The Spinners

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The Oh! in OPM: Hang the DJ Vol. 3

In Intro on December 15, 2010 at 5:57 am

OPM was a sham in many ways. Coined back in the 70s to signify a breaking free from the tethers of Western pop, it didn’t exactly help to evolve all our musical ethnicities into a pop consciousness, like it did, say, in Cuba or Jamaica, but marginalized them even further while remaining, to this day, in a sort of thrall to the methods and structures of Western pop, be it the hysterical diva caterwauls of Regine Velasquez and Sarah Geronimo, or the faux-British accents of Orange and Lemons and The Pin-up Girls.

But all pop’s a sham anyway. And more than that, it’s our sham. Pop’s also a cannibal. And it’s not so much in form as it is in content, from the colloquial banter to the social realism, that makes OPM Ostensibly Pilipino Music. It veers from the derivative (XLR8, Mocha) and the unimaginative (Martin Nievera, Jed Madela) to the flatulent (Christian Bautista, Rocksteddy) and to the downright heinous (6Cyclemind, Lito Camo). But in the mesh and grind of all those years of constant transposing of local color and borrowed genre, it blossomed and mutated into its own unique make and model, a species of pop similar yet distinct from others, sometimes wondrous, often beautiful, and in many ways, terribly exciting.

Welcome to the third issue, then. Where us so-called Spinners, old and new, gather anew, picking apart Sugar Hiccup’s “Five Years” at some point, but for the most part acting like savage detectives or hunter-gatherers, foraging and sifting through the domestic pop of our lives, for the songs that make us dance and swoon and cry and gasp, the songs that emit that rare joy and wonder, the songs that put the Oh! in OPM.

– The Master Spinner Ex-O

This issue is dedicated to the Happier Years, 2004-2010.

– The Master Spinner

(Let’s welcome our new Spinners: Ayer Arguelles, Christian Cruz, Eula Gonzales, Gian Mayuga, and Tyler Draper.

Lime figures: 15 album reviews, 25 track reviews, 5 new contributors)


The Spinners Spotlight: ♪ Five Years (Sugar Hiccup, 1995) ♪

In Alternative Rock, OPM, The Spinners Spotlight on December 15, 2010 at 5:49 am

Download “Five Years”

To think that this was released as a single in 1995, eventually winning the Best Alternative Song in the KATHA and Awit Awards the following year, means the strings back then were a lot more loose and a lot less wimpish. ‘Cause really, when was the last time you heard a three-minute song on the radio full of humming?

Our Spinners were there to witness the unlikely shakeup. Let’s read their journals:

Hypnotic and chilling, “Five Years” never fails to scare me. The most imaginative song I’ve ever heard. – Andrea Nicola (4)

The only problem Sugar Hiccup have with this song is that it’s so good any other song they wrote and will write after this will not be as memorable. – Antoinette Jadaone (4)

To say that, to this day, there is no song as powerful as Sugar Hiccup’s “Five Years,” or that there is no one whose vocal prowess could come close to that of Melody del Mundo’s, is perhaps not an exaggeration. – Ayer Arguelles (5)

. . . a haunting hum of a melody that builds into a primal scream of raw emotion. Sometimes a song is not just a song—it’s a revelation. – Ayn Marie Dimaya (5)

I don’t know what to make out of this three-minute record that consists of a never-ending girl moan and a sudden hair-raising shriek. I will probably listen to this song and pretend to enjoy it only if there is a gun pointed at my head. Otherwise, it is a deadly task. – Christian Cruz (2)

Words fail all the bad-poetry-day Goth-damaged bands that elude me and sometimes piss me off but Sugar Hiccup win me over out of how they’re totally and utterly sonic and how Melody De Mundo’s caterwauling shrieks are somehow both meaningless artifice and poetic gesture without being totally either. Dodo Dayao (4)

It gives an impression of a seemingly delusional romance that is hauntingly—and unfortunately—short-lived. – Eula Gonzales (3.5)

“Five Years” encompasses feelings for the listener that can be shouted and signified in singular words: Banshee, Longing, Destroy, Wail, Despair, Climax, Death, Epic. – Gian Mayuga (5)

The longest atmospheric song with only six words as lyrics. How epic can a humming voice be? – Julius Maraya (4)

A haunting song befitting of massive introspection especially during the first two minutes. I think the likes of Bjork and Annie Lennox would appreciate this. – Juno Barbra Streisand (4)

Kids who probably first heard this song when it hit the airwaves in the mid-90s are probably aware that the vocalist here is going for a solid minute and a half just humming, until the song slowly reaches its crescendo, somewhere around the two-minute mark when she says (perhaps the only intelligible words here): “But he will never be back.” Insert commencement of intense wailing here, loss and anger weaved into the fluctuating notes until the end. It definitely tops my “Don’t Listen to This When Alone” playlist. – Kate Pedroso (5)

It reminds me of a cry of desperation and death. Perfect. – KZ Otarra (5)

After all these years, it still amazes me how a song with a single line can encapsulate how dragging five years could be and how the wait disappoints at the end. “He will never be there.” This is how futility sounds like. Beautiful but awfully futile. – Megan Diño (4)

. . . gut-wrenching sculpture of strawberry sadness. – Oliver Ortega (5)

Melody del Mundo is like a shaman wailing to the gods of rhythm, concord, and syncopation. Her siren call traps listeners in a fugue state, unable to shake the ethereal harmonies that bubble up, making “Five Years” not so much a funerary dirge but a mellifluous hymn to the beauty and power of the human voice. – Rex Baylon (5)

. . . crosses that line between dream and nightmare, and gives you both. – Richard Bolisay (4)

No lyrics needed. I can stand five more years listening to this song. Haunting. – RM Topacio-Aplaon (5)

“Five Years” echoes a haunted dream. Like a low buzz that starts rolling, it escalates to an otherworldly screech, an explosion that is the only thing you remember when you wake up. It’s a fine example why the 90s band explosion is one of the greatest eras in Pinoy music. “Five Years” reminds me of a long-gone era that continues to live on in nostalgia. – Romina Mislang (4)

A humming that escalates to screaming against starry guitars, “Five Years” is the emotional breakdown we hide from our lovers. It’s as if Melody del Mundo’s voice is slowly being pulled and stretched like a rubber band, to the point of shooting or breaking, across time, across the wait. Wong Kar Wai’s films often ponder over how time and distance pull lovers apart. This is how they sound like. – Thor Balanon (4)

“Five Years” is basically a two-minute crescendo followed by vocal chords being played like a violin, which isn’t entirely a bad thing. The song is hypnotic and proves that its musicians are capable and creative. Sadly, despite the obvious talent showcased in the song, “Five Years” fails to really captivate me. For me, Sugar Hiccup (at least in this song) are like a skilled fisherman who, in a moment of absentmindedness, forgot to put a hook on the line. – Tyler Draper (3)

Average rating:

The Master Spinner Raps ♪ Miss Pakipot (Urban Flow, 1996) ♪

In Hiphop, OPM, The Master Spinner Spins, Track Reviews on December 15, 2010 at 5:47 am

Download “Miss Pakipot”

A handful of OPM songs—“Naonseng Delight,” “Never Meant to be this Way,” “Boy,” “Lumayo Ka Man Sa Akin,” “Kapag Tumibok ang Puso,” “Bakit Nga Ba Mahal Kita,” “Tameme” to name a few—were a little ahead of their time when they first came out, but somehow their status as classics was never confirmed. Not that such showbiz shtick is the most important reform to do in local music, but the lack of any institution to proclaim such things, reputable or not, is just a bit disheartening. We have to rely on memory—or on friends’ memories, or quite recently, on #sentisabado tweets—for we have no Lester Bangs, no Robert Christgau, no existing books and magazines to tell us what happened back then. The very few writers we have are not enough, and those very few tend to lose that childish feeling—that delight of innocence—to put into words such experiences.

“Miss Pakipot” belongs to that sorry handful. My memory of it is that, every time I heard it on the radio (and this was in the mid-90s, when every second of our lives depended on radio), I would always swing my hand like a rapper and relish the opening verses: Aaah-aahh, ooohh / CTG kita Miss Miss Pakipot / CTG kita Miss Miss Suplada / CTG kita Miss Miss Maganda / Sa palagay ko mahal na nga kita aaah / Ooooh. Hip-hop, as always, is the genre that gets both the privilege of being looking down on and reaping the most sales. It is where the popular and the critical never fail to meet. The masses don’t get tired of it. In a way, hip-hop is no longer a genre because it encompasses everything. Our cassette player and mini component, both rested in peace, were a testament to that, so as my childhood spoiled by gangsta loving, courtesy of my brother (who once had this sort of group whose idea of enjoyment was throwing pillbox and vandalism).

There are just a limited number of hooks that you can fit into a song to make it work, but with “Miss Pakipot,” you’ll be surprised that the entire song itself is actually this one big hook. The melody goes on and on, the transition an invisible thread that holds the stanzas together, until it reaches the refrain and seals everything. After the intro, the song continues with three more verses before it hits the refrain, all with a similar beat, four lines every stanza, the rhyming scheme AB/AB very much observed. “Miss miss” is repeated for emphasis and tease. Effortless, to say the least, but there’s also that fun in rapping along, how tasty the words are, and how smooth they feel in the tongue. It’s far from forced. Even the Taglish does not get in the way. Take that verse: Okey lang sa akin kung iyong sasabihin / Na ako ay mayabang o mahangin / But I know may chance pa ako / Na makamit ko ang matamis mong “oo” / Ooooh. Notice how clever that hook “oooh” is placed conveniently after “oo”? And how the figure of speech “matamis mong oo” is such a lovely phrase to hear, albeit rarely used now?

It only gets better after the first refrain. Here is the story of a man professing his love to a hard-to-get woman, and he’s talking to her directly, like a confession, a toss between tongue-in-cheek and deadly serious, and there’s a hint of desperation in his voice, disguised in weak-kneed poetry. He tells: What’s the use of beauty kung ikaw ay ganyan / Pati ang puso ko ay nahihirapan / Halos araw-araw kitang inaabangan / Sinusulyapan at napanaginipan. It sounds creepy—stalker much?—but it gets away with it because of the lines that follow: Hindi ka na maaalis sa aking isipan / Para kang si Eba at ako si Adan. And there, the singer starts to compare himself and his muse with the first man and woman, with these two biblical characters, with the origin of sin. How’s that for ego.

In a streak of genius, when you thought it couldn’t get any better, the singer drops the words that every one relates to, the similes that reek of cheese, the sentiment that makes the ending very much deserved: Ang pag-ibig ko sa ‘yo ‘sing bango ng Polo / ‘Sing tamis ng Milo, ‘sing sarap ng Nido / I want you to know ang pag-ibig ko sa ‘yo / Ang pag-ibig ko sa ‘yo sagad hanggang buto / Ooooh. He gets the woman in the end, of course, and I think part of the popularity of the song owes to that, how it builds to that, how it doesn’t feel contrived at all. Although conservatists would cringe at the idea of one-year courtship (And one year fades sa paghihintay / I got her “oo” at malupit n’yang kamay), it only makes it sweeter every listen. A fairytale gangsta romance, ending in happily ever after, sweet and smooth sailing, now isn’t that familiar?

Part of the charm of “Miss Pakipot” is how friendly it is, from the affectionate lyrics to the laid-back rhythm, how it drives home the point just by being honest, and how the three guys from Urban Flow stick to the basics of plain and simple rap, armed with the right kind of chill. It’s rare to come across a rap that you can easily commit to memory. It shatters the excuse that rap needs to be difficult to be unique, something which, with all due respect to Gloc-9, I disagree with. I admire Gloc-9’s music, especially how his songs are politically and socially motivated, but my reservations stem from the fact that I can’t sing them, that I can’t participate, that I can’t annoy my sister with endless CTG kita’s.

Pinoy hiphop, like American hiphop, peaked in the 90s. Francis M was still around. Mastaplann. Death Threat. Pamilia Dimagiba. Andrew E. Kulay. 100,000 Pesos Worth of Karma. Wholesome. The Way of the Plann. Happy Battle. Wanted. Test da Flow. Looking back, all seems well and swell that time. Now it’s so hard to breathe.

– The Master Spinner

♪ Nakapagtataka (Hajji Alejandro, 1979, Rachel Alejandro, 1991) ♪

In Dodo Dayao, OPM, Pop, Richard Bolisay, Track Reviews on December 15, 2010 at 5:20 am

Gladys Knight will tell you, being trapped in a loveless relationship is a bitch. Hajii Alejandro takes the old romantic trope and pulls back. The doo doo chorus girls egg him on to break down, but he holds everything in. No one has mastered the trick of making a love song emote, but Hajii does it here. Briefly. Then loses it forever. The saddest OPM ballad. Ever.

– Dodo Dayao

Rachel’s take on her dad’s signature song is every bit sappy, every bit pressed, and every bit enunciated, but that’s what time does. If nothing happens in the years between then it becomes pointless. It’s longer by a minute—a six-freaking-minute pop single—but Rachel lets it linger because she has all the time in the world to wallow. Which means she has opportunities to do vocal calisthenics, to up the ante, to fail. She’s in amazing control of her voice, quivering at times, but solid from start to finish. Hajji has some girls working for him in the chorus whereas Rachel runs the powerhouse by herself, belting tenderly, letting her own personality seep through with bursts of Wala na! Wala na ‘kong maramdaman, nailing it, crushing it. She’s truly in for the kill. Two lovers’ point of view, a man and a woman, father and daughter, Frank and Nancy, one song, two greatest hits.

– Richard Bolisay

♪ Never Meant To Be This Way (Betrayed, 1986)

In Dodo Dayao, OPM, Punk, Richard Bolisay, Track Reviews on December 15, 2010 at 5:06 am

Pinoy punk, nutshelled. Others followed, but this is still king in many ways. Piss, vinegar, frustration, fury, three chords, alchemy, hard-on.

– Dodo Dayao

Calling this classic doesn’t mean anything because it only conjures boredom and seriousness while in fact it’s the exact opposite. Both importance and excellence stand, rebelliously sentimental from root to tip, tugging the rope at both ends and wringing the piss of Pinoy punk, unmatched and driven like no other song in our music history.

– Richard Bolisay

♪ Torete (Moonstar 88, 2001) ♪

In Alternative Rock, OPM, Richard Bolisay, Track Reviews on December 15, 2010 at 5:02 am

The slice of life Acel Bisa is singing—or is it the pie of love that you and me and everyone we know take turns eating?—blights as much as it inspires; inspires because there is hopefulness in the unconditional, inspires because there really is no end to unrequitedness but unrequitedness, and inspires because “Torete” captures that novelty of love that never happened, love that almost happened, and love that could never happen (again), folded in one sweet and aching ballad that crying videokes are too keen on having, and foolish hearts are too keen on singing, hearts that are avid for hurt, happiness, and letting go; but not always in that order.

*included in the upcoming “A Decade in POP: OPM in 50 Songs”

– Richard Bolisay

♪ Tambay (Siakol) ♪

In Alternative Rock, OPM, RM Topacio-Aplaon, Track Reviews on December 15, 2010 at 5:01 am

‘Twas the reign of the G-chord songs. The time when our hardcore Metallica-fan kuyas and titos bullied us for listening to mediocre bands like Siakol.  Those days when we were called “juveniles jeopardizing the music scene,” or worse, “little music criminals.” Those mundane days of better-listen-to-hip-hop-than-to-this-band-or-else may be over, but the memories of secretly listening to them are still fresh.

Armed with cassettes and soon-to-be-comatose karaoke, my friends and I had the greatest weapon of our childhood arsenal. Although skipping some songs to get to our favorite song was a ball game of fast-forward and rewind, it was fine. We learned substitution and team plays. We wanted to hear “Tambay” first. We never took no as an answer.

We never had any idea of sorting out songs then. As long as they sounded a bit like Eraserheads or Rivermaya, they were music for us. The anthem of boredom and joblessness was the soundtrack to the long-lost simplicity of Saturdays and Sundays. We listened to what was on cassette and radio. We never cared if they were pop or mediocre or baduy. We played our guitars, as long as the song was on G-chord. We call it happiness. A two-day escape from a tiring school week.

They say that Siakol are the Cueshe of the 90’s. But Noel Palomo, to be fair, composed better songs. Let’s give that to him. From love songs to tunes of psychedelia, from descriptions of Tondo to longing and lovesickness, he embraced the times with a light and honest heart.

– RM Topacio-Aplaon

♪ The Day You Said Goodnight (Hale, 2005) ♪

In Alternative Rock, OPM, Richard Bolisay, Track Reviews on December 15, 2010 at 4:40 am

Hale almost had it. A decent lineup of musicians, a good-looking frontman, a catchy tune as debut single, mutiltudes of fans on Yahoo groups, platinum sales, TV appearances, gigs . . . what could possibly go wrong? For one, they did not grow up. The band got stuck in its flowery songwriting and Champ lost his charm, which, to be honest, was Hale’s bread and butter. (The worst came eventually—an all-Filipino concept album in 2009.) Their timing was also perfect: 2005, a year of uncertainties, a year of discoveries, a year of dipping toes into the water and having the courage to change its flow. Indeed, Hale were a breath of fresh air. They seized the opportunity. They had promise. I was not alone in the reverie of wanting them to move into Coldplay territory despite the fact that they weren’t and, unfortunately, couldn’t. Some would say that Hale defined OPM alternative in the noughties, and “The Day You Said Goodnight” was the flag they raised to prove it, and they could be right. But it’s hard to pinpoint what made the song incredibly popular, considering the inanity of its opening words: Take me as you are. It may be the description of admiration—okay, the poetry—and the newfangled intimacy building up towards the bridge: a heatbreaking twist of fate to sentimental listeners; a forced punch-drunk ending to the kindly ones. Up to now, I still wince at Champ’s delivery of And I do reside in your la-heeet, singing the refrain with his eyes closed, tightly, sincerely, regretfully. Hale’s first album is pleasant enough to deserve repeats—in fact, I still listen to it—and “The Day You Said Goodnight” is not even a standout, lacking the juvenile fun of “Kahit Pa” and the levity of “Tollgate,” yet I concede to the fact that it has an unmistakable spell of courtship. It is a nice keepsake of the era, which probably explains why the song title (and the band itself) will always be written, sadly, in the past tense.

*included in the upcoming “A Decade in POP: OPM in 50 Songs”

– Richard Bolisay

♪ Sana Dalawa Ang Puso Ko (Bodjie’s Law of Gravity, 1994) ♪

In Dodo Dayao, OPM, Pop, Track Reviews on December 15, 2010 at 12:22 am

A fat man torn between two lovers. Not a joke song, no. A love song, actually, a soul song, a bigamy song, obviously. And the most supple soul song about bigamy since Billy Paul fooled around with Mrs. Jones. If any of this is remotely autobiographical, then Bodjie Pascua is the Ron Jeremy of lovestruck nerds everywhere.

– Dodo Dayao

♪ Kwentong Looban (Binky Lampano, 1992) ♪

In Dodo Dayao, OPM, Rock, Track Reviews on December 15, 2010 at 12:19 am

That werewolf snarl, right before it shape-shifted permanently into a blues hellhound’s growl—that’s Lampano shedding the last of his rock singer foreskin. These are dispatches from life in the half-light of the not-quite-there, but it ends on a glimmer of optimism. Inner city blues. With much guitar, looking heavenward. 

– Dodo Dayao