The Return of eLf ideas

ideas of an eLven being in Canada

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

U.S. band The Ocean Blue set to release sixth album

Ultramarine—what a very apt album title for the name of the band! This is another new release in the genre that many people have long declared dead. Yes, The U.S. band The Ocean Blue is set to release their sixth full-length studio album in March 2013.

The 2010s has really been good for the New Wave genre, as we have seen new albums by classic bands like The Fixx (Beautiful Friction, 2012), Men Without Hats (Love in the Age of War, 2012), Translator (Big Green Lawn, 2012), The Wild Swans (The Coldest Winter for a Hundred Years, 2011), Dexys Midnight Runners (One Day I'm Going to Soar, 2012), Killing Joke (Absolute Dissent, 2010; and MMXII, 2012), Pet Shop Boys (Elysium, 2012), Duran Duran (All We Need Is Now, 2010), and this year The Ocean Blue (Ultramarine), David Bowie (The Next Day), Depeche Mode (Delta Machine), and OMD (English Electric).

And I'm sure I am missing some more albums released starting 2010, and some more coming in the remaining years of the current decade.

The Ocean Blue is a U.S. New Wave band formed in Pennsylvania in 1986. Its music is best defined by jangly and folky plucked guitars, hint of synth sounds and breezy saxophone melodies, trebly melodic bass lines, simple drumbeats, and smooth and silky vocals. Its current lineup consists of David Schelzel on lead vocals/guitar, Oed Ronne on keyboards/guitar/vocals, Bobby Mittan on bass guitar, and Peter Anderson on drums. Not counting the forthcoming album, Ultramarine, the band has released five studio albums: The Ocean Blue (1989), Cerulean (1991), Beneath the Rhythm and Sound (1993), See (1996), and Davy Jones' Locker (1999).

Recommended songs include “Between Something and Nothing,” “Drifting, Falling,” “Ask Me, Jon,” “Marigold,” “Ballerina Out of Control,” “Sublime,” “Don’t Believe in Everything You Hear,” “Cathedral Bells,” “Slide,” “Denmark,” and “Do You Still Remember Me?” Members of the band cite as major influences pioneering New Wave / Postpunk bands such as The Smiths, Aztec Camera, and Echo & the Bunnymen.

My first introduction to The Ocean Blue was the song "Between Something and Nothing," which I first heard on a Rock-format Philippine FM radio station back in 1991. I immediately looked for a copy of the album containing it, but it was not available locally. What I found instead was a compilation album that included the song "Ask Me, Jon." It sufficed for the meantime. Two years later, I bought my first The Ocean Blue album, Beneath the Rhythm and Sound, which I never grew tired of playing in its entirety without skipping a song even to this day. (That's how I listen to albums anyway--play them from beginning to end without pushing the fast-forward button.)

Two songs off Ultramarine, “Blow My Mind” and “A Rose Is a Rose,” prove that the sound of The Ocean Blue is as New Wave as it has always been. I now await the actual album, excited to hear the rest.

"Between Something and Nothing," the first track off The Ocean Blue's début, self-titled album

"Marigold," the third track off The Ocean Blue's second album, Cerulean

"Don't Believe in Everything You Hear," the seventh track off The Ocean Blue's third album, Beneath the Rhythm and Sound

"Slide," the eighth track off The Ocean Blue's fourth album, See

"Denmark," the third track off The Ocean Blue's fifth album, Davy Jones' Locker

"Blow My Mind," off the band's forthcoming new album, bears the familiar trademark sound of The Ocean Blue

"A Rose Is a Rose" is another song off  Ultramarine, The Ocean Blue's forthcoming, sixth full-length studio album

Final Note
The Ocean Blue is just one of the classic New Wave bands that have reinvigorated both old and new fans by releasing in the current decade new albums of new materials which bear the same familiar trademark sound of their respective predecessors.   

Thursday, January 24, 2013

It's All Such a Blur!' Nah, Not to Me

(On Remembering the Past with Potent Lucidity)
by aLfie vera mella

Many people, when asked about their youthful past, would tend to quip, "It's now all a blur to me!" Why? Maybe because they had more bad than good experiences so they didn't want to remember as much about it; or, worse, they were always pharmaceutically high during the heyday of their youthful days so remembering becomes a mental challenge for them, a sort of a mental disability.

Not to me. The 1990s to me is only like yesterday. I remember so many things, activities, places and faces, music and events. In fact, I still remember so many events in my childhood in the 1970s, what more in the 1990s. Why? Simply because I'm a very introspective and retrospective person—I love remembering and documenting things; I love music, which could be an effective bookmark for such memories; and ultimately, I never dabbled in any mind-altering substances, making my mind as naturally potent and functional as it could be.


While waiting for the time to go to my evening-shift work today at the hospital, I'm watching on DVD No Distance Left to Run (A Documentary Film on the Britpop band Blur).

There had been a comparative competition between Blur and Oasis especially in the heyday of Britpop music. Since the start, I have always been for Blur (although I love Oasis music too; I love Britpop music, for that matter—it is simply a reinvention or a renaming of NewWave).

The reason I like better Blur's music even during the beginning is because of musicality—particularly the complexity of the song structures in terms of instrumentation and orchestration. Many people may not realize this—the angular style of Graham Coxon's guitar melodies and rhythm is what best defines Blur's music—very NewWave—which was synergized by Alex James's melodic treble-rich bass playing; and of course, Damon Albarn's whiny voice.

Blur has released seven albums so far:
Leisure (1991)
Life Is Rubbish (1993)
Parklife (1994)
The Great Escape (1995)
Blur (1997)
13 (1999)
Think Tank (2003)

My favorite remains to be The Great Escape, because of "Charmless Man," "Country House," and "The Universal." The complexity of the instrumentation of Blur's music is most apparent in this album. In the 1990s, my former band Half Life Half Death covered "Country House" and my former band Dream Kitchen covered "Girls & Boys" (from the album Parklife), during the time when Britpop was still an alternative or an underground genre of music.

My favorite song from Blur, "Country House"

Blur is an English Britpop band formed in 1988, consisting of Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James, and David Rowntree. The band was among the spearheaders of what became known as Britpop music—a genre of music which was actually an offshoot of Postpunk and New wave music—characterized by angular guitars, melodic bass, heavily patterned drumbeats, incorporation of synth, keyboards, and other Classical instruments (violin, cello, horns), and quirky vocal styles.

I first heard of Blur in 1994 via this song, "Girls & Boys."

Another favorite Blur song of mine, "Charmless Man"

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Bequeathing to My Son Evawwen My Love for '70s Japanese Robot Animes

As soon as I entered the house, coming from hospital work, Evawwen and Gabby said that they just watched again The Lorax (2012) on our family TV in the living room. Then, Evawwen said, "Daddy, let's continue watching Voltes V.

I first let him watch it about two years ago, but only when we started watching again the series the other day when he really paid attention. Now we are starting with Episode 3.

Evawwen gets charged up every time the main theme song plays in the background--when the five commandeers begin to "volt in" to become the robot Voltes V.

Voltes V is a Japanese robot anime that was first aired in 1977; it was a big hit in the Philippines in the late '70s, when I was in Grade 2. I remember how excited I was after school on Fridays, when it was on TV at 6 p.m.

Other Japanese robot series showing that period included Daimos [Tosho Daimosu, 1978-'79(Tuesdays), Mazinger Z [Majinga Zetto, 1972-'74] (Wednesdays), and Danguard Ace [Wakusei Robo Dangado Esu, 1977-'78(Thursdays). Other robot series during the period that were started but cancelled even before they were shown halfway included Steel Jeeg [Kotetsu Jigu, 1975-'76], UFO Robot Grendizer [UFO Robo Gurendaiza, 1975-'77], Gaiking [Daiku Maryu Gaikingu, 1976-'77], Balatack [Chojin Sentai Barattack, 1977-'78], and Getter Robot [Getta Robo, 1974-'75].

I do not speak a Japanese language, but because I have watched this series as a child in the 1970s, I used to be able to sing the opening and the closing theme of Voltes V without exerting much effort. The above is the opening theme, entitled "Borutesu Faibu no Uta," in which the five commandeers aboard their respective flying vehicles start to "volt in" to become a robot.

This is the closing theme of Voltes V, entitled "Chi Chi Wo Motomete [I Want Father]," which evokes a nostalgic feeling from many old fans of Voltes V.

This is the opening theme to Daimos, entitled "Tate! Tousho Daimos."

This is the closing theme of Daimos, entitled "Erika's Ballad."

This is the introductory scene of Mazinger Z, in which the robot's commandeer--Kouji Kabuto aboard the flying vehicle called pilder--begins to nestle into the head of the robot to be able to control it.

This is the opening theme to Danguard Ace.

This is the opening theme to Steel Jeeg.

This is the ending theme of Steel Jeeg.

This is the introductory theme to Balatack.

This is the opening theme to UFO Robot Grendizer.

This is the closing theme to UFO Robot Grendizer.

This is the opening theme to Gaiking.

This is the ending theme to Gaiking, entitled "Hoshizora no Gaiking."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Playing the Six-String with Twelve Fingers

(On Johnny Marr, formerly of The Smiths)
by aLfie vera mella

Among the countless brilliant musicians in the New Wave / Postpunk genre, Johnny Marr remains to be on the list of my favorites. Marr began his career as the guitar player and co-songwriter in the legendary English band The Smiths (1982–'87), which released four albums: The Smiths (1984), Meat Is Murder (1985), The Queen Is Dead (1986), and Strangeways, Here We Come (1987).

Here are my recommended songs by The Smiths in which Marr’s jangly guitars are prominent: “This Charming Man,” Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” “I Want the One I Can’t Have,” “William, It Was Really Nothing,” “Big Mouth Strikes Again,” “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side,” and “Girlfriend in a Coma.”

I love Marr's signature guitar style which he developed and had become apparent in his works with The Smiths—jangly and folky, a playing that combined strumming and plucking, creating crisp and melodic multitones of notes—a style that now also defines Postpunk music.

My favorite song from The Smiths, "This Charming Man," which features guitarist Johnny Marr's trademark Postpunk jangly and chiming guitar style

The Smiths, with "William, It Was Really Nothing," on Top of the Pops in 1984

The Smiths, in the music video of their song "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side" (1984)

The Smiths, with "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now," on Top of the Pops in 1984

After The Smiths, Marr pursued a path of a prolific collaborator, joining bands and leaving in their music his signature sound. Among these collaborations, the following are the most remarkable.

Modest Mouse
Another must-listen is his contributions to the music of Modest Mouse during his being a member of this US Indie band—in the fifth and currently last full-length album, We Were Dead before the Ship Even Sank (2007); and the last EP, No One’s First, and You’re Next (2009).  His guitar tracks are always unmistakable. 

Recommended songs: “Dashboard,” “Missed the Boat,” “We’ve Got Everything,” and "Satellite Skin."

Modest Mouse with Johnny Marr, performing "Dashboard" (2007), on The David Letterman Show

Modest Mouse with Johnny Marr, in the music video of their song "Satellite Skin" (2009)

The Cribs
Marr's contribution to The Cribs is in the English Indie band’s fourth album, Ignore the Ignorant (2009). Marr’s guitar works are really different from those of the rest of the albums of The Cribs. Marr truly has his own distinctive style, especially to one who is familiar with his body of works.

Recommended songs: “We Share the Same Skies,” “Last Year’s Snow,” and “Victim of Mass Production.”

The Cribs with Johnny Marr, in the official video of their song "We Share the Same Skies" (2009)

The The
His works with The The made the music of this classic English Postpunk band more guitar-oriented, inevitably—Mind Bomb (1989) and Dusk (1993), The The’s fourth and fifth album, respectively.

Recommended songs: “The Beat(en) Generation,” “Gravitate to Me,” and ”Slow Emotion Replay.”

The The with Johnny Marr, in the official video of their song "The Beat(en) Generation" (1989)

His guitar works with Electronic are subtle in the first, self-titled album (1991); however, he seemed to have gone Postpunk mode again in the ensuing albums—Raise the Pressure (1996) and Twisted Tenderness (1999); he also played harmonica on some tracks, like what he did in The The.

Recommended songs: “Getting Away with It,” “Get the Message,” “Tighten Up, “Forbidden City,” “For You,” and “Vivid.”

Electronic with Johnny Marr (and New Order's Bernard Sumner and Pet Shop Boy's Neil Tennant), performing "Getting Away with It" (1991) on Top of the Pops

Electronic, in the official video of their song "For You" (1996)

Electronic, in the official video of their song "Vivid" (1999)  

Johnny Marr & the Healers
Ironically, I couldn't feel the Marr I love in the music of Johnny Marr & the Healers—which released its debut and, to date, only album, Boomslang in 2003—maybe because he was exploring a different avenue here—in which he was more into the bluesy side of Rock rather than into the Postpunk.  However, after countless of listening, the album eventually grew in me; and I was able finally to discern the Postpunk sensibilities of the album. 

Recommended songs, in which there are glimpses of Postpunk: “Down on the Corner,” “Something to Shout About,” and “You Are the Magic.”

Johnny Marr & the Healers, in the official video of "Down on the Corner" (2003)

Johnny Marr & the Healers, with  "You Are the Magic" (2003)

Billy Bragg and Talking Heads 
Notable also are his guitar contributions to the song "Greetings to the New Brunette" by Billy Bragg, from the album Talking with the Taxman about Poetry (1986); and to the single "Nothing But) Flowers" by Talking Heads, from the album Naked (1988). Marr's Smiths-style really came out in these songs—jangly, melodious combination of strumming and plucking.

Billy Bragg's 1986 song "Greetings to the New Brunette," which featured Johnny Marr on the guitars

Talking Heads' 1988 song "(Nothing But) Flowers," which featured Johnny Marr on the guitars

The above are only some of Marr's diverse contributions to the world of music. Other artists whom he has worked with include Pet Shop Boys, Oasis, Pearl Jam, and John Frusciante. Furthermore, in his prolific and enduring music career, he has collaborated and continues to work with fellow artists not limited to his obviously preferred genre of music; he has worked also with the composer and film scorer Hans Zimmerman, particularly on the original soundtrack of the 2010 film Inception.

The Latest: A Proper Solo Album
In late 2012, Marr announced that he would be finally coming up with his first solo album, entitled The Messenger, slated for release in February 2013. With the sound of the first few songs off this, Marr's music is definitely back to where his guitar sensibilities lie best...New Wave and Postpunk.

"Upstarts," from Johnny Marr's upcoming solo album, The Messenger (February 2013)

The title track from Marr's forthcoming solo album, The Messenger, slated for release next month 

Final Note
In the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” 2012 Special Collectors’ Edition of the music magazine Rolling Stone, Marr ranked 51st.

My former band in the Philippines Half Life Half Death (1988-2003) used to cover a number of The Smiths songs.

Here's my former band's lead guitarist, Rain Paggao, in 2011, performing on acoustic guitar  a medley of selected The Smiths songs.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

‘We Were Young and Wild and Free’ Really? Well, Maybe You, but Not Everyone

(On the False Belief that Recklessness and Stupidity Are Rites of Passage)
by aLfie vera mella

Ang tagumpay nga ba ay resulta lamang ng pagkakamaling itinama?

Isa ka ba sa mga nagyayabang na napagdaanan mo na ang lahat ng kalokohan sa mundo noong iyong kabataan kaya akala mo e napakatalino at napakagaling mo ngayong ikaw ay matanda na? Iniisip mo ba na kinakailangang madapa muna sa katarantaduhan at malulong muna sa masasamang bisyo bago makabangon at maging ganap na matibay at kagalang-galang? 

Kung ikaw ay minsang nalulong sa masamang bisyo o nakagawa ng malaking pagkakamali pero natuto at nakayang bumangon at baguhin ang takbo ng buhay, e di mabuti; maaari mong gamitin ang karanasang iyan bilang aral para sa ibang tao at lalo na sa mga kabataan. Subalit wag mong isipin na ang pagkakadapa, pagsubok sa masamang bisyo, at paggawa ng kamalian sa buhay ay kinakailangang pagdaanan bago maging ganap na matatag at responsableng tao.

Many people believe that recklessness is a natural quality of young people—especially teenagers, thinking that just because they're still young and inexperienced so they are incapable of appreciating the value of life and the virtue of humility and of developing a sense of logic. They think that, to become responsible adults, they should first experience being wild and reckless.

However, when I look back to my own youth, I realize that the assumption does not apply to everyone. Teenagers are not automatically reckless and careless. In fact, I had many friends back in my teenage and younger days who were having so much fun and even partying but were not engaging in stupid stuff like smoking their lungs black, drinking their livers to death, cooking and pickling their brains in drugs, and feeling invulnerable, arrogant and chauvinistic. Some were even able to party and follow fashion trends while being able to study and excel and engage in quiz bees, debates, class recitations, academic and other school activities, and ace the exams.

Time to Break the Myth and Disengage from Such Stupid Rituals
Recklessness is not an inescapable folly. One can become wise and responsible without having to experience being reckless. Choosing better paths and thinking smartly do not depend on the age of the individual. People should not think that recklessness and stupidity are rites of passage to adulthood. Adult people who think this way are perhaps reckless and careless themselves when they were young, and they are only assuming that everyone shares their experience, failing to realize that they should be speaking only for themselves, because there are many people who passed through their youth without succumbing to such follies as recklessness and stupidity.

The more they think that way, the more they are influencing many young ones into succumbing to the follies of youth. But I don't lose hope. I still believe that there will always be people who want to let young people of this generation realize that they always have a choice—the right to choose between pursuing a better and responsible path towards adulthood and treading a dangerous and reckless road to irresponsibility, mediocrity, and pathetic self-destruction.

There are many assumptions and misconceptions about teenagers and teenage itself. Many people think that irresponsible and reckless experiences or activities are rites of passage from youth to adulthood. They should realize that these are all unnecessary and that a person can experience teenage without the need for these obvious mistakes and follies. In fact, many people who didn’t experience such stupidities turned out fine…even better, wiser, and cooler individuals.

The Truth about Teenagers and Teenage 
Smoking, drinking, and drugs are not teenage necessities. You always have a choice, and there are many good ways in becoming a cool person. While there are many reckless and irresponsible teenagers and young adults who dabble in these vices, there are those who don’t but are still able to engage and delight in worthwhile activities related to music, arts, literature, and sports—and they turn out even healthier and wiser.

“Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” is only a myth. Getting into music or forming Rock bands does not require engaging in smoking, drinking, and drugs. The battered cliché “Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” has always been a myth only stupid, gullible, and narrowminded people believe.

Taking risks is okay but not at all times. It depends on the kind of risk one is taking. Calculated risks—those that can have positive outcomes—are worth pursuing and trying. Reckless risks—those which have obvious negative results—are simply stupid. Quitting school for a year to pursue a promising business or career opportunity is an example of a calculated risk that is worth trying. Stealing examination documents from the faculty office to possibly pass an examination is obviously not only risky but also stupid.

Sa Madaling Salita
Ang kalokohan at katarantaduhan ay hindi kinakailangang pagdaanan ng kabataan. Maaaring maging isang responsableng tao na hindi na kinakailangang madapa at magumon pa sa masasamang bisyo at gawain.

Or, in Simple Words
Recklessness, carelessness, stupidity, irresponsibility, and other similar follies are not default rites of passage from youth to adulthood. A young individual can become a responsible adult without the need to dabble in crazy stuff. There are a myriad better ways of enjoying one's youth.

The experienced, the challenged, and the scarred do not necessarily and automatically end up as the wiser and more responsible citizens of the world. In fact, many responsible, admirable, and well-accomplished adults have always been like that since their younger days.

Falling and failing is inevitable in some instances in one's life, but one doesn't need to fail or fall just so one can stand up and rise with one's head high. Success could be accomplished without its having to be a result of failure. Success will always be superior to failure.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Can You Really Fly?

(On the Ability to Discern a True and Smart Sense of Hope)
by aLfie vera mella

There are many adages that I learned as a young person but started to disbelieve as an adult; because when I really thought about their meanings, they are often illogical and shallow and inapplicable in actual situations. The following are examples of these:

"Love your enemies."
[No way! That's hypocrisy or stupidity or carelessness. Why would I love my enemies? I would certainly dislike them and avoid them and, as much as possible, stay away from their paths. For example, would you love someone who have raped or stole from a relative or friend of yours?]

"You cannot serve two masters at the same time."
[This depends on what masters are being referred to in this metaphor. If the master here pertains to a skill or a form of art, then it is possible to master more than one form of art or one type of skills. It's just a matter of passion and discipline and the determination to develop, practice, and use regularly such chosen artforms or skills.]

"Money is the root of all evil."
[Of course, not. Money--like the Internet (or technology, for that matter)--is a neutral tool. It depends on the user how to use these things for a good cause and purpose.]

"Everything is possible / Nothing is impossible."
[What an ignorant and naive claim. There are things that are not possible, based on the limitations of every individual or every circumstance. For example, can you fly? I don't think so.]

Many people enjoy ascribing to old and familiar quotes without even really analyzing their meanings and their actual applicability in real-life situations. To believe in such unrealistic quotes is tantamount to entertaining and promoting a false sense of hope; it only causes frustrations because they are unrealizable to begin with, so the individual who would believe in them would simply experience inevitable frustrations and dissatisfaction.

I am optimistic, but I remain realistic. Of course, I have a strong sense of hope; but my sense of hope is clearly anchored to my personal and circumstantial limitations.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Okay, Sorry Then

Should the Catholic Church Apologize to Rizal's Mother?

This is my reaction to this news article...

Okay, Sorry Then, I Won't Do It Again
"On the Uselessness of Issuing Public Apologies"
by aLfie vera mella

To me, an apology is useless. How can the Catholic Church (Catholic leaders? Who will write the apology? Who will represent the entire Catholic Church?) apologize to Rizal or even to his mother when both Rizal and his mother are long dead and gone. To Rizal's living descendants instead? Maybe. But for what purpose?

1) To let the Catholic Church, in general, swallow their pride?
2) To pat the ego of Rizal's living descendants?

To me, issuing of apologies is a very shallow and usually insincere way of admitting one's faults and appeasing the wrath and disgust of the other party.

And in the bigger picture, issuing apologies is not that simple. Because, the apologizer, the moment he issues the apology, is automatically admitting to the fault or even crime--and this is self-incriminating and self-loathing (in a massive scale). On the other hand, those demanding apologies may be seen as simply wanting to see the apologizers derogate and ridicule themselves and the people seeking apologies wanting to elevate his ego and sense of pride. I think, there is no justice in this. The whole issue of apology revolves around revenge and resentment.

I'd rather that issues like this be dealt upn with in a legal way--that, to me, is what is justice is all about. Not just some petty "sorry, I won't do it again."