Friday, February 11, 2005

Retrospective: The Eraserheads and Circus

I bought a CD of the Eraserheads' Circus album last Monday. I got my first copy of this album on tape back in the summer of 1995 when I was preparing for the bar exams. I mentioned somewhere here that my musical taste took a side trip to the classical genre in my law school days, because of the myth that baroque music enhances brain power. Thus, for the four years of law school, my daily staple was Bach's Brandenburg concertos, some Mozarts, and some Vivaldis. In the summer of 1995, I decided I was going to take a musical adventure, and try some Original Pilipino Music (OPM) with the Eraserheads.

The first time I listened to Circus, it felt like being with friends I haven't met for years. Funny thing is, I never met the Eraserheads at all. But the music that they made was the music that felt real. It was the music that members of the Voltes V generation like me had in their collective subsconcious, awaiting creative expression. And it would take Ely Buendia and the boys to unearth them from the deepest recesses of our hearts and minds. They sang about the life and struggles of college students in a manner unique to us: boredom, insomnia, semestral breaks, alcoholism, and love -- lost, unrequited, and otherwise. There was a Senate investigation on whether the song, "Alapaap" was endorsing drugs. Ely and the boys, however, claimed it was about freedom, until their erstwhile band manager, Jessica Zafra blurted that there was a line in the song that goes, "Hanggang sa Dulo ng mundo, hanggang maubos ang ubo." Wasn't that about cough syrups? The most biting song of the album is "Hey Jay", about a homosexual struggling for acceptance in the homophobic Philippines. Its bouncy upbeat and fancy guitar riffs sugarcoat the underlying story of deviants and their pains in a conservative society. I listened to it again, and have one conclusion, the Eraserheads are geniuses. The song "Kailan", especially the lounge version, will eternally be my generation's best song about unrequited love. How many times have I sung this? Same song different loves. Ha -- the story of my life, and probably the rest of us too.

I was bit of a musician myself back in high school. I learned to play the piano and guitar with the Jingle Chordbook Magazine, especially dedicated to the Beatles. I think I have bought at least five re-issues of that magazine, because I kept wearing out my copies. That's why I could recognize that the chord progression in "With a Smile" came from "Here, There and Everywhere". I made songs on the same progression myself, songs mushier than "With a Smile". Some of my compositions were being sung in school functions in San Beda High School. Nothing special though, and at no point did I imagine making a career out of my amateur musician days.

After high school, I had a choice of going to UP or the Ateneo. I chose the Ateneo, because I was forewarned that philosophy in UP was dominated by teachers from the "Philosophical Analysis" school of thought. But had I gone to UP, I know I would have shifted to film, played with a band on the side, and met up with the members of Eraserheads, who were going to college at the same time that I was.

In the Ateneo, my passion for creating music waned, because of my discovery of the wonders of poetry and fiction, and my uncanny ability for getting myself in school politics, without meaning to. Eventually, I decided to go to law school, and put aside for the meantime all artistic inclinations for the sake of a law diploma and a crack at the bar exams. Listening to Circus in the summer after graduating from law school, I felt like saying, "You guys can die now. This album is a masterpiece to last a long time. As for me I have nothing to show yet, but a medal in bootleg silver." Of course, the Eraserheads will go on writing better songs after Circus, one of which ("Ang Huling El Bimbo") even got them the MTV Music Awards for Best Asian Video.

Today, I'm listening to them again, on my way to board meetings and court hearings. And they bring me back to all those lost chapters of my life. My high school, college and law school days seem like yesterday, and they're all carried in one CD of the Eraserheads' Circus. Indeed, the power of music is in its ability to stir up our lost memories, dreams, and emotions to make us whole again. And I realize that the boy who used to write songs for school functions and dabble with poetry and fiction is the same blogger that I have become today, flirting with the creative muse once again on this corner of the world wide web.


Paul said...

What happened Marvin? Bakit naging Portugues ang entry mo?

marvin said...

Hi Paul. Sorry. I think somebody hacked into my site. I've restored the entry.

bayibhyap said...

My boss had this idea of playing soft baroque music via the PA system in the office. He's convinced that productivity will record a positive difference. And he's dead serious! :)

Major Tom said...

Mayday...Ground Control....Krzzzzt...Truly, "circus" was an album that was made to last and mind you it also defined my college years and their music always reminded me of cool sunshine and old friends whom some i have lost.

It is an album that could only be done by a rare stroke of genius that once you found it, will never be gotten back again. Sort of like "Nevermind" of Nirvana, an album for the ages, a once in a lifetime occurence, like a passing comet. Greetings from Mars.

marvin said...

Ciao Major Tom! The Eraserheads is an icon for the Voltes V generation, and Circus is the album that hits home.

Bayi, that's okay. Baroque music is not invasive. People can work with it playing on the background. At least, baroque music will not disturb people, even if it may not really help them be more efficient. Although, I should say it really helped me go through law school.

bayibhyap said...

marvin, my boss was quite happy someone's concurred with his thinking about the benefits of baroque music! :)

ashrain said...

I first got interested in classical music after I watched Before Sunset. The Viennese setting simply called for that, I guess. I can't tell a Mozart from a Beethoven, really. I couldn't even remember the titles when most where numbers--how can one associate the song with the number? so that left me liking Moonlight Sonata, I can remember THAT. recommend me good ones. (Oh, eraserhead is good, but I liked rivermaya better.)

wysgal said...

Their anthology is a pretty good deal --- 2 CDs for only Php200-something.