Campfire Sessions (Live)
CULLED from two nights of performances before a campfire-lit audience in a beach, alt-rocking foursome Urbandub turned their fluid, gorgeously melodic hard tunes into acoustic numbers without losing the essential elements that made the band a household name. It’s an all-you-can-listen-to sonic buffet that retains the emotional tension and release of their louder original versions.
The volume may have been turned down, but classic Urbandub songs do not become lesser lights. The intensity and passion of the playing stands out, such that songs like A New Tattoo and Evidence sound like serious meditations displacing the multi-tracked studio construct with a raw humanity.
If it comes down to the essentials, Urbandub simply detuned their noisy compositions into the relative quiet of the singer-songwriter or acoustic folk rock tradition. That said, the catchy hooks, the fiery band interaction and the enveloping ambience remain evident in the campfire songs, especially in First of Summer, Give and The Fight Is Over.
Appropriately, this recording ends in a rousing sing-along involving a boisterous enthusiastic audience and a down-to-earth rock band uncharacteristically grateful to be playing under casual circumstances.
EAN AGUILA of Ang Bandang Shirley is the celebrated member of this band. Deep into the fourth track titled Reason to Die, in Stomachine’s eponymous debut, you’ll hear that Aguila and vocalist Patricia Dumo make an interesting pair who holds sway prominently over the course of the album.
That pleasing song, a seemingly simple ballad powered by alt-rock tropes, has a dark agenda that suggests nightmares, heart attacks and seizures, as well as turning bread into stone. With a few tweaks, it can be reimagined as a country ballad, or an epic gothic/power metal rocker. Dumo’s voice quality is just as ready to pop-rock as go symphonic metal.
In Your Sleep offers a similar pairing of the harmless and the terrible. It starts with the “pa-pa-ra-pa-pa” croon of an innocent tune, then blooms to a melodic song by someone who’s wide awake, scheming of killing a sleeping partner to put an end to the silence in the room. By the final quarter of the track, there comes an extended extro as if to defuse all murderous thoughts of the first 3 minutes to nothing but wishful thinking.
A feeling of mortal dread also turns up in the cool-sounding Your Turn courtesy of these creepy lines: “Act of giving flowers in funerals, corpses burn/ For lovers and valentines, waiting for your turn…” The nice rocking Security Guard earns dividends twice, as a funky original track delving into ‘80s new wave and as a remix by Nights of Rizal to conclude the album on an excellent note.
Stomachine’s songs aim for the heart and mind, and their accessibility to a wide audience will not be surprising. It’s just a shame radio these days is dead to music that’s cerebral and exciting at the same time.
(Stomachine’s album is available only on online music platforms.)
MARICAR RIESGO released a six-track EP in 2014, but dropped a promising career in OPM to return to a flourishing livelihood as a show-band star performer in Japan. She’s now ready to get back on track and resume an interrupted calling. By the look and sound of her first full album, Riesgo has the voice and creativity to go beyond being a mere clone of better-known OPM idols.
The cover of her debut release, however, sells a sexy image and discerning listeners should let it slide as a mere marketing gimmick. She makes her real mark aside from romantic love songs that are to be expected from a former grand champion of a Rachel Alejandro sing-alike competition.
A tearjerker titled “Lumuluha” may be the first single off the album, but Riesgo isn’t all about crying over spilled milk in relationships. The pop-rocking “Sugod” finds the voluptuous crossover diva calling out to the sisterhood to muster their courage and get over their imagined weaknesses. She puts forward a pro-environment folk-rocker in “Kalikasan,” encouraging everyone to help take good care of nature’s great and small at every opportunity. In “Pag-awit,” she showcases her vocal range to make point: singing is a better channel of attracting love than courtship.
Veteran composer and record producer Vehnee Saturno and the crack studio band should be credited for helping the proficient Riesgo release the well-rounded debut-cum-solid re-introduction she truly deserves.
Tokyo Baycrying Inside
NEW WAVE outsider Nick Lowe makes music that is at once melodic, old-fashioned and magnificent. Best remembered as the voice and composer of the classic Cool To Be Kind.
In the past decade, Lowe has been associated with the instrumental surf/twang US outfit Los Straitjacket who turn back the hands of time and their excellent chops to the rockabilly roots of rock and roll.
Last heard in the Sun Session-worthy remake of Children Go Where I Send Thee in 2013, Lowe is back with an EP composed of two pairs of originals and remakes. His cover of the Bee Gees’ Heartbreaker recalls why the Gibb brothers were once called the “Australian Beatles.” Tokyo Bay is powered by ‘50s rock and roll before Elvis got bloated with pop success, while Crying Inside moves to the beat of Lowe’s ‘80s power pop heyday.
The press says Lowe has just rediscovered his rockin’ side. False claim, that one. Wherever he goes is simply exorcising “devil’s music” that’s always been in him.
TODAY, pop-punk is no more than a gleam in the eye of its former teen royalty, Paramore vocalist Hayley Williams. Her band’s newest album, 2017’s After Laughter, is long on alternative rock rather than the watered-down punk of blink-182 and their ilk.
By heading full-tilt toward pop nirvana, Paramore, particularly lead singer Williams, uncovers strengths that should leave a more lasting impression on fickle pop music listeners.
Williams and band mates literally killed the “punk” on their new album, going instead for acoustic singer-songwriterly pop in Forgiveness, Top 40 pop by way of Cyndi Lauper in Idol Worship, jangle pop via Pool Audio, and straight-ahead, happy-go-lucky pop in Grudges.
With a failed marriage at the back of her mind, as chief songwriter, Williams would be forgiven if she opted to write sad songs or angry ones. That she chose to go back to the limelight on a happier disposition only says means that she and her company have moved past the grips of their pop-punk past.
(Paramore returns to Manila armed with their newest songs and best hits live on August 23 at the Mall of Asia Arena.)