Monday, December 05, 2005

Pop Month in La Vida Lawyer: The Eraserheads Tribute

It’s the merry month of Christmas, traditionally a tough time for La Vida Lawyer (what with all his inaanaks knocking), but for this month I’ll tune out of politics past and present, and indulge in pop culture. Warning: even my wife disagrees, violently at times, with my taste.

As I post this blog, the Ultraelectromagnetic Jam album is playing on ITunes. This is a tribute to the Eraserheads, the phenomenal Philippine rock band who broke up four years ago. The new album has young bands and singers doing cover versions of staple Eraserheads songs. And I am proud to say that I am not disappointed with this project; in fact, I am well pleased. When I inserted the CD on the Mac, ITunes recognized it immediately and fetched the track names. It is curious that the songs have been classified as “World” music, which probably means that the album is going to be marketed abroad.

The album opens with “Alapaap” by 6 Cycle Mind. I have to confess that I have not heard of this band, but they do a pretty good rendition here. They added a new guitar track and some percussion in the opening dreamy sequences before the song flies off with the guitar loops on the first verse. In the bridge, where we used to hear Ely going pa pa ra pa pa, we hear a lead guitar doing the notes instead, before the vocals modulate. Geez, that sure works.

Paolo Santos does “Magasin” in the second track. He uses the guitar lead to introduce the song on the C, E, Am, F F minor chord progression, in place of the “Hoo Hoo” vocal track. Its amusing, even more so when he adds a few more notes when the song reaches the bridge. Ely and Paolo both have high octave male voices, so Paolo breezes thru this one with ease, but really the wonder of this version is the song itself, about seeing one’s ex-girlfriend becoming a pin up girl for a porno magazine. This is way off Paolo’s clean image as a singer-songwriter, but he manages to sing this song well with his image intact.

Imago does “Spoliarum” in the third track. The song originally appeared in the Sticker Happy album, which I think is the album where the Eraserheads managed to hit the perfect balance between artistic integrity and commercial viability. Imago does a good job here too with a lady vocal. Frankly, I’m still wondering what the song means, if it has any meaning to begin with.

Kitchie Nadal was fun to hear in Ligaya (track 7) as she breaks out in laughter while singing the line “ilang ahit pa ba ang aahitin”. Funny, the line still fits even if a woman is singing it. Francis M., does great work in “Superproxy” (track 9). He gives it enough energy probably more explosive than that of Ely’s.

Orange and Lemons, the band responsible for that “Pinoy Ako” hit song, sings “Huwag Kang Matakot” in Track 10. This song originally appeared in Natin 99 Album, just before the turn of the millennium, with the Eraserheads music going a little bit on the weird side with their experimentations on electronica. “Huwag Kang Matakot” was the most accessible in that Natin 99 album, and I believe it was there to make the album commercially viable. As a pop song, “Huwag Kang Matakot” had great possibilities and a real infectious hook. Orange and Lemons gives the song a little updating here. They cleaned up the sound by using acoustic string guitar for the riffs. In the bridge part, they inserted, some loops from Julie Tearjerky, another EHeads hit, and they clipped out some words from the chorus while inserting lyrics from “Tikman”, all in a playful manner. Great effort by Orange and Lemons, even better than the original.

The highlight of this album is track 15, where Rico J. Puno, the total entertainer, does his own version of “Ang Huling El Bimbo.” Rico J. Puno is an institution in the Philippine music industry with his signature raspy and soulful voice. And I’m pretty sure, the Eraserheads in their youth knew “Kapalaran”, Rico J.’s signature song, by heart. To have him sing what probably is the most popular Eraserheads song ever -- it even got an MTV Asia Music Video Award -- is the best proof that the Eraserheads and their music form a watershed of artistry in the Philippine pop music scene. When I learned that Rico Puno was signing “El Bimbo”, I imagined him breaking into his signature “baby baby" belting in the third verse of the song that goes “ sa panaginip na lang pala kita maisasayaw”. But instead, he restrains himself a bit and opts for a cool classic delivery. No problem with that. I guess Rico J. Puno has matured.

The album ends with “Para sa Masa” sang by most, if not all, of the artists appearing in the album a la “We are the World” The song is Ely’s lamentation and despair for the band’s effort and failure (?) to lift the masses and their musical taste. Rico J. Puno does the line “Pinilit kong ihaon ka. Ngunit ayaw mo namang sumama.” Great song, a fitting end to a great tribute to the most successful Pinoy Rock Band in history.

To conclude, new and upcoming singers should mine the Eraserheads back catalogue of songs that deserve fresh interpretation: Bogchi Hokbu, Kailan, Playground, Combo on the Run, Tindahan ni Aling Nena, even the Eraserheads’ Christmas Album Fruitcake, and many more. There is one Eraserheads song, Casa Fantastica, which appeared in the 1998 concept album about the Philippine Centennial which should also be unearthed. Those songs are real gems, a true affirmation of what NVM Gonzalez used to say that there is genius in the Filipino race.


Check out the review of the Tribute/Launching Concert of the album held in UP from Katie's site.

19 comments:

Punzi said...

Pahiram!

Arbet said...

Well, Sir, it seems that Orange and Lemons are good at "revising" songs. =P

marvin said...

Punze,

Ok. Pero ibalik mo ha? I've lost most of my Eraserheads albums sa mga humiram na hindi na nagsauli.

Arbet,

Balita ko nga rehash lang yun ghit nila. Pero sa totoo lang, wala na namang original na kanta ngayon. Even some Eraserheads songs were rip offs daw. I don't really mind.

Major Tom said...

Great that I heard it from you...about the project album...I am sure gonna score it. Sana merong 'Hey Jay", an all-time fave becoz of its funny but very meandering lyrics.

Jet said...

Hmm... now I'm curious as to how Rico Puno sounded with Huling El Bimbo. That has always been my favorite.

Punzi said...

Nagparinig pa to. Sorry ibabalik ko na yung hiniram ko sa yo. Don't worry. I have a feeling we'll see each other often next year.

Naalala ko tuloy si "Eraserface" heheheheheheh!

elfilibustero said...

Mabuhay ang Eraserheads. Do you have a copy of Eraserheads Anthology? The selection of songs are arranged chronologically (I think) and it was only by listening to the whole album (2 CDs for just P250!) that I began to appreciate the masterpiece that is the Eraserheads. I mean, I always saw them as the greatest Pinoy Band to have existed (probably a biased opinion due to lack of exposure to Juan dela Cruz Band), but listening to Anthology is a mesmerizing experience, as if riding the E-head train from the moment they got together til their last gig.

Ultraelectromagnetic Jam was an excellent idea, but I felt parang minadali iproduce. Some songs weren't differently arranged, and the only difference was the sound of the vocals. If BMG picked more creative artists, the results would have come out better. Imago and MYMP however do stand out with their rendition. So as w/ Brownman Revival. Most however, could very well be videoke versions of ehead songs where just the vocals are different. Its supposed to be their own interpretation of the song and not simply a celebration of the song.

Lastly, do you agree that Fransicm's Rap in "Para sa Masa" missed the point of the song, which is actually their lament over the preference of the masa of their pop, crowd pleasing tunes rather than their more artistic and creative opus. I felt his lyrics was irrelevant and not in congruance with the song.

In the end, mabuhay pa din ang Eheads, and as the album says..salamat sa walang humpay na ligaya!

marvin said...

Elfilbustero,

I have the anthology. That was a real bargain. It saved me all the trouble of having to buy new cds for the ones I lost from borrowers.

Imago and MYMP were good. And Brownman was also great. I read somewhere that Ely originally conceived Maling Akala as a reggae song. Kaya lang since hindi sila marunong noon, they settled for the arrangement which came out in the debut album.

Sablay nga si Francis M sa Para sa Masa. Pero pabayanan mo na magaling naman yug "Superproxy" version niya. Ely did back up vocals in that version.

Jet,

Rico Puno was ok, kaya lang sabi ko nga medyo restrained. Ely's version is better.

Major Tom.

Hey Jay deserves a movie.

Owen FV said...

im so excited reading about this. for the past few days, the album Fruitcake has been playing on loop on my Ipod. I love Eheads.

Nicely written sir!

Blog hoppin from Tanggero!

marvin said...

Owen,

I have been looking for copies of the Fruitcake album. May mga kanta kasi doon na I wasn't ready for when it came out. Palagay ko ngayon kaya ko ng sakyan. Kaya lang wala na rin yung kopya ko.

Thanks for dropping by

rolly said...

interesting. I have always felt Eraserheads was not run of the mill. The band has made some noteworthy innovations in Philippine music.

el filibustero said...

marvin,
Yeah, superproxy was good. Especially considering that Francis M did the rap sa original version, and sa francis M version si ELy naman ang nag guest star hehe. astig!

I didnt know that trivia re: Maling Akala. Buti di nila ni-reggae if their reggae skills are what the showed in Toyang haha.

re: rip off songs...yes the Eraserheads would "splice"? "sample" melodies and lyrics of existing songs, pero somehow they do it in a unpretencious and acknowledged way, to the point na its in an artistic level, and not being mere copycats. Juxtapose that to Orange and Lemons who completely deny copying note by note the opening tune and verse of "Chandelier" by The Care in Pinoy Ako. I mean, are they as ambitious as Garci to think people will actually buy their claim that it is just a magnificent coincidence? Although maganda ginawa nila sa Ultraelectro, magaling nga naman kasi siguro sila magkopya hehe.

jetmagbanua said...

Sir, my name is Jet Magbanua and I'd like to express the same sentiments as to getting nostalgic hearing the music of the Eraserheads. I'd like to share an essay about them that won me a CD that you reviewed (Ultraelectromagneticjam), 5 tickets to the launch and a VIP pass. Please follow this link http://www.fictionpress.com/~jetmagbanua and click on the first entry piece. the title is Ang Eraserheads at ang Kahapon. Thank you very much for your attention. Merry Christmas.

marvin said...

Jet M.

I was in college when Pare Ko became a hit. I thought after that, the Eheads will be gone. But Circus came out, and then Cutterpillow. I knew then the Eheads were for keeps. Moe power to you.

Dyes said...

i agree with all your comments :)

you should hear Paolo sing Magasin live. it's better than the one on cd.

i was surprised by Rico J's rendition of the song. i didnt think that he would be that good!

however, no offense meant, but imho, the producer should have chosen another song for barbie and another artist to sing overdrive.

i miss listening to e-heads.

marvin said...

Dyes,

The Eraserheads sang the music of your youth. But like all artists, they had to move on to do other things and be true to their art. Everybody has to grow up anyway. Well, at least they left a great body of work.

eman said...

hey tell me naman po ung title ng song sa phil centennial album.nakalimutan ko na po e.ung various artist po sila.pls email naman sakin eman_quinones@yahoo.com...
i love eheads!!! and the artists who made the remakes of the eheads are all good... its like a tribute to the greatest band in the phil (well,para sakin theyre the best) pls email nyo po sakin ung tinatanong ko..thanks...

eman said...

and also mr. jet magbanua...nabasa ko na po ung link na pinost mo dito...and galing mo....ganun din ako dati hehehehe... ure superb!

cate said...

Eraserheads is truly a legend. I can even imagine if I can pass this to story to my kids. Thanks for the details of tracks. I'm planning to buy one.I'm proud to be pinoy!