Saturday, October 02, 2004

Singing Off To Sleep

Three things I don't know right now: 1. why I'm still in the office, 2. why I'm still awake, and 3. what exactly to make of Kitchie Nadal's solo debut album. The first two are kind of easy, actually. In much the same way that Neil Gaiman's formula for immortality is "not dying," the reason I'm still here is because I haven't gone home yet. It doesn't seem worth the effort at the moment, so instead, I've been surfing, catching up on music and comics sites, drinking ridiculous amounts of caffeinated soda and eating crab soup and potato fritters, and listening to some CDs I intend to review for PULP's next issue, like The Stands, Wolfmann, and -- maybe -- the Kitchie Nadal release. I'm listening to it for the second time now, and still, I'd be hard-pressed to name a rating I'd be comfortable with. Nothing below two oranges and nothing above four just about covers it, but man, that's a wide range.

Attempting to please the world at the age of 17, you kill your babies and call it offering
The stench of truth: a life for a life. To be kind is to be unkind.

-- from "Fire"

Two things I'm sure of right now: there's a lot of good songwriting here (Kitchie has a way with a chorus, and the lyrics are accessible while remaining a far cry from simple-minded -- people who found the Mojofly material to be uninspiring should give this a chance), but it all sounds too clean, it needs to rock a little harder. I don't want to hear every plucked guitar string, every bongo beat. The production puts one in mind of 80s pop-rock, and not entirely in a good way. One actually misses the rough original versions of "Deliverance" and "Run" that her website used to offer in low-quality mp3 format, and songs like "Fire" and "Bulong" sounded a lot more thrilling live. The guitars need to be dirtier, and the drums need to kick a whole lot more ass, especially on a great potential anthem like "Bulong."

Minsan ang kagitingan ay wala sa bigat ng pinapasan, kundi sa pagsukot pag harap ng kabiguan
Tumatakbo ang oras, gumising na at bumangon na, pagka't hindi na ikaw ang biktima

-- from "Bulong"

Kitchie's voice itself, which is what lends these pleasantly solid (yet admittedly not massively original) songs their distinctive touch, is an acquired taste; some may find her oft-deployed breathy fragility grating. I think it's effective and appropriate on the whole, although, again, she should try rocking out and travelling to the edge of a potential loss of control some more. The deer-in-headlights look she sports on the cover may be taken for a representation of her leftover hesitation as regards her musical boundaries, despite the definite strides forward she has taken since her Mojofly days. One wonders how much of this restraint is due to her religious conversion, but it would probably be churlish to speculate. In any case, the obviously God-centric numbers like "You're Worthy" are no less listenable than anything else on this album.

Now she found a place to rest, where the shadows run deep
Lying there barefoot, dirty, singing off to sleep

-- from "Drained"

A lot of songs that become radio staples suck; good pop hits with artistic merit are few and far between. Maybe the best way to sum up Kitchie Nadal's debut is to say that I can easily imagine these songs being requested and played over and over again on the air, and also imagine myself not minding at all.