It wasn’t even a decade since the release of Ultraelectromagneticjam, a mildly successful reworking of The Eraserheads’ classics bannered by the band’s former label Sony-BMG Music Philippines. To be fair, the record appears to be a sticky-sweet retrospective on the anthems that became an integral part of our adolescent life, trying to portray the Eheads’ image and music as a cultural event unlike anything the country had ever seen. Despite its clean intentions, there’s nothing really special about it or groundbreaking as we prefer the songs in its old form; but hearing Imago add psychedelic, lite-goth punch to “Spolarium” still makes for a hair-raising experience. And then there’s Orange and Lemons canoodling over perfect pop jangles in “Huwag Kang Matakot”—a version that is just as good as the original.
7 years after, Star Records gathered bands and musicians that ironically have peaked in the mid ‘00s (third-wave, golden age of Pinoy rock) to take part in yet another Eheads covers project that also doubles as a soundtrack to an upcoming Star Cinema teen flick starring Enchong Dee, Enrique Gil and other ABS-CBN talents. Aptly titled The Reunion: An Eraserheads Tribute Album, this redressed compilation feels like an instant cash-in that repeats the formula spun in Ultraelectromagneticjam, with the extremely popular songs getting a makeover by way of clammy-necked tapestry and predictability. It sure is a smart business move to keep up with sentimentalists’ longing for 90s music, but most of the reworked versions just don’t live up to our expectations.
The Good, The Decent, and the Bad
I don’t really see the need to put up another Eheads covers project as it might just achieve some degree of notoriety to its listeners. I mean, if you’re paying homage to a classic, make sure to recognize the glory of the original version by simply retaining its charm and pop hooks so as not to offend the artist’s sensibilities or add a gravitating touch to it and make it your own. Also, there’s no secret recipe to making a successful cover, but the attempt to flub and make a profit out of it makes for a lethal combination, and that’s not something to be proud of.
It’s not right to judge the record by the sum of its parts. So in the spirit of fairness, we’ll be reviewing it track-by-track to guide you on what to listen and not to.
1. Mayonnaise – “Ligaya”
It’s a so-so Battle-of-the-bands cover that retains the pulsating, pop-rock steer of the original. There’s no doubt that Monty Macalino and company have nothing but good intentions in trying to preserve the anthemic rush of “Ligaya” and they shouldn’t be faulted for that. However, they lacked the mojo and charismatic appeal of Eheads to get past the vibe of the song. C+
2. The Itchyworms – “Maling Akala”
Fun, fun version coupled with a power pop sing-along that plays upon the simplistic appeal of the song. The entertaining, upbeat spirit of the Eheads original is still very much intact, but here it’s infused with a jangly, summer-pop feel that leaves a smile in your face. B
3. Aiza Seguerra Feat. Mike Villegas – “With A Smile”
Stripped off its embellishments, what’s left is a lovely, acoustic guitar melody paired with Aiza Seguerra’s soft, disarming vocals that match the intimacy of the original note for note. It’s also an emotionally resonating performance that embraces the weary optimism of the Eheads ballad, without having to resort in cheap gimmickries and stuff. B
4. Calla Lily – “Minsan”
Bland. Safe. Boring. Three words you’d expect in a Calla Lily song. D
5. Hilera – “Kaliwete”
Whiny punk badassery? More of a novelty goof that’s lame in all levels. I’m a huge fan of Hilera, but this sped up, three-chord menace just gets the ball rolling downhill and it should be stopped or else…. C-
6. Johnoy Danao – “Pare Ko”
Johnoy gives new life to a college rock classic, toning down the vulgarities of the song for a bluesy, barkada joint that calls for a collective sing-along, minus the alcohol and the occasional swearing. B+
7. Ney and Yeng – “Kailan”
This sounds like a singing contest sing-off and one that’s done in bad taste. And what’s with the key changes? Last time I’ve checked, it’s not a live TV duel. C-
8. Vin Dancel – “Overdrive”
The problem with this version is that it took away the fun and cray factor of the song for a straight-up, alt rock bore. And coming from an inventive, talented musician like Vin Dancel, this is just disappointing. It’s an anorexic take, a bit uninspired too. C
9. Chicosci – “Magasin”
Surprisingly ok. Sans the post-hardcore vocals, you can actually hear and recognize the awesomeness of the original version in every stride. Chicosci proves that they don’t always have to be so damn serious to take a song to another level. Sometimes, sloppiness helps. B-
10. Tanya Markova – “Hey Jay”
Gone are the lo-fi pop fiestas that bitch and moan as if it was something else. It’s replaced by Tanya Markova’s chipmunk dragster that’s as fun and silly as it could get. It’s a catchy tune but it lacks the drawn-out, jammy feel of the original. C+
11. 6 Cycle Mind – “Alapaap”
Surprise, surprise. It’s not all that often that a cover song is delivered with such passion and sparkle that you can’t help but enjoy it. The newly improved 6 Cycle Mind recruits Eunice of Grace Note for a quirky, fun pop number that reminds us of a time when Kris Gorra-Dancel used to front The Eraserheads. This sounds like a lost Pixies’ Surfer Rosa track lapped with Philharmonic strings, something that glows like sunshine in a purple haze. B+
Kevin Roy fangs it with a bluesy, hard-rocking groove that roars out of anguish and sex. Gloc 9 spits cutthroat rhymes that hold its own. They have chemistry, but none of that tight brotherhood (as seen with Ely and Francis) that elevates this song to a Hall of Famer classic. B-
13. Jay Durias – “Ang Huling El Bimbo”
“Ang Huling El Bimbo” is “Mad World” and “Eleanor Rigby” rolled into one. It’s an epic, world-conquering rock classic that nobody should dare touch, unless you’re in it for a career suicide. Jay Durias was so brave enough to rearrange it into an ethereal R&B fodder that practically doesn’t sound bad at all. The magic dies down, the tragic and desperately premature ending now succumbs to a meaningless weeping. There’s something offhand in it that betrays the impact of the original version. C+
14. Marc Abaya – “Fine Time”
One of the underrated gems in Cutterpillow is given a sapped down treatment. Marc Abaya brings an extra ounce of drama to this underrated Eheads track and makes it his own. All concept, not much fun though. B-