para sa masa (or why the eraserheads, even if they are still together, can't possibly sing "toyang" over and over again)

"Pengeng singko pambili ng puto, sa mga tindera ng bitso-bitso, skyflakes, coke five hundred,pahingi ng kiss, pambayad mo sa jeepney kulang pa ng diyes... mahal ko si Toyang, pagka't siya ng simple lamang..."

I recently downloaded some of the songs from Ultraelectromagnetic Pop. I wasn't in their concert but my brother was and he said it was beyond great. It was, to borrow an adjective from Almost Famous, incendiary. I stopped listening to Ultraelectro until Circus came out in 1994. By then, "Toyang" and "Pare Ko" sounded so passe. It was all about "Ang Huling El Bimbo" and "Alapaap". The great thing about the Eraserheads was that they kept evolving, which was probably why in the end they lost most of their fans. I think the recent reunion concert was cruising purely on nostalgia. Which isn't really a bad thing but it's useless nevertheless. Then again, I would have probably thought different if I was there. Maybe it felt like the ultimate rock concert were everybody was singing together and good vibes were felt by everyone. Based from my brother's stories, I think it was that kind of a concert.

If I were to pick my ultimate favorite Eraserheads song, it would probably be "Spolarium" from Sticker Happy. I thought it was, please excuse me for being pretentious, deep. It was like listening to a man who was in the midst of a terrible existential crisis. It was as if he had looked deep into his soul and found nothing --- Again, please excuse me for that bloodcurdling cliche.

The themes in that album were abstract as opposed to earlier E-heads songs, which were all about pedestrian experiences. The band was no longer singing about falling in love with a sari-sari store attendant or being bored and broke. Instead they were singing about the bleakness of our existence and the various hang-ups that go along with it. I thought it was brilliant.

I remember reading an article way, way back about rappers losing their core fans once they get mainstream success. According to the writer, as rappers get richer and richer, they start rapping about girls, cars, and bling-blings and stop rapping about the very things that made them a success in the first place: experiences of living in tough neighborhoods, the violent life out in the streets, etc. I'm not sure if that was also the case with the Eraserheads but at least they didn't write songs about partying in Embassy or hobnobbing with Manila's elite. Perhaps, the real reason the fans left them is that they became too sophisticated. While the Eraserheads had time to read books, their fans grew up and went on living in the real world. After all, it's hard to think about the meaning of Life if you don't really have the luxury to quit your mind-numbing job in a factory or in a BPO company.

But there is another thing that I noticed in E-heads' later albums: Yes, they became competent musicians and yes, the lyrics exhibited maturity. However, something was lost as they, too, grew up. It was the joy that I once picked up while listening to their very first album. As I kept "Toyang" on repeat mode, I couldn't help but picture the four musicians recording the song take after take with smiles pasted on their faces. Ultraelectro seemed to have been created out of the sheer need to enjoy them selves. "Madalas man kaming walang pera, makita ko lang ang kislap ng kanyang mga mata, ako ay busog na," Ely sings on the album. It was that simple. You are young and in love. What more could you ask for? But of course, now that we are all grown ups, we already know that in almost every occasion we always ask for more.


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