When Karl Roy passed away, I went through my dusty CD collection looking for my old P.O.T. album. I decided at that moment to pick out CDs by Filipino bands to bring on the road with me as I drive to and from Makati each day. The rush hour traffic lets me listen to an album the way it should be heard, before iPod shuffling was invented: from start to finish, in one sitting.
Yesterday, I listened to P.O.T. Today, it was The Purplechickens’ Here’s Plan B.
Plan B is nine years old. I first heard it live, in their album launch in 2003. I spent three years with the band as a “purplechick” (a girlfriend of one of the band members), which meant I got to see them live often. It is impossible for me to listen to this album without imagining them performing it, down to every mannerism, the way Aldus makes love to the mic, the guitar poses, the white of Zig’s eyes when he’s drumming in the zone.
I have not listened to Plan B in years. I no longer have the ripped mp3s, and so every song was a pleasant surprise. I still love “Common Cold”. “A Break In A Prayer” sounded better than I remembered it. “Ars Terror”, interestingly, was the only song on the album that I repeated soon as it was done. It is a self-aware rock ballad, gratuitous and marvelous. I covered it a few times in a short-lived band, years ago. Our version was terrible. I’m so sorry.
The Purplechickens are a band that you must experience live. The album is good, but it doesn’t do them justice. The best way to describe them is that they are a wall of _sound_. I remember one time at sound check, Aldus motioned to me at the back and asked if the sound levels were good. I vaguely said ‘okay’ (what do I know?). Then Marco came over and gave a list of maybe 10 things he heard that they didn’t like. They are like that. It’s a blend of technical skill and poetic freelance.
Driving back from Makati now. I got to “Dream Systems”. It is absolutely one of my favorite songs in the world. I love everything about it: the lyrics, the melody, and how it is pleasant and recommendable to everybody. I don’t have to explain it; it’s just good. During their early days, the band would be compared to Radiohead or Muse, comparisons that were altogether unfair — the Manox (as the fans call them) are just what they are. “Dream Systems” is likened to their “Champagne Supernova” — it is long, near the end of the album, and epic in scale.
I could write pages and pages about this song, but the short version is: I was lucky enough to direct the music video for it. It was a watercolor animation, rotoscoped by hand, and at once the most beautiful thing ever made and the worst production disaster. It took two years to finish; the painting team lost steam by the end, and many fights were had (some with the band; I fear I lost friends this way). But in the end, the video won awards and was screened at Cannes. This song is emotional for all of us involved with the video, but hearing it again in the car, it all went away. I love this song. It’s perfect. And I’m still proud of the video we made, in spite of what it cost to make it.
The last song in the album is “Carry Two (Remainder One)”, which strangely was the reason I wanted to listen to the album in the first place. I felt like the song was my destination. I wanted to introduce The Purplechickens’ music to my boyfriend, and chose “Carry Two” to play in his car in the States, but the sound system was weird and you couldn’t hear the guitars at all. It was a shame, because that’s the best part of it; the guitar riffs are like a violent kick to the nuts, meant to be heard at full blast.
The song ended just as I was pulling into my street. “Carry Two” is maybe one of my favorite album enders. It ends with a yell.
That was a good drive.
Tomorrow’s driving music is The Purplechickens’ second album, “Girls, Etc”.