the likes of Boy Sullivan and Andrew E. (“Kevin Tuwad”, “Walang Panty”, the one that goes “Ja-ja-ja-ja-ja-kol!”, etc.), names that could make Marilyn Manson rethink his whole career (e.g., Birjin Pakir), Tubero’s Kupal Destroyer, is hands down the best (and only) kupal metal album of the year. Tubero plays their signature grind-kupal-core balls to wall. And they play harder, faster, hornier, vulgarer than any metal band I heard this year (only two as of last counting). Even though Tubero’s brand of heavy metal comedy works on so many levels–deadpan, innuendo, high brow, low brow, no brow, dry, wet, meta, mock, even Spinal Tap Level–their music ain’t just for laughs. Whether by intent or accident, they actually humanize heavy music. Their songs are about the daily struggles of an everyman, like dealing with questionable authority (i.e., the pesky guard, your asshole boss), sex or the lack thereof, and heavy music (i.e., headbanging, air guitaring, etc.) as a form of release, an outlet for the stress we get from our day jobs, the never ending traffic, incompetency of the gov’t, the rampant corruption, and every thing bad we see on our daily newsfeeds. *** 

This Band – ‘Kahit Ayaw Mo Na’ (2018)

kahitI first heard this song somewhere but the first time I really paid attention to it was when I heard a young girl sing the song on videoke in a birthday party. And even though the song starts off somewhat like a Moira copycat, even though what it is about, we already heard more than a dozen times before, the song’s build up and chorus pretty much made it what it is—a hit—it very much deserves all kinds of accolades, hit/like/views it gets. Whether it’s the miracle of engineering (i.e., mixing), each member’s restraint or both, you have to admire them for zeroing in on band dynamics, minimalist arrangements, and sounding like really tight band on an acoustic night open mic and nailing every breath, every note, every beat.

Sugarfree – Sa Wakas (2003)

artworks-000136099968-274vu8-t500x500Can’t think of any other song that starts and sounds like ‘white lace and promises’ then puts a dagger into your heart right on the third line and then totally drowns you in the chorus. That vaguely optimistic, vaguely in denial “Ito ang unang araw na wala ka na”, reminds me of another break-up song, Beck’s “Guess I’m Doing Fine”, though it doesn’t quite reach the same level of tonal ambiguity as “Unang Araw.” There’s also this “Monkey Wrench” kind of break-up catharsis in there but it’s more sad/re-assuring than angry. It’s like remembering your first day together and then realizing this is the first day after your last. Sugarfree wrote songs about love that would make you swear never to fall again. And yet also tells you how sad it is to be alone (“Mariposa”), among other things (“Insomya”, “Fade Away”). Years before Junot Diaz’s The Cheater’s Guide to Love, Ebe Dancel sings about love that would linger on long after the relationship ended (“Burnout”). With a simple last-minute switch from past to future tense, Ebe gave us that immortal ‘the half-life of love is forever.’

Tiger Pussy – People You Hate (2013)

a3361513058_10You thought Oh, Flamingo! narrows the gender gap. Though the boys play guitars and the girls, backbeat and rhythm. As the old adage goes, no one comes to shows for the drummer, much less the bass player (except maybe if they’re girls and one of them is Pat Sarabia). Well, wait till you see/hear Tiger Pussy because Jan Sunday doesn’t like relegating women to the back. And if you’re thinking you heard it all before—no, NOT exactly, the “drums are punchier, the structures trickier” (Christgau) and the songs are twenty-fold punkier than what’s in Dookie 20 years ago. Despite the genre’s supposed familiarity, this four-piece punk rock band from Cebu keeps you at your toes, keeps it interesting. Yes, they’re from Cebu, home to Urbandub, Sheila & the Insects and… that famous lechon (no, I wasn’t gonna say Cueshe but that’s also true). And having withdrawn from this type of music for quite a long time now (and lechon as well — yes, I turned semi-vegan almost a year ago), Tiger Pussy’s People You Hate comes as a forceful, refreshing re-introduction to the loud, fast and spunky — that I’m tempted to, and therefore might as well, eat lechon again — if I’m given another crunchy tasty roasted chance. Jan Sunday and co. keep the ‘grrr’ and the ‘riot’ in their riot grrrl punk.

Maude – Pelota Court (2014)

pelota“Great for chill-out kind of road trip in the car with the windows rolled down” probably speaks of this album’s limited appeal—not good enough for singing along while/or washing dishes or doing the laundry—except maybe when you’re not really paying attention to it and thinking about the monthly bills. Or maybe this is supposed to be unobtrusive music for undistracted driving. Or maybe not. The stories are there. It’s just that the songs and the hooks aren’t there yet (“Takda”). B-  

Maude – Aurora (2018)

auroraMaybe it’s this: Maude’s supposed Manila Sound-inspired pop-rock is just a little too clean a little too straight for me. Good news is, it’s better than the first. Sometimes it’s the stories (“Lagnat”, “Baso”), sometimes it’s the songs (“Brownout”, “Will”). Sometimes it’s just chill-out unobtrusive music for undistracted browsing. Sure, theatrics could could get tiring in no time (i.e., December Avenue). But so is unimpassioned storysinging—especially if your usual M.O. is embitterment. True stories, fiction, or both, don’t just tell ’em. You also have to give ’em the feels.

Ben&Ben – Limasawa Street (2019)

limasawaA track or two could be played at a wedding. And they do dress and look like a wedding band. But the best songs here are those which doesn’t say “happily ever after”. It sounded fresh when Up Dharma Down did something like this years ago. With Ben&Ben, it just sounds like the 2010’s version of the ’80s or early ’90s pre-Ultraelectromaneticpop (see: Bodjie’s Law of Gravity)—just with less synths, more strings, acoustic guitars. Great musicians no doubt, they’re reportedly great live, but one song featuring Ebe Dancel suspiciously sounds like one of the hits of the latter’s former band. They’re a decent singles band (“Kathang-Isip”, “Leaves”). And on this album they have few decent ‘single’ songs as well—songs specifically written for those who want to move on (“Mitsa”, “Tala-arawan”). B+

December Avenue – Langit Mong Bughaw (2019)

decemberIs it just me, or the album cover of December Avenue’s Langit Mong Bughaw really looks like that of a worship album—or worse, songs for funeral services? Listen to “Intro” and tell me if it doesn’t feel like riding really slow and heavenly and cold at the same time. It may surprise some that this band has been around for more than a decade already. It took them five years to release their debut, which houses the lone Tagalog title “Eroplanong Papel”, which I deservedly dismissed—it’s not Sugarfree nor Typecast nor Silent Sanctuary (ca. Fuchsiang Pag-ibig). A competent emo-pop bar band, nothing more. Decent musicians, you’d wish they invest more on the songs than whatever tricks they have up their sleeves. Then, they actually did. Invest on the writing that is. And like the boy-best friend who’s always there, the less popular girl who got ditched for the prom queen, or the nerdy teen you never gave a chance, the band just move along until they finally find their darling listeners. Not the third gen emo crowd but YouTube/Spotify/WishFM one. “Kung ‘Di Rin Lang Ikaw” may be their most viewed hit but my vote goes to the song they released in 2017. And while I prefer the alternate title over the official one, I’m relieved that with YouTube/Google, no one’s going to get lost looking for “Hanggang Sa Dulo Ng Walang Hanggan”. So, you take it all, cheesy title included and immerse yourself in love/pain/whatever. Maybe someday, you’ll get sick of it all and finally learn to let go. This could definitely use a little more variation, something light, different (e.g., “Pink 5ive”, “Summer Song”), otherwise this would be of little use once you’ve finally moved on. B  

Shirebound & Busking – For Princesses, By Thieves (O Mga Awit ng Hiraya Para sa Guni-guning Sinta) (2019)

shireNo ‘Lloydy’ here and he’s no Frodo either. And if you’d ask a Star Wars die-hard fan, there’s only one “Return.” The opening track put a smile on my face like in some deleted scene from Avengers: Infinity War—I thought The Mountain Goats—almost. That smile didn’t last long unfortunately, as I waited for the next winner (“Miss Mosh”, “Waltz of Four Left Feet”). B-

Cheats – Cheats (2015)

cheatsKeyboards and female vocal harmonies to enliven old guitar pop/rock; grunge repurposed as rocking party music. Imagine life before Girls. Then, Girls entered the scene. Life became more complicated but also happier, more colorful, fun. Imagine Ernville, a generic sounding band with a generic sounding name. Then, Saab and Candy entered the scene. And then we got Cheats, probably the most exciting 7-piece band of the 2010s. And this debut, probably the greatest thing since pizza came sliced (“Newspaper Girl”, “Summer”, “Headfoam”). It’s meaty, tasty, maybe a few pineapple bits in there (depends on your tolerance for the Hawaiian variety—me I like ’em fine) but HOLY MOZZARELLA — it’s bursting with CHEESE!!! Heat this up in the oven whenever you’re “Drunk”, feel like a loser (“Acumen”), wish to take a day off and just sleep (“Sleepist”) or want to call out the animal inside of you (“Accidents”).

Cheats – Before the Babies (2017)

babiesI’ll probably never look at this album the same way again. And not without thinking about Jim and Saab’s little angel. This has the sound of a band slowing things down a bit, turning reflective as if looking at the dawn thinking about settling down. Less dance-y headbanging music and more like songs to play when mapping out that 5-year plan (“Talk”, “Before the Babies”). A little more varied than their first yet still containing the same ingredients: twee pop-ish vocals, memorable guitar riffs, and the reasons kids love the Bilinda Butchers of the world. Less driving music, more like music for safe and defensive driving (“Melon”, “Crumble”). Go back to the debut if you miss the restless hooks and singalong choruses but play this one in the car when the babies are on board. A

Various Artists – The Best of Manila Sound: Hopia Mani Popcorn (2006)

Manila_soundNot every artist could cover a Rico J. Puno hit and get away with it like Lourd De Veyra and Radioactive Sago did—the murderously drunk funny videoke sing-along “Kapalaran”. Didn’t like Kitchie Nadal’s “TL Ako Sa’Yo” when this came out. It actually sounds a LOT better now. Maybe it was ahead of its time. DRT’s hard-rock version of “Tao” is better than Sugar Hiccup’s version on that other tribute album. And props to Kapatid for shining a light on another classic (“Hanggang Magdamag”) and the usually forgotten funk bands of the ’70s (The Advisors, Soul Jugglers). I could do without Rocksteddy (“No Touch”), 6cyclemind (“Bonggahan”), Protein Shake (“Macho Gwapito”), and Sound’s soulless attempt at Rey Valera’s “Ako Si Superman”. Mayonnaise and Join the Club? They’re just OK. Soapdish’ sped-up version of Rey Valera/Rico J. Puno/Sharon Cuneta classic? Not bad. Up Dharma Down’s “Bitin Sa’Yo” is a miss. B+

Various Artists – The Best of Manila Sound: Hopia Mani Popcorn 2 (2008)

hopiaThis has a better lineup than the first (no 6cyclemind, no Protein Shake). Giniling Festival have always been much much more fun than Rocksteddy. Surprise, surprise! Melany is actually fronted by a guy and they did a decent Soapdish-like job with “Bakit Labis Kitang Mahal”, a welcome alternative to the Ogie Alcasid remake. Brownman Revival’s “Binibini”? Way better than Janno Gibbs’. Pedicab’s “Awitin Mo…” is just OK but Diego Mapa making fun of his kuya (Jao Mapa), funny. Highlights? Kiko Machine’s piano ballad version of “Tayong Dalawa”, Juan Pablo Dream’s mod-ified “Bato Sa Buhangin”, Swissy’s minimalist take on another Cinderella hit. There’s also Imago. Except for that raised eyebrow, Aia de Leon perfectly updates the Dina Bonievie classic (“Bakit Ba Ganyan”). Color It Red? Chilitees? They’re fine. Cueshe? Again, not bad. Session Road’s “Kung Kailangan Mo Ako” doesn’t totally work tho. A- 

Various Artists – Bagong Banda… Awit ni Sampaguita (2008)

bagongEither you’re a curious Sampaguita fan or you just want to get that rare Sugar Hiccup or Session Road track that isn’t on any of their albums. This is for completists only. Covering Sampaguita is like doing The Beatles, except you don’t have tons of songs to choose from. You either get lucky in the lottery or try your very best not to fail. Most of these bands bungled it, with Paramita’s “Bongahan” probably the biggest dud. Little known band Lokal does a decent take on minor hit “Mahilig”. You could say Sugar Hiccup and Paraluman just got lucky “Tao” and “Ikaw Pa Rin” got assigned to them. Session Road, not so much. But thanks to Hannah Romawac, their cover of “Nosi Balasi” doesn’t suck. C

Various Artists – Ultraelectromagneticjam: The Music of the Eraserheads (2005)

jamThat no one thought about making an Apo Hiking tribute until this came out probably tells the difference between love and respect. Or maybe it’s just that the Eraserheads are insanely more popular and there’s more demand. Tribute albums are usually reserved for die-hards but not this. Alternate versions of Ehead’s lesser hits are fun (Sugarfree, OnL, Imago). There are covers better than the original (e.g., The Man Who Sold the World) but not in this album. Barbie and Kitchie? Cute. Especially how Kitchie Nadal titters on that line about shaving. Cueshe’s “Hard to Believe” at x1.25 speed? Not bad. Sponge Cola’s “Pare Ko”? Just a little bit better than my neighbor singing it on videoke. And it’s fucking 6:02 long! Can’t really play this loud beyond 10 PM. Or expect stones raining on your roof (Magpatulog naman kayo)! There are a few unexpected but interesting left turns too (MYMP, South Border, Isha). I wonder if Isha changing Ely’s “beeper” to “cellphone” is already outdated—I’m still calling them “cellphones” and not “smartphones”. Didn’t really expect Ciudad or Narda to be in this album. But where the fuck are Kamikazee? Hilera? Itchyworms? Maybe, 6cyclemind aren’t really worthy to do “Alapaap”. And they even made it worse by making it sound like a 6cyclemind song. A-

Various Artists – The Reunion: An Eraserheads Tribute Album (2012)

reunionAiza couldn’t ruin “With A Smile”, more so with Mike Villegas on her side. But Callalily definitely could. “Minsan” is probably the toughest Eheads song to cover and they should have given it to Vin Dancel. But only so that he wouldn’t have to re-do “Overdrive” because Barbie Almalbis’ cute version was more than enough. We all know Brownman Revival built a career out of their reggae-corrected version of “Maling Akala”. But it also sounds too close to the original. The better alternative then is Itchyworms’ country-fied version, which makes you wonder again why they were not included before. You probably never heard of Iwa Motors and Jennylyn Sucaldito but Tanya Markova’s “Hey Jay” is one of highlights here. Johnoy Danao and Razorback/Gloc9? Just OK. Though you have to wonder why ’90s dinosaurs like Razorback even bothered. We’ve finally got Hilera with “Kaliwete”, but they kind of overloaded it with rockabilly. They would’ve probably done better with a folk-rock “Poorman’s Grave”. Still, no Kamikazee. “Insomya” would’ve been a good fit for them. “Alkohol”, too. A naughty kupaw version of “Bogchi Hukbo” would probably work. And they could definitely do “Magasin” justice better than Chicosci (boobs mo’y gawa ni Belo). Again, 6cyclemind doing “Alapaap”? Fucking shameless. B-

Various Artists – Pop Machine (2020)

cs4366581-02a-bigMunimuni certainly did a better job than Callalily. But they covered the wrong song. Think they should’ve tried “Kailan” instead. Ciudad’s “Aling Nena” is just too clean, too precise, too close to the original (except for the hilarious spoken parts i.e., “ee-sang ae-raaw”), therefore totally defeating the purpose. There are nine cuts already (as of this writing) and most of which, recyclable. (Ask: why should I listen to this instead of the original?) Except for 1) The Borrachos’ raspy gin-fueled bluesy cover of “Poorman’s Grave”. Borracho as in drunk. (In Bicol, we call them burat. No, not that “burat”—put it back in—the other one.) And 2) Reese Lansangan’s transcendent version of “Huwag Kang Matakot”. Ely Buendia said he wrote the song for Eon. Reese Lansangan re-imagines it as a mother’s lullaby for her child. Vision, material, execution—all aligned to perfection. **

She’s Only Sixteen – She’s Only Sixteen (2012)

sixteenWhatever happened to these buzzworthy garage/punk bands of the early 2010s. The ButcherCons, She’s Only Sixteen, the relatively lesser known Rebelle Fleur. Okay, we got one full length album (Coalesce), another EP, and this. Four cuts plus a bonus acoustic version of the first single. “Nothing to Say” would have made this even better. Like The ButcherCons before them, She’s Only Sixteen demonstrates the credo other startups should adhere to—take something and make it your own—at least with the A-sides (“Amygdala”, “Dying to Meet You”). Which makes the Arctic Monkeys-The Strokes influence/comparison the B-sides seem to have made more obvious, easier to ignore. B+  

She’s Only Sixteen – Whatever That Was (2017)

shesonlyIn some alternate timeline, this is already full-length album number 2. But in our timeline, this is the full-length debut. Five years is a long time. And their former label “shelving” them for the same length of time effectively prevented them from releasing that (alternate timeline) first album that would connect the dots between Whatever That Was and their eponymous EP. Sure that first album would have sounded different than this. But then again, if this is album number 2, this would probably sound different too. The long wait and disappointments that comes with it seem to have turned the once sweet into sour, slowed down their tempos, sucked out the fun. This has none of what little lighting in a bottle the first EP had. I liked them better back when they had more energy to spare, even when they had nothing really meaningful to say, back when they’re dying to date underage girls—roughly same age as them I suppose—instead of wanting to be left alone, back when they thought they had this “can’t get you out of my head” effect on them girls, who go to their gigs and love them. B- 

beabadoobee – Space Cadet (2019)

beabadoobeeImagine if Reese Lansangan listened to Pavement. Filipino-British indie darling Beatrice a.k.a. beabadoobee released a whooping 5 EP’s in 2019 (Space Cadet is EP #5) and she did what most Pavement lovers never thought of before (“I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus”). Of course being half-British she wants to see the “Sun More Often” and she says “often” with a “T”—unlike her American English-taught Filipino fans. B

The Buildings – Cell-O-Phane (2016)

buildingsThis doesn’t deadpan Pavement in the same way Yurei’s screams Nirvana. Maybe because they kept the Pavement signifiers on the periphery (the Bob Nastanovich narration buried near the end of “Sue Me Jack” is echoed in the opening track, the obvious “Shady Lane” MTV references in that “Lucid Sister” music video). And if you listen to them looking for that Pavement influence, which is somewhat hard to parse, don’t think Slanted & Enchanted or Brighten the Corners. Maybe Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain—but only because their best songs are infectiously melodic (“Different Shades of Blue”, “Lucid Sister”) and sometimes has the side effect of sounding like The Breeders (“Museum Tower”), which isn’t bad at all. Some of Wowee Zowee‘s laid back country vibes are here but that’s probably because they are indie-folk darlings Ourselves the Elves’ more indie-rock leaning sister band. The surest point of reference then would be Spiral Stairs “Painted Soldiers” and its music video where Nina Gordon and Louise Post took over Pavement after the dissolution of the band. A-