Balikbayan BoxLegendary Eraserheads producer Robin Rivera wrote a very interesting email to the band's mailing list a couple of days ago. Posting it here to share and to make it easy for me to find later on:
Balikbayan Box revisited
I'm on another extended lunch break from work, so I have some spare time to write to you all. One of the CDs I'm analyzing in my dissertation just happens to be "Stickerhappy". It's the first time I've listened to it in many years, and it brought back fond memories.
I've read much about how many people have identified the early albums of the Eraserheads as their "definitive" works, due to the style, content, and commercial success of the first three albums. This was reinforced by the recent MYX feature that included only "Ultra...", "Circus", and "Cutterpillow". But having produced all their albums except "Ultraelectromagneticpop", I've always felt that their later works were just as significant as the early ones. So allow me this opportunity to reminisce about one particular song from "Stickerhappy" that never got the attention I felt it deserved.
Most fans will remember the euphoria that accompanied the MTV Asia viewers choice award for "El Bimbo". But that period was also a difficult one. The band had its share of turbulence, and were adapting to new experiences and lifestyles that came with age and travels. From the moment I heard the demos of the songs that would be included in the new album, I knew that change was in the air. But instead of suppressing the new contexts that they had been thrust into, I wholeheartedly allowed them the latitude to write about what they were going through at the time. Change is a part of growth, and I refused to trap them in a time warp. But some things don't change. One of the things the band remained good at until their demise was to come up with witty, amusing songs, with a dose of melancholia to balance it off. This is exactly what I found in the song "Balikbayan Box".
While we were already in the middle of recording what was to become "Stickerhappy", I remember telling the band that I felt there was something missing in the album's repertoire, but I couldn't put my finger on what it was. Then one day, the band barged into the studio and said they had a new song that had only come together the previous day. With all four members huddled around a table in the Tracks main recording studio, Raimund excitedly whipped out a drum machine and laid down the basic drum track. It wasn't programmed from start to finish, so everyone had to help push buttons of the drum machine to go from one pattern to the next, all in "real time". Each of them then took turns laying down bass parts on different sections of the song. If you check the credits, all four of them played bass on that song. (A nice game for listeners would be to guess who played which section. But don't ask me because I myself don't remember anymore.) The next day, the rest of the band eagerly added the guitar parts. The vocals and everything else was laid down a few days later. The performances were typical of the band, slightly quirky and twangy, but confident. Angee Rozul's mix was spot on, wonderfully delicate and detailed. It all came very quick, and seemingly effortless, from the song writing to the mixing. The song turned out to be the missing piece I was looking for, and I was elated that they had come up with it just in time for it to be included in the album. I absolutely loved the song for its local color, understated dynamics, textured arrangement, and bittersweet narrative.
When we submitted the album to BMG, the people in the office immediately gravitated to it. Long before the album was released, everyone in the office was already singing "uuwi na tayo" at the end of their workday. To this day I wonder why BMG never really promoted it. It had some of the characteristics that fans were used to from previous albums, but was produced and framed in a way that reflected what was the band's state of mind and field of experience at the time. And like most of their other memorable songs, it has remained as relevant now as it was when it was written.
I've always felt that each album was special. Unfortunately, changing fashions and loyalties, coupled with the resulting shift in promotional and marketing strategies caused many to overlook the band's latter works. Its only recently that I have begun to hear people regard post-Cutterpillow songs with the same reverence as those in their earlier albums. I hope people can revisit this song as I did, and realize that this is just the tip of the iceberg of how substantial the EHeads material was after "El Bimbo".
Onga! Sticker Happy didn't get the attention it deserved!
I really enjoyed Sticker Happy and Aloha Milky Way back in college. Balikbayan Box was one of my favorites then and even more so when I started working (I chuckled at the "Umuwi na tayo" part -- we did that, too!). Others favorites were Andalusian Dog and Ha Ha Ha, when I felt depressed; and Kananete and Ambi Dextrose when I'm in a particularly confused mood. Not to mention the gibberish in Tapsilogue! Ang dami pa!
ako naman, i ended up liking natin99 much more over the years. ok din ang sticker happy, pero 99 ung na-cherish ko talaga.
Ah, yes, Natin99! I only got the full album a couple of years ago, and I've only gotten to listening to it late last year.
I'm looking at a track listing and I just realized that I love 3 out of 4 songs! :-o My top picks would be Peace It Together, Popmachine and maybe Tama Ka (yeah, these, over the pop hits Maselang Bahaghari and Huwag Kang Matakot). Salamin and Kilala are quite catchy, too. Maaan, now that I think of it, this album is really solid!
Right now, I'm trying to recall the times when I liked a particular set of Eraserheads songs. The songs from their earlier albums elicit more raw emotions and I liked them more when I felt strongly about something. The songs from Natin99, I can listen to anytime, in any mood! Compared to their past albums, Natin99 sounds more mature. :)
(The first media files that I put in my PSP were all my Eraserheads MP3s!)
+1 for natin99
best eheads album for me.
i guess partly why i like natin99 album was because the *jologs* crowd was fading away this time. true eheads diehard fans remained and we were able to absorb this album wholeheartedly without being bakya. hehe.
Ipagdikit-dikit, pusong punit-punit. Let’s peace it together.
matagal ko na ring iniisip kung yung piano sa bistro ay ang sticker happy na piano :D
siguro pag pinakinggan ko yung balikbayan box ngayon.. mas may meaning na sya sa akin.. hehe but i remember singing that song during our never ending overnights in the office, nung bata pa ako :p
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The story so farSeptember 2004