Friday, June 08, 2007

Taking a Look at Pinoy Rock

Growing up, I always had this notion that Filipino (aka Pinoy) music consisted mostly of pop music - so heavily saturated with unoriginal dance tunes set to cheesy love lyrics. I'm sure if you ask any Filipino who grew up in North America to name one Filipino music artist or band, almost every single person asked would mention Regine Velasquez. She is to the Philippines as Mariah Carey is to the States and Celine Dion is to Canada. So it's not surprising as to how I formed my somewhat misinformed idea of what Filipino music is all about.

But maybe I wasn't so misinformed. It seems that the Philippines has in the past decade experienced a resurgence of OPM (Original Pilipino Music) bands after having been dominated so long by American music. Not all of them are good. Some are quite bad, actually, and many are clones of each other just as many bands here in North America uncreatively sound like Nickelback. But there are some remarkable bands that deserve to be mentioned.

Originally, I planned on doing a chart of what, in my opinion, are the best Filipino bands out there but that would just be just as difficult as ranking Canadian indie bands. I know far less about the former and am still just beginning to scratch its surface. So what I'll do instead is review bands/albums as I go.

Here's review numero uno:

Twilight (2006)
EMI Philippines

The sophomore album of this Manila-based quartet (Champ Lui Pio, vocals & guitar; Roll Martinez, vocals & guitar; Sheldon Gellada, bass; and Omnie Saroca, drums) is a vast improvement over their self-titled debut from 2004. While they are still injecting an overdose of romantic love themes into their lyrics (Hale, after all, has been classified in the pop-rock genre known as pogi-rock). the music itself has become more innovative.

Champ is quite the lyricist, however, and it's a shame that he doesn't venture outside of his usual self-proclaimed "melodrama" and write about other topics. Really, how many times can someone sing about unrequited love? It gets old by song #4. But even with all that melodrama, his vocals do a great job of revealing genuine emotion instead of coming off as something you'd want to respond to with an eyeroll - that is, until the instrumentals are mundane enough to pull the song towards unforgettable territory. "Empty Heart, Empty Tears" is an excellent example of this.

As catchy as "Waltz" is, Champ seems to have lost his lyrical talents when he comes up with the lines "And now I am outraged/As if we were engaged". What's worse than too much rhyme is rhyming without having it make much sense.

Hale does have loads of potential as can be heard with "Hide and Seek". Champ is able to show off his vocal range and the instrumentals are interesting to listen to. There's a part in the bridge where it sounds like someone is repeatedly firing a gun. Meanwhile, "Starting Over" shows a great shift in energy as it starts off quite mellow and speeds up with its uplifting chorus. Later, the chorus itself provides the background to vocals that almost seem to bounce.

Time will tell if Hale will grow away from its high school phase and create the kind of great music they clearly have the ability to make.

Hale - Last Song
Hale - Hide and Seek
Hale - Hide and Seek (video)

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