Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Three for Today

1. Hair-Metal Forever

For those of you who may find yourselves lolling around in front of a television today at around 10 AM -- or around 7 PM, for the rerun -- you may get a kick out of today's episode of MTV Diyes, where we celebrate the glory of 80s hair-metal. That's right, I'm talking about Poison, Whitesnake, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Van Halen, Bon Jovi... relive your sordid pop-metal past! Air-guitar like crazy in your sala! And wonder at the extent of the damage done to the ozone layer by all that hairspray. Oh, and tomorrow -- Thursday, March 31 -- is quite possibly even more fun: we're featuring Pinoy Indie-Rockers. And yes, I know some people consider "indie" as a musical genre with a specific sound -- but we just took it to mean anyone without a major label deal, basically. Look out for videos by Twisted Halo, Ciudad, and Drip, among others.

2. New Favorite Band

If you're not listening to The Whiles, you really should be, unless you've got something against gorgeous melodies, sweet vocal harmonies, and lyrics about bittersweet longing. Their incredibly catchy acoustic prettiness puts me in mind of Kings of Convenience, kind of -- at least until an electric riff kicks in and the whole song suddenly takes a sharp turn skywards, as is the case on "Lonesome Reply." Songs to soothe and astonish, perfect for this sunstruck season. Go to their site and download some tunes awreddy. I recommend "Emily" and "Will You" for starters.

3. Lane on Writing

"The truth is, that if you're working on a piece at three in the morning, you're not Keats; you're just late." The truth hurts. In this instance, it also makes me smile in recognition. Found this old interview with Anthony Lane, film critic for The New Yorker:
"People think that you have these things called ideas and that writing is a matter of imposing them on the subject material, whereas it's only in the writing that I discover what it is that I think. And I can only write to deadline. I can't do the blank sheet. You know, 'Chapter One: he adored New York...'

"I have the feeling that writing can be all the better for being squeezed in around life. The other day I wrote a piece sitting on the floor of the train to Cambridge, which was straight out of Buster Keaton, with squatting room only. And there was one point last summer when there was someone on every floor of the house, so I wrote on the staircase with my computer on my lap. My thighs got sunburnt, which constitutes an accident at work. I am suing myself.

"Perhaps I understand artistic sensibility but not sensitivity. I don't do feuds, tears at midnight or guttering candles. I do sometimes do racking of the brow, but only with things like car insurance."

Monday, March 28, 2005

Can I Love You?

Luis has lent me his copy of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs (incidentally, a book I would not carry prominently on the top of a laundry pile in an elevator with strangers, if I were you), a book of essays from SPIN senior writer Chuck Klosterman. He's a very smart guy who has decided to use his brain for criticism of "low" (i.e., pop) culture, instead of, say, thinking of ways to end poverty, and I for one appreciate that. The book has chapters with titles like "This is Emo," "Every Dog Must Have his Day, Every Drunk Must Have His Drink," "Sulking with Lisa Loeb on the Planet Hoth," and, Paul's personal favorite, "Porn."

Filed under "The Lady and the Tiger" is what Chuck says are "the twenty-three questions I ask everybody I meet in porder to decide if I can really love them." Really useful stuff, actually, and while we will not infringe on Mr. Klosterman's copyright by posting all 23 questions, I would like to post one from time to time, to help our blogmates figure out the important things in life.

Today's question:

You're a Good Man, Chuck Klosterman#5: You meet your soul mate. However, there is a catch: Every three years, someone will break both of your soul mate's collarbones with a Crescent wrench, and there is only one way you can stop this from happening: You must swallow a pill that will make evey song you hear--for the rest of your life--sound as if it's being performed by Alice in Chains. When you hear Creedence Clearwater Revival on the radio, it will sound (to your ears) like it's being played by Alice in Chains. If you see Radiohead live, every one of their tunes will sound like it's being covered by Alice in Chains. When you hear a commercial jingle on TV, it will sound like Alice in Chains; if you sing to yourself in the shower, your voice will sound like deceased Alice vocalist Layne Staley performing a capella (but it will only sound this way to you). Would you swallow this pill?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005



K2 and I went to the British Council's 25th anniversary program, which they chose to celebrate by throwing a party and inviting a bagpiper to wail at people for two straight hours. ("Parang awa niyo na, pumasok na kayo," I overheard him mutter, as the last stragglers hovered around the buffet table, refusing to go into the Shangri-La Plaza's vaunted Cinema 1.

What we were there to see was the documentary Bunso, by Ditsi Carolino, about three children sent to prison for petty crimes. All I can say is: Ow. There was, as this review of an earlier screening noted, a stunned silence after the film ended. The director was seated just a few places away from us, and I wanted to go up to her and mumble my thanks, but she was surrounded by a steadily growing number of well-wishers that she actually knew, so I stayed out of it.

This was just so well, well done. Have I been so out of it that I'm surprised that Philippine documentaries have reached this level of excellence? The last Filipino movie that I saw--Panaghoy sa Suba, that World War II/river drama with Cesar Montano (like Bunso, it was filmed in Cebuano and subtitled in English)--was still a disappointment. I'm tired of making excuses: It was good...for a Pinoy film. Bunso was, however, very good, full stop. It never stooped to easy sentimentality when hard reality was there; and the effect was devastating.

Documentaries. It's a weird art. It's at once significant, for sheer veracity, and futile, for the limitations of distribution and audience. I don't need to point out, Luis, that much of our magazine writing career is also about documentation: witnessing a moment in time, and then writing it up so people can share the experience, so they can know and remember, even after our glossy, too-thin bookpaper pages fall off and turn to dust.



Forgot to say something about the CD that I was putting together for you. Part of the reason yours works so well is because you had a message in every track--they all said something. The problem with the CD I made, besides being laden with alternative-rock tracks that don't hold a candle to the dreamy chillout standbys and surprising rock tracks that you picked out for yours, is that they weren't all there to say something. Some were just there to document the experience, no matter how pointless or painful the exercise. So the whole thing comes off as a little rude, actually.

Maybe it has to do with me being a writer, and how I'm interested in chronicling events, for whatever good it does. In your line of work, you have a mission and a message, and that's what you work for. Or maybe it has to do with the way I've always used music like heroin, to wallow in my misery.

Too bad, because the songs were nice. And I liked how I was able to bookend the tracks with songs of almost the same title, but how the sentiments behind them are still somewhat surprising. So rare that you can find things to fall together like that.

Still, I'd bet your CD wins hands-down in the Midnight Drive Soundtrack Department. Hands down. Mine will probably fall under the Forehead on Steering Wheel category, and it won't be very highly rated, either. Yours: four oranges. Mine: three, maybe three and a half on a good day.

I won't inflict it on you any time soon. But it'll be there and ready for when you want to wallow in it (which I'm doing), or when you and me both can laugh about it. Or maybe I can give it to M--, with the title, One Good Burn Deserves Another. ;)



Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Smatter With You Is...

Fortunately, Luis, my outdated Mac at work has hundreds upon hundreds of archived reviews, dating back to 2002. A quick search for the ones you mentioned turned up these wonderfully caustic bits:

from a review of
"Ride" is a surrealist art house sort of song, borrowing Beck's (and Kurt Cobain's) weirdo lyricist dunce cap, patching together words and phrases that sound nice and rhyme together, but don't actually mean or say anything of consequence, like talking to an idiot savant, although in this case more idiot than savant. It's unobtrusive make-out music more than anything else. --Jun Krus na Ligas (date unknown)

from a review of
Private Joyce: The Videoke Collection
How the hell do you review a bunch of videoke CDs? my mind reeled as I lurched home. Should I criticize the song selection? What about the quality of the background music itself? Should I judge the visuals by how well they fit the songs? (How?) Furthermore, since this series was obviously banking on Joyce Jimenez's sex appeal, should I dish out higher marks for hotness of concept? For sheer bare-assedness? And did you know, by the way, that if you run a Google search for the phrase "videoke review,” Google will inform you that "Your search did not match any documents"? Nothing. Nada. Zip. This is the World Wide Web we're talking about here, people -- a vast repository of useless information where the phrase "CD review" turns up well over 200,000 matches, and even such unlikely word combinations as, say, "fat supermodel" or "duck fucking" (yes, duck fucking) will yield in the vicinity of 200 results each.--Luis Katigbak, July 2003 issue

from a review of
Between the Stars and Waves

Frankly, I don’t know what to do with Between the Stars and Waves, because the truth is that it really is a very good album, and I immensely enjoyed a lot of it -- but also spent the same time wanting very much to hurl the CD out of the window and go out to punch the living daylights out of the band ... It’s ridiculous. On the album’s first single, “A Love to Share,” Rico Blanco out-Coldplays even Chris Martin, singing in an indefinable accent -- imagine a Pinoy singing like he thinks an Englishman might sing if he were trying to sound not-too-British. That annoying affectation pervades the entire album, unfortunately, and it’s what makes the album less a tribute than a pastiche.--Kristine Fonacier, December 2003 issue

* * * * * * * * *

Now, onto better things.

Lest people think that we're one of those people who disguise their lack of real talent with snarkiness (and there are many; like Luis said, "Why are so many smart people idiots?"), I'd like to post this excerpt from Luis' cover story on the Dawn, out this month. Very nice. I'm proud to have had our bylines share space in a magazine, my friend:

I can hear the song from the street, from two stories down and a set of doors away: Live and be, love will set us free... I seethe with impatience as the doorman checks me for weapons, hastily fork over the club's entrance fee, and then I'm inside, going upstairs two at a time, and the music fills my head and I ascend into a space of black-painted walls and colored lights and see the band onstage. The full force of a song almost twenty years old hits me -- and all of a sudden, I am half there, somewhere else.

I was twelve when I first watched The Dawn live in concert, at the tail end of the 80s. They weren't the headliners of the Ultra Storm, hard as that may be to believe now: that distinction belonged to currently obscure band The Rage, as a glance at an old ticket stub proves. But in my memory, The Dawn was the only reason we were there, my cousins and I--the reason why we pushed our way through the close-packed crowd to get as near the stage as possible, to shout and sing along at the top of our lungs. In my memory, songs like "Enveloped Ideas" and "Dreams" were all part of a story I was living out with people my age, friends and strangers alike: seemingly trivial yet unforgettable, a story of discovery and self-definition and mind-challenging music.

You find your music like you find anything you love for a lifetime: through head-spinningly intense first impressions, deepened by increments, by glances and tastes, flashes of bliss, the slow rush, the terrifying exhilaration of knowing and being known, and finally: hands and heart clasped in commitment, days and years sealed against decay. The beauty of a cascading guitar line, of a voice in flight singing words that mean something to you--these are permanent and ephemeral, as are everything that matters, and when you first fall for your music you almost never appreciate the paradox.

from "The Dawn: Everything that Matters",
by Luis Katigbak,
PULP, March 2005

I Like the Word "Smattering"

Hey, Paolo. Thanks for reading and commenting! I miss Dirt. I only ever had one copy of the damned thing, but that was enough to make me miss it. Anyway, interesting issue you raise -- I have a stack of PULP magazines next to my computer, so let's page through a random smattering of negative reviews, shall we?

from a review of
Still Not Getting Any

God, grow up. These are bottom-of-the-barrel emo lyrics ... Celine Dion is likewise a French-Canadian, and even that diva can write better shit ... An immature sophomore album just isn't fun for anyone. Poo on you, Simple Plan. ~ Bernie Sim / December 2004

from a review of
All Years Leaving

One reviewer likened The Stands to "The Beatles doing Radiohead," which is completely misleading inasmuch as it implies some inspiration or innovation ... Howie Payne is aptly named, as his vocals cause me actual physical pain, especially over the course of twelve songs ... The Stands is a band that shoots for earnestness and authenticity only to land in a limbo of unoriginality. ~ Luis Katigbak / November 2004

from a review of
Life On Display

Everything's so bluuuurrryy... mainly because I am sleepy. ~ Joey Dizon / March 2004

from a review of
Falling Uphill

It figures that the first sentence of the Lillix bio in their press kit has 17-year-old Louise Burns denying that they're "manufactured". Press kit rule of thumb: whatever issue they confront in the first sentence, whatever it is they're taking pains to deny from the get-go, is true. Not manufactured, my ass. ~ Kristine Fonacier, October 2004
. . .

There are better examples, but they're not in the stack next to my computer. The Rivermaya review Kristine mentioned, a Dirty Kitchen review that got us hate mail, my Joyce Jimenez review (okay, that was fish in a barrel, but still, it was fun) -- the fact is, PULP, if anything, gets flak for being too mean and snarky -- I mean, obviously it's not, but that reaction is understandable when you read the ass-kissing reviews that crop up elsewhere. ;p

And speaking of PULP, I hear my last issue is on the stands now. Haven't seen it yet, but The Dawn is on the cover, supposedly in a pose recreated from an issue of 80s magazine The Score. I wrote the main feature, as well as a short piece on Kiko Machine. And that's it for me and PULP, pretty much. Excelsior!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Random MTV Thoughts*

Luis, on Damien Rice's "The Blower's Daughter":
"Jesus. Lighten up, Damien Rice."

Kristine, on Jennifer Lopez's "Get Right":
"What is that? It sounds like a bagpipe in distress. And, oh, J.Lo? Paula Abdul called--she wants her dance moves back."

*in lieu of a real blog entry