On Disbanding Rock Acts and the Pinoy Rock Implosion

In the past half-year or so, many a good rock act has disbanded due to various reasons. You have Narda, who broke up after the pressures of constant defections and lineup shake-ups, ending a promising run that climaxed with Discotillion, perhaps the band’s most well-received album. You also have Sheila and the Insects, wherein disenchantment within the band basically caused the hiatus or perhaps the end of the band that brought us the albums Tangible Rhymes, Plastic Eyes, Static Minds, Manipulator, and Flowerfish. Dicta License is gone too, after releasing just one studio LP. Orange and Lemons, as much as I dislike them, are gone as well, after just releasing what NU107 called its album of the year. You’d think that those bands all had bright or at least promising futures ahead of them, and it is depressing to think of what might have been.

Of course, one will also wonder why these bands never made it “big” (barring ONL of course). After all, the bands above are all critical darlings, and have nabbed a lot of praise from music critics. In a JUST AND FREE SOCIETY (I’m sorry no political bulsh*t allowed) fair world where success was judged by talent and skill, these bands would have a bigger share of the pie, one definitely bigger than some lesser bands out there (cough*6cyclemind*cough). Answer? I’ll take the words POGI, EMO, REVIVAL, and MASA for 500.

Everyone knows the pogi rock phenomenon by now, bands like Cueshe and Callalily get off on pretty boy looks and passable but hopelessly generic melodies to build up a fanbase of adolescent girls to but their albums, fill up their concerts, and spam the radio networks to vote for their latest single about lost love and other “sensitive, heartfelt” nonsense.

For the adolescent boys, we now have the EMO movement. Led by bands such as Typecast and Chicosci, the black parade is in full swing in the Philippines, with unkempt hair and black eyeliner being all the rage among the 14-21 demographic among males. Telling signs of the EMO movement are talking about feelings and looking contemplative and/or angry for no particular reason. Teardrop tattoo is optional.

Then we have the revivals. I’ve already ranted on MYMP’s reliance on covers for their mainstream success. Of course, they’re not the only ones that are “borrowing” material for their personal profit. Hey at least MYMP bothered to credit the artists that made the songs. As recent scandals of ONL’s Pinoy Ako, that Session Road song, and most likely a lot more bands that haven’t been caught yet, show that imitation is still best option for bands without the talent to pen a decent song.

Finally we have the masa, or bandwagon phenomenon. Not to be confused with the masa radio phenomenon (which also sucks), the bandwagon phenomenon involves the uneducated masses being needlessly enamored with the latest inane “music” that music execs want us to waste our money on. Recent examples are the Otso-otso stupid- as- hell- and- yet- I’ll- still- dance- and- sing- to- it jingle phenomenon, the Star<add noun here>- American- Idol- ripoff phenomenon, the I’m- on- TV- and- I- look- pretty- so- why- don’t- I- sing- with- my- completely- and- utterly- mediocre- voice- to- make- the- unwashed- masses- buy- my- completely- and- utterly- worthless- album- and- waste- more- of- their- money phenomenon (hi Sam Milby and Kim Chiu), the Bossanova (sadly, I’m not referring to the Pixies album) phenomenon, and the aforementioned EMO, revival and pogi phenomena. Also falling under this are the pop-“rock” cuts that inexplicably get excessive airtime and become hits, like Imago’s Taralets, Shamrock (ugh)’s Alipin, Cueshe(more ugh)’s Stay, and, whether you agree with me or not, Kamikazee’s Narda. These repetitive and most likely utterly bland “hits” steal valuable airtime and eartime from quality songs from artists that get blatantly ignored for that band with the “hot” lead singer. It’s sad really.

When the masses support these trends, what are music bigwigs to do but feed the masses’ demand for it. After all, music is a business, and demand is money. What this has brought about is the inability of the general populace to discern quality music from the formulaic drivel that is on most of the airwaves. When listeners regard the song that is constantly on the radio as an instant classic, that group on the latest songhits mag as the next big thing, or the band featured prominently on MYX as the “best evahhhhhh!!1”, the music scene has a definite problem. After all, all three of those spots are bought by managers or by major record labels that are cultivating their newest batch of pretty-boy/girl groups. In a media-hungry society, image is everything. With that image being sponsored by the pockets of money-hungry media execs rather than earned through artistic merit, it is no wonder that rock doesn’t sell anymore. The rock acts that do sell are the ones that have an established fanbase, like Rivermaya, Parokya ni Edgar, or Bamboo, or are carried by the momentum big-time hit single, like Urbandub (First of Summer- though the fanbase is building, but they wouldn’t be popular if it wasn’t for that song) or Callalily (Stars). Checking Odyssey’s charts, the alleged rock music is utterly commercialized, and everything else is generic (Jericho Rosales), inane (Gretchen Barreto), or outright stupid (Willie Revillame). What are lesser- name- but- better- game bands to do in a static music scene that encourages formula and blandness?

They quit.

Why so, you ask? Well the music scene is never going to help the little guy, and when a band that played the goddamned Power Rangers theme song gets picked over Sheila and the Insects in a battle of the bands contest, you know that musical integrity is basically in the gutter. Do you honestly think that real bands wouldn’t feel jaded by that sort of horse sh*t? People say that pinoy rock has experienced a resurgence in recent years. I say that there are more local rock bands because record labels think that’s the “in” thing right now and are signing “rock” acts that would be marketable to the various audiences that buy CDs (basically teenagers of both genders and the uneducated citizens that find Masa radio stations amusing). Just read the blog of Sheila and the Insects. I fully agree with their sentiments, and the blog is a sobering log of what will happen to many more good bands if the Philippine music scene isn’t cleaned up soon. We are heading towards the path wherein everything on the radio sounds the same and innovative ideas are shelved for “consumer appeal”. Oh wait, we’re already there. Which basically means we’re screwed.

Of course, some bands continue to fight the good fight. Indie label Terno Recordings has a roster of unique acts like Daydream Cycle and Up dharma Down, and have never accepted lesser bands. Radioactive Sago Project has always rebelled against the mainstream, always poking fun at whatever is wrong in this country. Indie bands like Bagetsafonik and Sugar Hiccup still peddle their unique type of music in the crowded and competitive music landscape. But it is definitely a losing fight. And sadly, it probably always will be.

Every person has a dream, a passion. People will spend a good chunk of their lives chasing the dream. After all, it is the dream that makes life worth living through, right? Without it, a monotony of everyday will basically render us disenchanted and inert, reducing us to animate shells, without a calling or a reason to go on. And thus, it is unfortunate for some people, whose dreams are to become true musicians, those who play for the music and the artistry, that the dream is basically out of reach, withheld from them by sellout bands, soulless execs, and media-trained masses.

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10 comments

  1. You made some good point there and I agree mostly.
    When a pinoy band is signed and gains popularity it seems almost impossible for them to break out of the philippines though. I live in the UK, and everything on the radio is either British or American, now and then there will be a european or Australian band but that is very rare.
    What I’m saying is this; when a pinoy band has conquered the Philippines, where can they go? they will either have to relocate to UK or USA and start again and join the masses of bands that are already here. I’m not surprised that many of them quit after a couple of albums.
    This doesn’t mean I think this is right as I love rock music, there seems to be more enthusiasm from the youth towards genuine rock music than over here.
    The Pinoy bands have to keep playing and playing and one day the rest of the world might look towards the Philippines as the new home of rock, its not a bad thought.

  2. Somewhat true, though Rivermaya (still with Rico) were able to release their singles abroad via AMP, that Channel V spotlight show wherein Asian talents are featured. There are other bands as well, and I saw Sandwich (5 on the Floor era) get an hour on Channel V as well. It’s not America or the UK, but they do try to spread their music outside the Philippines. They did this while also performing here. I do recall them getting featured in a newspaper for doing that abroad promotion. And bands do perform abroad, check out youtube for some samples. Bands can make a name overseas while also staying local, I think.

    I disagree with the idea that bands have to relocate after becoming “big”. Yeah the money is probably bigger overseas but then so is the money for a doctor or teacher or engineer there than here. That’s just the Philippine diaspora all over again. How can the youth be exposed to good music when all the bands leave or disband?

    But I digress. What I wrote this article for was to point out that bands who were good and couldn’t even make it big here. Bands with untapped potential just wasted due to the music scene being plagued by the points I mentioned. After all, it is the quality AND quantity of bands here that can usher in that “new home of rock”. When good bands leave, it will really hurt the rock scene here, and that is what will cause the implosion of Philippine rock if unabated.

  3. i was talking about radio play in general, I have never heard a pinoy band on the radio here and nobody I know could name a pinoy band at all, which is a shame of course.
    Music piracy has a lot to do with it. If a record label can’t make money from bands over there then they will not give them a big enough financial advance or continue promoting them in the same way. This is why I still think they would have to relocate to another country for lasting success otherwise they will burn out. It is far easier to get illegal copies of music in the Philippines than legal copies from what I’ve seen, and thats without the internet, hence no money for band or record company.
    Young musicians would be encouraged more if they saw pinoy bands making greater success overseas while obviously returning frequently for local gigs.
    Thats just my thoughts, you picked a good topic.

  4. It is true that record labels are a bit unforgiving (at least the major ones). However, I have a hard time believing that bands would get bigger reactions overseas. It’s a hard sell for execs overseas, after all, probably even more so than here. And don’t think there aren’t outlets for downloading OPM music, both legal and illegal. And yes, the day a Pinoy band makes it big worldwide, it will be a great day for Philippine music.

  5. Interesting article. For mainstream standards, I would say Bagetsafonik will never be as successful as you would imagine, but it was never been standards. A losing fight, we would say not. My 2 cents. Thanks.

  6. The losing fight isn’t just about CD sales or commercial endorsements, though. The point is, if you ask the so-called rockers in college, and they will still raise an eyebrow at the mention of names like Drip or the aforementioned Sugar Hiccup- never mind the masses. Most people still allow popular media to do the brainwashing, and everything else is cast aside, and I’m sure nobody wants that. The battle I’m referring to is for good music to actually get a fair shake against the endless cycle of Americ.. erhem, Pinoy idols, Pussycat Doll-copycats, celebrity cash-ins, and so forth. Hell, Gretchen Barretto was second in album sales according to Odyssey, and Willia Revillame wasn’t far behind.
    That battle is one that really does need to be won, for our ears’ sakes. Otherwise we’ll keep hearing inane Love Radio theme songs and butchered covers over and over on the airwaves. That is something I do want to stop before I have impressionable children who could actually like that bullshit. By the way, I like your band, Mr. Nada, if you are indeed who I assume you to be.

  7. maybe it’s not a losing fight but rather something not worth fighting for. if the masses want their music that way, so be it. i’ll worry about my music reaching the “proper” audience instead. hell, i wouldn’t want my music in odyssey’s top picks anytime.

    and yep, that’s THE bagetsamaster marcushiro nada you we’re replying to alright. 🙂

  8. Given, you’d want a discerning audience to be the ones who appreciate the music. But still, seeing bad music get all the limelight can not a pleasant experience, especially for artists. Also, I am ecstatic about that last point, I was beginning to think that the only people who were visiting were those looking for Cueshe’s third album, or so WordPress says. Those people sure got what they were looking for (sarcasm).

  9. the reason why the philippine masses are mediocre is because the powers that be thinks the filipino audience is too stupid to appreciate good art – whether it be music, film, etc. i should know as i have first hand experience (being in advertising). we are bombarded with stupid products because producers, directors, creatives, etc don’t know any better.

    it’s the spanish regime all over again. except this time the higher class filipino IS the one keeping the lower and middle classes from having an opinion on any matter.

    also i know many artists (bands) who keep themselves from creating music that are too “deep” in fear of being unappreciated. they boast of influences as diverse as coltrane to throbbing gristle but it doesn’t show in their writing because they think the public will not buy their cds.

  10. That first point is sad, and yet, since we see idiotic novelty songs, copy-paste revivals, etc., probably oh so true. Can the average Filipino appreciate good music? Probably only if the TV tells them to, or if somebody kidnapped Willie Revillame and put in a disguised Lourd de Veyra in his place.

    For something about the shallow musicians and listeners SATI blogged about it in reference to those blasted novelty songs. Here’s the link:

    http://sheilaandtheinsects.blogdrive.com/archive/228.html

    Also, for more on the mindless consumers:

    http://sheilaandtheinsects.blogdrive.com/archive/182.html


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