The Spinners

Natin99 (Eraserheads, 1999)

In Alternative Rock, Indie Rock, Julius Maraya, OPM on December 7, 2010 at 4:08 am

While Circus and Cutterpillow enjoy the recognition of being called the definitive albums of the Eraserheads, Natin99 sits silently on the corner, humbly awaiting its turn. It’s almost a concept album, having an all-Filipino repertoire lavished in classic dirty and spacey audio trip. Pardon the unavoidable Beatle reference, but Natin99 is, quite simply, the Heads’ Abbey Road. The comparison comes from the capability of the band to produce a tight album despite the growing tensions and creative differences (which we all know led to their “graduation,” so to speak) among its members.

It is interesting to observe that unlike in their previous albums, Ely is not heard until the fifth track and carrier single, “Maselang Bahaghari.” The opener “Sinturong Pangkaligtasan” misleads and catches the listener off-guard. The band’s trademark straightforward rock is heard in “Dahan Dahan,” which ironically never slows down. Buddy follows with an ear-candy, “Kahit Ano,” as it carries a seemingly J-pop/animé reference in its refrain. ”Tama Ka” is yet another gem, both sung and written by Buddy. Aside from nostalgia à la “Minsan,” the song reinforces the premise of Natin99. The bittersweet truth: the Eraserheads are never just about Ely.

“May Sumasayaw” is Raimund’s attempt at mushiness, only with messy guitar riffs that aim to mask the melancholy feel of the lyrics. “Peace It Together” is the album’s positive take on welcoming the new millennium ahead.  How come radio stations back then never picked this up? “Salamin” can be regarded as a precursor to “Hula,” like poetry trying to be senseless, or senseless trying to be poetry. “Pop Machine” brings back the rock ‘n roll as Ely indulges in his simple yet catchy guitar work. Raimund continues the noise and mush with “Kilala,” while Marcus carries “Sino sa Atin” with his simplistic sitar-like scales, meshed with Raimund’s fondness for introspection.

The album wouldn’t be complete without a pop ditty, this time in the form of “Huwag Kang Matakot.” Ely just couldn’t contain his magic for words and all the lyrical and melodic rhymes weaved in the song. “South Superhighway” catches the unguarded listener once more as Marcus screams and scrams on and off the road. I can clearly imagine how the eccentric Head blasts his car radio with this song over and over again. Strangely, I can hear “Ang Huling El Bimbo” in Ely’s “68 Dr. Sixto Antonio Ave.” It possibly lies in the details that both songs exhibit, the specificity, the mood, the free-flow of words, the abrupt stops and haunting piano parts. On the other hand, “Game! Tama Na!” feels a little awkward because it creates a “just-a-filler” feel. But then again, there’s no such thing as a perfect album. You can listen to Natin 99 from start to finish and hear interesting bits of “interviews” courtesy of Marcus, leaving the impression of Punk Zappa going mad with a tape recorder and hitchhiking his way to Baguio. Underrated, yes, but everything, in time, will be in its right place.

– Julius Maraya


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