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SENSES WORKING OVERTIME - Luis Katigbak - The Philippine Star

The Eraserheads’ first new songs in over a decade are two new classics for the 21st century.

MANILA, Philippines - By the time we broke the news, we had been keeping it secret for months: New music. By the Eraserheads. In our magazine.

As one of the founding editors of the Philippine edition of Esquire magazine, I had been witness to the ebb and flow of media hype before, but I had never seen any magazine-spurred phenomenon to match the frenzy of last week. Fans went insane by the thousands online, and stormed the stores for copies of the September issue; inside was a CD — sleeve designed by the band’s frequent collaborator, Cynthia Bauzon-Arre — with the two new singles, Sabado and 1995.

The pride the staff took in a job well done was informed by the knowledge that no other publication could have done it: the new songs had not just been specially commissioned by Esquire, but midwifed, and co-created, by our editor in chief Erwin Romulo (who was no stranger to songwriting, having written for some of the biggest Pinoy acts in the 1990s and 2000s), who had earned the trust of the band. The band could have pocketed millions from any number of sponsors to do what they did; instead, they decided to go with our magazine.

The fact that it was the Eraserheads was what made it the biggest music news story of the year, of course. If the Juan dela Cruz Band has come to represent Pinoy rock of the ‘70s, and The Dawn was the preeminent rock band of the ‘80s, then the Eraserheads, without a doubt, ruled the ‘90s. They were not just the biggest and best band, they were the ones who kicked down the door and made the scene that followed then even possible.

The funny thing is, they remained to be our biggest band, even after they broke up. No one emerged in the 2000s to match their drawing power, as their reunion concert from 2008 proved. The music industry had changed; the music scene had changed.

Worthwhile music continued to be made, with arguably even more diversity and passion than before. Audiences were fragmented, but enthusiastic. Different, smaller scenes were thriving. Maybe we could no longer share a single song, but finding a new song to love was still always likely.

For an entire generation, the Eraserheads were the band that had mattered the most — that still mattered the most. But what about the next generation? Right before we released the magazine, I told one of our regular contributors — books columnist Sasha Martinez — the big news. “Cool,” she said, unexcitedly. “I take it this is not life-changing news for you?” I asked. “Well,” she replied, “my mother will be happy.”

At the height of the Eraserheads’ career, Sasha had been four years old, after all.

A few days after the launch (which Sasha had been unable to attend, which turned out to be a raucous, almost-religious experience all its own, but that’s another story), she messaged me, after having spent the day listening to the two new songs over and over, for hours, and loving them.

“Ganito. I’ve never felt that the Eraserheads were mine. They had songs I loved and can listen to forever, but I’ve never come to any song of theirs from the same vantage and starting point as everyone else. These new songs let me do that. These new songs let me know what it feels to discover a new song by this band that everyone and my mother loves — and to have those songs feel like they’re mine? Tangina.

“And now. I can go back through their discography and I can say, Hey, that song’s a little bit more mine now. But Sabado, but 1995 — those were written for me.

“I told you ang dami kong feelings.”

Sasha was not alone in having these feelings. Film critic Philbert Dy tweeted the following: Asked my taxi driver if he was a fan of the Eraserheads. “Sobra lang po, sir.” Lent him my CD. He teared up in the middle of “1995.”

His next tweet: He spent the rest of the drive talking about his younger days, spending all his time obsessing about music.

Philbert concluded: There is no distance between people when the Eraserheads are playing. We are all just fans, waiting for the next song to play.

And that — what Sasha wrote, what Phil wrote — says what I wanted to say better than I could have said it.

There’s no returning to the past, no matter how much some of us may miss it. We have the here and now, which often seem too hard to bear. But if we get past regrets and nostalgia, and build on what’s come before — if we keep trying, and being open, with as few delusions and as little hate as possible, and if we have each other — well, then, life can get better, can’t it?

* * *

To quote “Sabado”: Itapon ang kahapon. Yakapin ang darating. At kung kailangan mo ako, lagi naman ako nandito.


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