Saturday, April 12, 2008


Art by John John Jesse
It’s a fact that every journalist or editor worth his salt will tell you: this town is full of shady publishing deals. Like magazines and books. Especially magazines. Making one of those things on the rack with the glossy pages and the perfect binding is way harder than making a monster.

I mean, Dr. Viktor Frankenstein only needed lightning, magazines require millions of pesos, an iron will and the ability to work around or withstand stupidity you can’t believe is possible in a race that invented the airplane and the condom. In the face of that, well, lightning is peanuts.

To make a monster: sew body parts, go mad in the process, add lightning. Voila! To make a magazine: get funding, assemble mag, go mad. No voila. Just errors. This system is non-operational.

I’ve lost count of the meetings, brainstormings and power lunches I’ve attended over the years for magazines that supposedly had solid funding, a great concept that balanced the commercial with the artistic and publishers willing to take risks. I’ve lost count of how many of them have never seen the light of the printing press.

Recently, my band mate told me the term in the TV industry that’s the equivalent of this vanishing act: cancelled. Cue Krusty the Clown clutching his curly Jewish hairdo and stomping his tiny boots, “Cancelled! What do you mean cancelled?! I already bought five dozen pies” Yeah, cancelled. Succinct. To the point. Perfect as a pie in the face.

I say this because yet another publication in the works led me to believe that their dealings were honest and transparent, and that they sincerely wanted to make a different kind of glossy. Of course, I was wrong. After a month of meetings, they asked me to come in regularly (timed bundy clock hours, mind) without having seen a shadow of a contract or a peek at a terms of employment. Regular editorial management without a contract? Promises of a fat check at the end of the month without having signed a thing? No effing way.

While you can chalk it up to experience and say that it goes with the territory it still feels like falling for the wrong women. Somehow you can’t shake the feeling that, by this time, your instincts should be more sophisticated, professionalism in those you deal with equal to yours, and the notion of employees assessing the employer just as stringently as it is in the vice versa being a given.

You take pride in your ability to sniff out bullshit. You tell yourself that your sixth sense acts like a polygraph for detecting charming but hollow pitches, classic signs of deadendom by the second issue, increasing compromises to vision, field insurance and trust that finally lead to a reduction in the promised salary. You say to yourself: this will not happen again. Shame on me if they fool me again with their grifter methods, con men tricks and shylock fast talk. Like falling for the wrong women ad nauseam, I tell you.

In retrospect I should have been tipped off by the fact that my prospective boss didn’t say a word when I asked him which articles he wanted to write for the first issue. Guy, just because somebody gives you the position of editor doesn’t mean you ARE one. For one thing, it assumes you can write. And not just your own name either. But hindsight is always 20/20, so perhaps my glasses need a higher grade.

I don’t even blame the magazine people for trying to pull a fast one -- though they can shove their ideas right where the empty husk of their heads are – because it’s just in their nature to do so. Just because the world is not fair. Just because the Ari Golds of this world outnumber creatives.

What I feel most upset over is that I feel I should have detected this sooner. That it never should have gotten to the point that I felt complacent enough to hang everything on it and not have an immediate escape plan, a point of egress, a fall back option.

If I didn’t love these creatures of glossy tree bark, jumbled alphabet and pictures I would say no to any kind of magazine deal and go into pure porn. But I continually put myself out there because I love starting something from scratch and being version one point oh of something. The chance to make something “new” (or at least relatively fresh) is something I will not pass up, two-faced publishing people notwithstanding.

It’s like getting a try at Goliath. Bringing down the giant is the reward itself. Yet, the void lies in wait like a coiled predator on each and every writer’s, journalist’s and editor’s paper trail and the trick is to never break eye contact as you scribble away against its entropic force.

What’s the moral lesson? Once in a while, like the inevitably of a driver crashing his car, the good guys will fall in (and the hardy will come out with stories and scars) but there is a special hell reserved for the magazine trickster who promises ghostly contracts. A very special hell.

For young journalists dreaming of being the next Hunter S. Thompson and making the local equivalent of Rolling Stone, remember that HST blew his head off. You’ve been warned.

P.S. This essay ends the official Philippine Chronicle run of TYBS. This site is now a horror writer's blog.

~ 30


Photo by Max Yavno, “Unemployed”
The end of July (2007) marked the termination of my contract with the company I’d been running for the last seven months. For reasons I still can’t go into, the editorial arm of said company closed down.

Well, it was a good run. Still, when I signed the “Quit Claim” document there was a palpable weight lifted from my shoulders. Something I always feel when I cut ties with a full time job, something which I don’t sign up much for, having preferred the freelance trade for a good long while – I detest being tied down to a single corporate entity (without the pay off of prestige or enough monetary counterbalance), am very easily bored, plus I have a reflex loathing for authority.

So now, for the whole month, I am officially unemployed. In reprieve until the new full-timer kicks in by September.

This is old territory. The mental space of it is so familiar that the dull ache between my shoulder blades signals my body pulling out the red carpet to welcome back this state like an old-friend long unseen. I feel comfortable down to my bones; even after the rain-induced throat infection that had me on antibiotics for five days.

Throughout the years I’ve probably worked on hundreds of projects but have only signed up for five full-time jobs in all. It’s odd. I have to explain myself to potential full-time employers every time but the urge to move, especially if the three aforementioned pet peeves come to a header, becomes well nigh overpowering.

Having been raised in a family with Marxist-Leninist-Maoist leanings, I also had a natural distrust for doing work under corporations and other huge organizational entities that, for some reason or another, furthered the cause of the rat race. And that without a smidgen of advocacy or support for the usual pet causes that activists and their placards always waved at three-piece suited men in a strangely agitated manner.

Soon I’ll republish the essay that explains my whole coming of age in the Left, but now suffice it to say I grew up with professions that were either purely advocacy centered or function-obsessive. So the “real world” jobs of my NPA parents went along the lines of NGO worker, community organizer, environmentalist, anti-debt activist or other such cause-oriented job and the jobs of my aunts and uncles on the mother’s side were middle-class and salt of the earth that ranged from dentist, doctor, engineer or teacher.

Meaning the discussions at the dinner table ranged from the calm debate of “it’s not a real job if you don’t make something or do a concrete service for people” to the vehement “how can you take THAT job with the kind of slave wages they pay and the damage they do to the environment?” Though my grandfather was a lawyer there was nary an intellectual among them.

It was in early 2000 that it came to me. I was subconsciously trying to please both sides of this demand without actually losing my identity in my job choices. Psychologists will probably call this a moment of realization.

My friend explained it to me this way: I was a creative and imaginative person who’d be quite content just doing academe work (he probably meant teaching) or writing genre-specific books, but the twin pressures of the two sides – meaning working in a profession that actually made something or did something concrete (and not just a mental construct either) plus affecting social change or having social relevance – had me stumped and so a life of the mind frolicking in fantastic, made-up worlds and just flicking nuggets of dorky wisdom at students just to get by was out of the question.

Well, I didn’t have any inclinations towards the medical or dental professions, I couldn’t do math for shit hence crossing out any actuarial, architectural or engineering jobs and I certainly wasn’t going to just work exclusively in NGOs, wear drab, neo-hippie clothes, sleep in ratty house cum offices or go to demonstrations on a regular basis just to get beaten, firehosed or arrested. There’s got to be a better way to change the world than to tediously sacrifice your body day in and day out.

Journalism was a way out of this dilemma. Through it I could work on as many socially relevant assignments I wanted, still be creative and still be writing. That would be my public face. The actual art would be practiced in secret, like midnight witching rituals that included blood, grand gestures and corpses of small creatures. A life of the mind in two parts.

These days I still think of my journalism, essays, reportage, what-have-you as “Stuff I do for others.” Meaning, a profession. Meaning, I have no ego with them. Meaning, I am an employee at the end of the day when I write them and, like any other job, is subject to the demands and parameters of what the work entails.

The fiction is my private art, written to please nobody else but me. It first has to entertain me before it can even move out to being published, I rarely revise an old story just to fit a particular anthology. For story requests with specifics, I just make a new one. But still, my fiction is built to be read, with the thought that one day it’ll be fit to stand up, go out in the world and shake hands with other minds. But that is done to no one’s standards but my own.

The poetry and other little literary things aren’t even made with that in mind. They’re quite abstract and stay unread except for the rare request for a reading from friends I can’t refuse. When that happens, I usually pick the poem with the most flesh and strap on a guitar for a security blanket when I go on stage.

These confessional essays, that are the meat of the TYBS column (not counting the interviews, features and reviews), fall somewhere between the private and public areas. Like the songs I make for the bands I play for. What you read is a slightly caricaturish me, defined by the causal stuff produced when I move in real life, the unbeheld plot the Great Storyteller is arcing out as you read this.

This is what’s nice about being vagabond and unemployed. How you can just start someplace and end up completely elsewhere. I feel like Spider Jerusalem.

~ 30


Problem with filekeeping and such, I found the actual order of the music reviews. So read this first before TYBS 26. Apologies.

The good people at SONY-BMG Music Entertainment Phils were kind enough to hand over some of their latest releases for review a few weeks back. They’re great listening fare for this confused rainy season, during Tikbalang weather -- those times when it pours buckets but the sun still shines like high noon.

Popular folklore says that when this happens, two half-man and half-horse creatures of our lower mythology are tying the knot. It seems these days a lot of Tikbalangs are getting married. Here’s the soundtrack to that matrimony. Mazel tov.


Gloc-9 is the hip-hop moniker of Aris Pollisco, the fastest rapper in the country. Once, they tried to measure his speed and he clocked in at 130 words in 35 seconds. Eat your heart out Bone Thugs `n’ Harmony.

His faster-than-Dawn of the Dead-zombies tongue notwithstanding, Aris makes excellent songs depicting the grit and glam of life. Emphasis on the grit, though. On his songs are people you’d likely know, the situations they get into familiar and the more sordid results of their exploits the fodder for next morning’s headlines.

On this, his third album, Aris extols his gospel of rap that’s testament to how strange daily life can be, reality at point blank range. On “Diploma,” truth slices like a fine boning knife. His vision is as unflinching as a seer gazing into a future filled with war, pestilence, famine and a ray of hope. The kind of salvation you can only attain by a tacit revision of all the shit you learned in school. We don’t need no education.

You’ve probably heard carrier single “Lando” by now, where Francis M lends his voice and a veritable who’s who of the hip-hop community appear in the music video. It’s a formula pop-rap song (think Eminem’s “Stan”) but its narrative of poverty, love and misfortune is executed with finesse.

“B.I.” is probably as close as Gloc-9 will get to something with overt themes of “the Game.” Still, this song about an overly aggressive, barely legal girl, is more cautionary than macho posturing. “Demo Tape” is meant to be an interlude but this tale of a young man trying to make it as an independent musician still comes across as hilarious and scathing.

There are some low points here, too. The Lovi Poe collaboration “Lov na Lov” is pure pop drivel. Its declaration of fairy tale romance sticks out in an album full of grit and street gospel. The Eraserhead’s revival song “Torpedo” has decent vocals from Kiko Machine’s JP Cuison, but the arrangement is lukewarm at best.

Still, these duds can’t take away the energy and raw strength of Diploma. The best among them is “Lapis at Papel” where Gloc-9 has outdone himself with its swagger and intensity. There are more shades of Eminem here as he enacts a vicious self-interview even as he combines the best of what he does: fearless confession with excellent words per minute execution.


BRMC are known for their brand of garage, folk revival, blues clarion, heartland rock and religion-inspired lyrics wrapped in a pop package that recalls the best of The Doors, Jesus and Mary Chain, The Rolling Stones and a host of 70s space rock bands.

This album has almost been universally detested by critics who see it as a fluke in the otherwise grand and bombastic discography of the Club. True, expectations ran high after their acclaimed third album Howl, and there are undoubtedly bad tracks on this one ("Berlin" is a head scratching, trying hard rip-off of Bolan with the horrid chorus "Suicide's easy/ What happened to the revolution?" And songs like 666 “Conducer” or “Killing the Light” are pathetic attempts at gravitas), but we must not gloss over the better tracks that the trio have made here.

“Weapon of Choice” is a tasty, slow burn track that recalls the folk rock of Jesus and Mary Chain. Derivative, but enormously tasty. If paying homage to your heroes comes with this much swagger and attitude then rock needs more of it.

“All You Do Is Talk” is a touching funereal track that conjures up images of city life in time lapse: the lights of a traffic jam on a busy highway at night; the detritus of newspapers, leaves and dust in empty, early morning streets; children playing in the park; a beautiful woman sitting on a sill, whisking herself with water from a glass as the heat wave makes the air shimmer; the argument and brag of young men walking down the street. All this filtered through the lens of post-break up shock. Somehow, all this seems to make the protagonist in the song glad to be alive, still.

“American X” is sleek, pounding and psychedelic – like a stealth fighter hijacked by Led Zeppelin devotees. This must be the album’s equivalent of “Love Burns.” Though highly reminiscent of new wave, it is without pretension, posturing or agenda. Worth the price of all the other duds on this album, this song reminds you that rock and roll still works, is still one of the bastions of modern music. You can feel that groove in your marrow and Peter Hayes’ singing can hurt your senses.

At three good tracks compared to 10 poor ones this seems like a bad deal, but the album, when listened to in full, makes a kind of macro sense. The same kind that makes you not eat the marshmallow in front of you. That scenario where the guy who left promised you two, if he comes back and you’ve kept your side of the bargain. Just give it time.

Though awkward in places and sometimes stuttering like a Bowie number, Baby 81 will reward the patient listener with a revelation as precious as those gained on the open road, on top of a powerful, jet-black Harley.

~ 30

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Here's some comixy, digitally enhanced art I made from old photoshoots with friends with pretentiously indulgent mini narratives told via panels. Thanks to the models Karen S ("Sometimes We Fall Into the Void") and Tanya T ("The Spinning Girl"). Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


This entry of TYBS probably won’t be of interest to those who aren’t guitarists. Though it does give a “behind the scenes” look into how musicians achieve the cornucopia of sounds you hear live or on record. I’ll try to be clear without being long winded but, for guitarists, one of the huge parts of playing is the ability to modify your sound.

These are what pedals are for. From the chunka chunka riffing made by distortion, the expanding or undulating sounds achieved by modulation or the thickening effects that come with delays, effects pedals are like tools for making sonic punctuations or just conveying a mood.

They’re also called stompboxes or stomps for no other reason than they resemble little candy-colored metal boxes with knobs, they’re lined up on the floor in front of the player and, to activate, you press your foot down on them.

I only know one guitarists who doesn’t have them. But it’s more than a fair bet that every band you have a CD of that has a guitar player in it uses pedals. Yes, even Hale, even Parokya ni Edgar. Heck, I’ve even seen Stella Ruiz plug into an Acoustic Simulator and sing “What If God Was One of Us?”

In a day or so I’m going to be trading two stomps -- a Digitech DF7 Distortion Factory and an X-Series Turbo Flange -- for a BOSS ME-50 Multi-Effects Unit. These aforementioned two units were my first forays into buying pedals. They were both second hand. They were great. I had hours of fun, made several songs and sonic sketches with them. Plus they were really nice to look at in the morning, like nubile teenage girls in pastel skirts.

Since each of them performs just one thing, their operation is idiot proof. Well, for the most part. I used to carry these little scraps of paper per effect with my personal circular notations for knob settings. My girl called them “kodigos.” I would pull them out at gigs whenever the song changed. It was a bit embarrassing but until I memorized them I didn’t want to risk the bad sound from wrongly turned knobs.

Eventually I expanded my pedal chain until they got to be six units long. In any case, I’m trading these two for the ME-50 (22 distortions? Yipee!) exactly because my chain is too long. Any guitarist will tell you that single pieces of stomps are great for playing around with, but are a pain in the neck when setting up in a live situation. My six pedals chain takes up a minimum of three to five minutes to set up, fiddle around with and adjust enough to fit the venue and the amp they have. Breaking it down is an even bigger pain. Especially if the next band in line is breathing down your neck.

The ME-50 will radically reduce this agony and the distress of hauling these little babies to a gig (I’ll just have to bring the ME-50 and a wah). That, and I’ll still retain the knob-based kalikot factor of the original stomps. I hate sifting through digital menus, see.

I’m all excited to get it and get some fiddling around done. With this acquisition only four of my single stomps will remain. Here’s a description of what they do and how I use them.

A cabinet of rectified Mesa/Boogie amplifiers is probably one of the most sought after and in your face tones for distorted guitar. To achieve it though you have to pile these amps onto one another until they’re the size of several refrigerators. A power chord through such a stack can only be described as visceral.

The Zombie is like a mini-me version of this set up that channels the rectified sound without you having to be Billy Howerdel or Tony Iommi with an Egyptian ransom of slave/roadies to build the stack for you. I’m still not sure what “rectified” means but you’ll know it when you hear it. You can feel it in your guts with some pressure on your heart, palpable and redolent of brawn.

I actually got this one delivered to my door through local gear distribution MGD Inc. ( and their delivery system, barring mishaps, is right on the money. I started with digital distortion and the analog sound that the Zombie makes leaves that completely in dust. If digital distortion is iced candy then the analog Zombie is a Haagen Dazs.

Trust me, you’ll feel like a steel god with one of these at your feet. The tag line even reads: “You will swear your sound gets right up and walks out of your cabinet!” It’s not very subtle (though at some of the lowest settings it can achieve a fairly okay overdrive sound) so I use it for those theatrical macabre moments, mayhem crescendos, trippy noise and just straight up havoc.

Delays are all about repetition and as such enables a guitarist to seem to have a twin playing alongside or just achieve a general spacey quality especially when used in conjunction with distortion. You can play with delay pedals all day long and be a happy camper. I did. Twice.

It’s like guitar ganja depending on how you use it and, boy, are there dozens of ways. Even Perry Farrel and Dave Navarro (vocalist and guitarist respectively for now defunct Jane’s Addiction) said in one interview that they used delays pedals so differently when they first formed that they had fights about it.

The Wasabi Delay, while not the most accurate stomp when it comes to the precision of its knobs, is likely one of the warmest sounding units out there. Surfing around the local gear sites I found a pic of Manuel Legarda (Wolfgang) with one of these at his feet. Hmmm, at least I bought it before I saw the pic.

Though the reverse function is close to useless with a horrid, audible ticking, this stomp has a calming, soothing effect on clean that makes me feel like I’m back in Puerto Princesa staring out at a sea with the waves coming in for high tide. On distortion it just sings with a very feminine spirit.

I usually use it to convey everything from arctic desolation, harmonics that sound like ticking clocks, the sound of dripping water, wind-shorn landscapes, muted or sharp footsteps, the straight up doubling that adds grandness to octave riffs and echolalia that brings a sustained creepiness or mystery to otherwise bland riffs.

This is a pretty cheap equalizer but dependable enough. Boston Engineering is a pedal manufacturer under Behringer that make affordable, reverse-engineered counterparts of expensive BOSS pedals.

How expensive? I bought this for P1400. A real BOSS equalizer would cost me around P4000 plus. It’s almost the same though: six sliders per frequency band, like you see in the graphic equalizer of any media player on your PC.

Anyway, equalizers are used to further shape the sound coming out of your wah and distortion (along with a volume control for boost). Sliding the bands this way or that can net you some nifty, genre-specific feels. I remember them in visual metaphors: a lopsided smiley face for modern metal, a spiked heartbeat for shimmering but sharp chord voicings and a wave crest for in-your-face bridges and solos.

If you play guitar, you must play wah. So a few months back I plopped for this unit after thorough net research, testing a few brands (Morleys suck, the BOSS PW-10 is as complicated as an Inspector Gadget erm gadget) and pestering my friend Junji (Lerma, the uber cool guitarist for The Radioactive Sago Project and Trip M) on SMS.

This is the second item I got shipped from MGD and the unit was totally without flaws. It was heavy, too. But if it’s built to take Zakk Wylde’s biker boot then I’m sure I won’t have to worry about it breaking before I do. It’s also the only stomp I own with no knobs on it.

While I tried to use it on my own I soon suspected that I was missing out on a lot of techniques so, after an intense lesson with Junji, I quickly expanded on the ways of Wah Fu. Aside from its usual and prominent use in porn film soundtracks this wah is very throaty when combined with distortion. It’s got a voice that would probably not be far from a banshee or a mechanical roar that sounds very close to a mythical beast like the Devil of the Pine Barrens.

I found that this one really doesn’t go just cry wah (though it CAN do that with the right timing and technique) but mostly adds sustain that approximates a note all but hanging forever in the air. That and a very evil low end that sounds somewhere between a horde of very big, very angry locusts and a ravishing siren who, when she opens her mouth, bears the voice of a tsunami.

If I could fire off pinch harmonics as fast as Wylde does I’m sure I could make this thing scream like Holocaust prisoners but for now I am content with the amount of “I sound better than I actually am” stuff I’m getting out of it.

This is the only pedal I haven’t used live yet -- mostly because I’m still enjoying it at home and want to get a real feel for it. But am confident that this wah can actually replace some of the modulation I’m using in a few songs just for the swelling, rise and fall factor. Now it becomes more than just interesting.

~ 30


Here’s the final part of our reviews of CDs from SONY-BMG Music Entertainment. With a mix of electronica and emo-type indie rock it’s perfect for this July’s first salvo of storms. Heat up some hot chocolate or tea with honey, put these on and you’ll have a great time indoors.

Soundboy Rock

I’m a big fan of albums. I mean albums that hold together and cohere, rising like a good piece of cake. While Soundboy Rock is about as cohesive as an 80s Madonna fashion victim, it still floats despite the things it’s burdened with.

Groove Armada are the duo of London partyheads Tom Findlay and Andy Cato who were formed in the mid 1990s. They formed their own club with the same name so they could spin the tunes they wanted and make people dance. Soon enough they got their own songs going and released a couple of singles, then albums. Then these albums attained notoriety so much so that Fatboy Slim remixed “I See You Baby.”

Groove Armada have since accumulated a decent following. Not as sizeable as Underworld, Chemical Brothers or Faithless but they nonetheless have their faithful. Rightly so, too. See, GA are dancefloor architects who have honed their craft to a fine degree, which is why Soundboy Rock may seem like a package of very eclectic goodies top those used to GA’s focused records. It’s the kind of holiday fruitbasket us media types get when companies don’t have decent PR people (you know, the container that comes with bananas, melons, chocnuts and even a huge can of Sustagen).

From the soursweet to the totally saccharine this album opens in jungle territory with MC Stush doing tribalistic rap vocals on “Get Down.” From there we quickly go through a host of top shelf collaborators like The Rakes’ frontman Alan Donohoe (doing a Gallagher Brothers cameo on the melancholy “See What You Get”), former Pinay Sugababe Mutya Buena (tripping out on the bluesy, hip-hop dancefloor mover “Song 4 Mutya”) and Simian Mobile Disco’s Simon Lord (on the bleeptastic house number “The Things That We Could Share”). It’s like a glorified party turned jam session with a revolving door of musical celebrities.

As challenging as this listen is, the diversity does the whole album good, like a theme park with delights to offer every age group or musical perversion. The tastiest among them are the atmospheric, flutteringly elegant “Paris” and the chillest-of-them-all track “From the Rooftops.” The sonic equivalent of the catnip, it’s clear, is what GA excel at.

How to Save a Life

The Fray have gained their fame by getting on guilty pleasure TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy. Their brand of emo-leaning indie rock with art geek sensibilities and a healthy dose of REM soulfulness fits right into the boob tube soundtrack format.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But bands like The Fray are a dime a dozen, or literally dozens who come out of the woodwork every two to three years or so, get amazingly huge major label push and rise like a wayward kid’s balloon escaping into the atmosphere, never to be seen again.

True their singles “Over My Head (Cable Car)” and the horridly overplayed “How to Save a Life” have glimpses of latent energy and celestial insight, but none of the gravitas or subtlety that could make them a Keane, a Live or perhaps a footstool to the mighty REM.

The good stuff only comes in by the 11th track “Little House” where a misery laden calliope riff on piano conjures up family secrets, dark corners of the home and acts of atrocity that inflict both physical and mental anguish. There’s still too much roundabout and beating the bush going on here for any clear attempt at solid songwriting but at least this song and “Trust Me” prove there’s more to The Fray than just balladeers posturing as indie rockers. “Trust Me” even has the most unpretentious lyrics on the whole album: “We’re only taking turns/ Holding this world.”

The mess and iteration of post break-ups, confused love, suicides or attempts at, loads resulting in depression, boy meets girl and loses her or vice versa gets banal and pathetic halfway through the album. The added VCD (which has two music videos, a “making of the video,” three stripped/acoustic performances and two short documentaries on band history and life on the road) is totally unnecessary. I can’t count how many times I fast forwarded it and I still zonked out. Bad, bad, bad.

Even the lyrics would rival a Corgan song, and vocalist Slade doesn’t have half the sonic brilliance to pull off these Hallmark worthy gems, as on “Look After You”: “If I don’t say this now I will surely break/ As I’m leaving the one I want to take/ Forgive the urgency but hurry up and wait/ My heart has started to separate.” Geez, is there even a girl alive in the 21st century who falls for this atrociously rhyming shtick?

~ 30


TYBS #26
Here are more new releases from SONY-BMG Music Entertainment for days when the weather turns into that weird inclement of sunny and drizzling.

The Boy With No Name

Travis was one of the things I couldn’t understand when slacker pop got into vogue. Their sound smacked of the “I’m so white and middle class it’s hard to keep myself from whining about the bad stuff.” Case in point: “Why Does It Always Rain on Me?” That seemed like a big waste of sonic time and contrary to the whole point of rock. Travis just seemed to make catastrophes seem like farces rather than tragedy.

Still, The Boy With No Name has some startlingly tasty tracks that puts them above the usual indie droll of Athlete, Low and other sentimental rockers. This album is as doozy and introspective as an after dinner moment on the rooftop with the dusk just coming down. Truffles anyone?

The provincial gothic of “3 Times and You Lose” with its melancholy riffing and understated vocals is a despondently folkish surprise that comes across as wholly unaffected. And then the lyrics hit you and somehow you’re in paranoiac Radiohead territory, albeit done with a country vibe.

Just check out: “The little people had very little left to say/ Their words had all been shortened/ It didn’t really seem important/ And I had a feeling you were very far away/ But then a little voice inside me said: `You’ll never get away from here’.” Gloomy, yes, but precise.

“Big Chair” is a sound trip that rolls and crests without ever climaxing. The bits of electronic drum pads and the piano weaving in and out like a ghost in the woods is perfect for the kind of masterplan subtlety Travis excel at, even if they do it with such sappy passion -- like geeks pining for the homecoming queen they know they can never have.

Don’t go to sleep as you quickly go through “Eyes Wide Open” and on through “Colder” as Travis never kicks up the pace beyond a dripping faucet. Still it all makes a kind of heart-on-my-sleeve sense when “New Amsterdam” comes in. Titled after the old name of New York, this song is a paean to the artsy and the passion of a city that coaxes such conflicting reactions.

The Boy With No Name isn’t an album to be listened to in one sitting (unless you’re going through post break-up) but taken in light sips. A couple of tracks for tonight and several for the next, other wise it’ll be too much sap. Over that period it’ll be more memorable and will conjure up other memories like some Proustian madeleine best taken with alcohol or very slow sex.

Because of the Times

The catchy southern rock of the Followill family takes a turn to the obscure with their third release. Sometimes insolent, sometimes griping but always with an exciting point of view delivered in garage punk flair, Because of the Times is part manifesto of fear and declaration of readiness to combat that paralysis.

The gloomy, atmospheric “On Call” spits out emotion and melody like a rattler on downers. With the majestic blues driver guitar doing overtime it’s something to play during moments of moody menace. Add to that the serial killer allusions of “Trunk” and you’ve got a recipe for a very interesting album.

The grit and twang on “McFearless” and “Black Thumbnail” are excellent Southern rock numbers. Though short on hooks they make up for it with a rollicking melody that’s easy to nod to. The rest are either jangly, ragged-at-the-edges pop songs or fusions of Allman Brothers with Alan Parsons, a bit of Creedence Clearwater Revival thrown in and mixed with Lynrd Skynrd plus a healthy dollop of 21st century jadedness.

Nevermind the challenging listens that are “Fans” or the “The Runner” with their seemingly drawn out or foreshortened rhythms. They’re most certainly experiments in form. The best of them has got to be “Ragoo” with its maxim-worthy encapsulation of music as a medium of personal gospel: “Here’s to the kids out there smoking on the streets/ They’re way too young but I’m way too old to preach/ They know it all but they still ain’t seen the truth/ Just play my song and I will show it all to you.” Bittersweet, that.

With this one the brothers Caleb, Nathan and Jared along with cousin Matthew have crafted the next step of their evolution with just enough balance of rawness and polish. Here’s to Nashville rock.

~ 30


. . .Has now been published as part of an FHM erotica anthology. Available at news sellers, bookstores and magazine stands within the week. Check it out there along with other juicy and uber intellectually stimulating stories from ginormously gifted, cutting edge authors like Anna Sanchez, Carl Joe Javier, Norman Wilwayco, Marguerite De Leon, Joey Nacino, Lourd De Veyra and Ramil Digal Gulle. I dunno what the title is but it's a kick ass antho full of grit, glory and, uh well, sex.

Now back to our regular programming. Wasaaak.