Once upon a time, there were two Hungry Young Poets. To (presumably) put food on the table, the duo of Barbie, and Ricci released a self-titled album. Drowning in Fire Women and Personal Flirts, Barbie’s and Ricci’s works were infused in artistic melancholy, from the pressures of being Torpe to Running Away. Finding a receptive audience to their art, they soon found another poet in Franklin, and the Hungry Young Poets were complete.
However, as time passed by Ricci sought new horizons, and found solace in his Little Green Men. And while Franklin and Barbie Cradled poets old and new alike in writing more songs, poet Ricci found kindred spirits in artists like Kitchie, Rann, and Jun Jun, and promptly celebrated the Birth Day of MOJOFLY. Spurred on by a unique vocalist and the same gripping songwriting, the band had their share of success as well, even as group members came and went through the course of A Million Stories, culminating in a new singer in Lougee and a new identity as Ricci gave Lougee free rein to write songs, which would produce a different sound and a new identity for the band, as this would present itself to be Close to the End for Ricci in MOJOFLY.
Now, without any of its founders in Ricci, or Kitchie, or Rann, or Jun Jun, MOJOFLY trudges on as DeLara. How does their new self-titled debut measure up?
Cheesy introduction aside, the previous three paragraphs do serve a point aside from padding up a puny word count. From Ricci Gurangos’s departure from the Hungry Young Poets (whose remaining members would form Barbie’s Cradle), to the formation of the Kitchie-Nadal-fronted MOJOFLY, to today’s Lougee-led ensemble, the band has a back story that could be considered as colorful as any other local band. With all of the history, there are also some very notable albums, with music that could be considered quite influential, especially to many female-fronted acts in the Philippines. Thusly, DeLara receiving comparison to the bands of its past is almost inevitable, and being a fan of those bands, I certainly won’t be shying away from making them either. All of this being said, DeLara’s self-titled release marks a rebirth for the band, with a type of sound that will certainly distinguish itself from the past, and perhaps signal a promising future ahead.
From the album opener Smile, the band quickly recalls with the more grassroots approach that was used in Now, rather than the pop-alternative sound that was utilized in A Million Stories and Birthday. While A Million Stories and Birthday were both pop records themselves, they carried musical and lyrical sensibilities that were more complex than your more stereotypical pop album. Now, though not necessarily dumbed-down, was more simple and direct in those senses, respectively, with cuts like Mata and and Tumatakbo. Compare those tracks to earlier cuts like Peak or Pop Fiction Strange, with their grungier guitars and metaphorical lyrics, and you can see the difference.
However, Now’s sound is quickly done away with as well, as DeLara quickly shifts to a more pop-rock tone in the record, mostly unheard from this band since A Million Stories, back when it was still Kitchie belting out the lyrics, and even then it was in limited doses. The album features almost no ballads, and instead includes many songs in the vein of current single Gumising, rock with pop elements. Save for the cuts Smile and Wari, the album is dominated by faster deliveries and melodies, with almost punk-like sensibilities, certainly a departure from the less-abrasive tone of previous albums. This can easily be attributed to the new lineup, with Lougee most likely having a hand at reshaping the band’s sound. It’s certainly fitting that the band has renamed itself, as I would be skeptical myself if this were to be considered a MOJOFLY record.
It is also notable to hear the growth of Ms. Basabas in this record, as she moves from the balladeering of Now into the more sultry, confident delivery of DeLara. Where the fragile songbird once was now stands a louder, more mature songstress. Her transformation is not dissimilar to the one Katwo of Narda underwent in between Formika and Discotiillion, though perhaps not as extreme. Another fitting allegory would be Sampaguita, though Lougee doesn’t quite match the legend’s swagger.
The album is flawed, though. Some of the songs are a bit interchangeable, and with only nine to show, that is not a good thing. Ultimately, the the album provides nothing new, though it does show flashes of brilliance in its new rock-based direction. But the band isn’t quite there yet. Considering all of the shakeup the band has endured, what it needs is some time to regrow. As it stands, the band is still raw, and it would do them some good to grow together musically. Consider this album as a sign of better things to come from a band that has just begun to scratch the surface, rather than as a MOJOFLY record. Given time, the band might just be able to put any MOJOFLY comparisons to rest.
That time hasn’t come just yet, though.