Thursday, June 3, 2010

Influence by Urbandub (2003) Album Review

About two months ago, I attended a little concert dubbed Juan Tukar in a school here in Cebu (why it took me two months to write about it, I don't know). This band was “headlining” the concert (intentionally putting that in quotes since I believe bands that HEADLINE should play complete sets of 10 to 15 songs, whilst they only played a disappointing 5 songs). The show opened with 3-song performances from 5 or 6 bands that, as far as quality goes, were horrific (I'm talking about high school kids who sounded like they picked up their instruments yesterday). Tickets were free, so no big deal, thanks to my girlfriend. But it bothers me that people never really got their money's worth, only seeing a very short set from Urbandub, with an added bonus of painfully novice bands no one would ever pay to see.

 Urbandub (L-R): John Dinopol (guitars), Jerros Dolino (ex-drummer), Gabby
Alipe (vocals, guitar), Lalay Lim (bass).  Jerros Dolino played drums in the album.

Regardless, it was still a good night. The early parts were comedic, the last part- serious business. But this isn’t about the show per se. This story actually happened a few days before the show. Technically, I was a fan of the band, but after hearing their recent releases, I thought they had lost me. But, yes, I used to adore them. I even made a fansite which somehow grew and became their pseudo-official website for a brief period until I stopped updating (though I’ve recently delegated updating responsibilities to another person). I honestly did not “feel” their music anymore and eventually gave up on them.

Now, I cannot understand how I was able to “give up” on a band that immensely inspired and captivated me at some point. Most people would say that it is logical and often normal to “fall out of love” with a band because tastes are ever-changing, and I do believe that to a certain degree, but do tastes really change? Did my taste change? Maybe only when we are dishonest to begin with? Was I dishonest? With those questions in mind, I redownloaded their past albums, specifically Influence (2003), to see for myself. Did I change?

Naaah. And young as I was (maybe 7 to 8 years younger) I knew I was listening to a great record. Listening to it again makes me feel like it is probably the best OPM (Original Pinoy Music) album, and the guys at PULP magazine seem to agree, ranking it #4 in its “greatest local albums list” (link to follow). I still could not understand how quick I was to give up on this band!

Urbandub Influence
The cover art of Urbandub’s 2nd album, Influence.

I enjoyed Embrace (2005) a fair bit, making me feel unneeded angst at my age thanks to its more in-your-face brand of music, but the change in sound in Under Southern Lights (2007) put me off completely, though lately I’m slowly beginning to appreciate it. The new albums do have one thing in common- they seem desperate for attention, in a “look at me! look at me!” kind of way. And I believe that’s essentially what makes them sub par.

Influence is exactly the opposite.  This is an album for the underdogs, and much of its appeal stems from it. It was also appropriately produced during the years when the band was still itself an underdog. The song Versus accurately encapsulates the state of the band at the time (...standing on the back line but now I'm way ahead, couldn't believe it...).  That was when Manila was still figuring out if they should accept this little band from Cebu with open arms.  And open arms, they did.

Urbandub's current line-up (L-R): John Dinopol, Gabby Alipe, Janjan Mendoza, Lalay Lim

The album is not technically complicated compared to their later albums- which I think is largely due to the change of drummers.  Nevertheless, complexity is and was never a sure-fire guarantee to quality.  Only the best musicians get away with it.  But for most it's all a gimmick really - a chance to showcase and 'shine'. It's that lingering undisciplined feeding-of-the-ego that haunts all musicians, big and small, denying the people what could have been 'great music'. Most of Urbandub's later albums suffer from it, slightly at the least.  On the other hand, Influence feels content just being what it is, simple and not looking to impress, uncaring/nonchalant, and it emerges victorious without needing to perform.

My score:
9 out of 10

1 comment:

tingkagol said...

Their new album "Esoteric" is currently rocking my socks off. Finally, an album that redeems this band's greatness.