Monday, September 8, 2008

Blanco's Back

And we find him in his own universe. Rico Blanco, the former frontman for the band, Rivermaya, released his first solo album, "Your Universe" some weeks back announcing his comeback to the music scene. The first crack of course was the teaser (an understatement since in itself it was the announcement that he was back) called "Yugto", my own review found on this link.

(Fast fact: i did search my own blog to get that link and found out that one anonymous reader did leave a comment telling me that he came across my review over at and since s/he knew Rico personally he forwarded it to to him and apparently Mr. Blanco was "impressed with your insights". True or not, this is the part when i sent a text message to my friends telling them what i just read. This is the part as well when i smile ear to ear, and glee like it's '93 when i first met Rico and the rest of River Maya during their first concert in Naga.)

That said, it's time for the (regular) disclaimer when i am writing (and criticizing) about my own favorite artists and the likes; pardon the prejudice, positive or otherwise. Dissecting Rico was actually the second review i had in this blog, the first one was about NewMaya's Buhay, which fortunately and unfortunately was not music to the ears for some people.

(Fast fact: Member since early 2000 in the River Maya mailing list, i found myself banned from it as my messages were blocked by the RM mailing list administrators after i posted the same Buhay Review there. You can say: "HaAy. Buhay." here. That deserved a blog entry of its own but let it go.)

So without further nonsense, here's Rico's universe from a fan's point of view:

And starting where i left off from the Dissecting Blanco entry (Rico set such a high standard with this single, time will tell if other songs will play up to this level...)

And so the question begs, did the album surpass what Yugto established and did it meet my expectations? The short and simple and answer is a no (And that's considering and reconsidering every personal bias i have) The long and complicated one is listed below.

Blanco's Back (Your Universe - Rico Blanco)

Yugto rebooted Rico's music career with a bang. Did the rest of the Your Universe playlist follow suit? Simply, no. But did it come as a whimper? Hardly. After all, setting a high standard is not a bad thing in itself. After all, you can't blame Rico for being (too) excited and picking the best song to (pre)release. After all, it's not like other songs from Your Universe is not good. After all, after listening to the album 56 times, you realize this was the real Rico Blanco singing to you--- personal and impersonal at the same time.

After all, this could be the very reason why he chose to go solo: produce something that you can call you. Selfishly personal and openly impersonal--- Sure, that sounds in every possible way a negative line of thinking but not to Rico and his emotions. It might have detached Blanco from a lot of expectations, but definitely it re-established himself as the primary mover of his craft--- not other's wants but what he wants to do, what he wants to say and how he wants to do and say it... which is what music, expression and art should be all about.

Sure, it might have been too much of Blanco, his effective mushiness and some. But what really did you expect from a solo album from an artist who once said that "we play what we want to play, kahit na baduy." (circa 90's)... what more do you really want and expect? As always with Rico, he gives you the bad and the good and keeps you asking for more.

Just like the Yugto review where i dissected it piece by piece, here are some thoughts, song by song on Your Universe. (In quote below each are the best lines from the song)

SAY FOREVER - 80's feel. Rico starts off with the throaty vocals before the interestingly 80s vocal attack on the chorus. Progressive bass-line courtesy of E'heads' Buddy Zabala. Synths completes the 80's feel. i used 80's four times in this paragraph. Expect just that. (Reminds me as well of Maya's Golden Boy version)
I'm at the central station Without a destination baby its true, its true.
YOUR UNIVERSE - Just the other night on my way home the song was played over radio. After the song, the (female) DJ had this to say: "Rico made that song for me. Period." Just about sums it up. The song (particularly the lyrics, as expected) captures your want to feel anything that resembles love. The lover or the loved, it's all the same to you. So effective, it doesn't care if you have no one to dedicate the song to. Ok, that sounds as mushy as Rico. i will stop now. (Replaces Atomic Bomb's If, as the number one 'maya love song of all time in my list. Also, counter part of Rico's pain song called Shattered Like from the It's Not Easy Being Green--- meaning you can feel Rico's pain from the former and you can feel his pleasure from this thing called love in this song)
You can thank your stars all you want but I'll always be the lucky one
AYUZ - Nerbyoso (Trip) crossed with a toned down Gising Na (Tuloy ang Ligaya) during the chorus. Horns reminds you of a Blur song.
At sa mali mo'y may liquid paper
Sa lovelife mong panis, Ctrl-alt-delete
HELPLESS - By the 4th and 5th songs (this one and the next) of the album you wonder if Rico should offer any angst at all (Credit a poster from named ThCrrspndnt who said: "Apparently, the word "angst" isn't part of Rico Blanco's vocabulary. Not a single downer on the former Rivermaya mouthpiece's solo debut effort, "Your Universe." Blanco's offerings are full of emotion yet he's not one to be emo or whatever kids these days call it.") Couldn't have said it better. By the way, this is what you get as well for leaving Rico with all the instruments (except for the drums)
I pour some coffee And slowly swirl in mem'ries Of the night we watched the stars fade into space
START AGAIN - Same same as above. Helpless and Start Again remind me of Never Been Better (It's Not Easy Being Green) without the angst plus same acoustic feel and more synths..
If its okay I'd like
A minute to speak with you
OUTTA THIS - Rico and synths once again. Remember Strontium 90 in It's Not Easy Being Green? Well, it's sort of, kind of like that with lyrics and a more conceivable bass line and guitar rifts plus of course the playful synths.
I try my best to kill The emptiness until My heart stops beatin But I'm not breathin
PARA HINDI KA MAWALA - Intentionally Taglish? Probably the mushiest of the bunch. Only song in the album that uses just a single instrument (acoustic guitar)...
Pag diniscuss ko pa
Ma wi-weird-an ka lang
Pag nag-emote ako
Lalo kang tatabang
Antukin - Your Universe's Tagalog counterpart. Confirmation that Rico indeed is in deep trenches of that emotion which is true across this album. You (almost) wish your also in those deep trenches as well. That catchy guitar rift is still at the back of the mind--- where did it come from?! So familiar yet we can't point out the influence. Warning: Almost the entire song copy+pasted next because, after all, this is Blanco we are talking about. Also take note of the extro vocals; "Gumawa na lang tayo ng paraan (Then, paraan is slowly faded out to make way for the backing vocals: "Baby...")
Sorry wala ka nang magagawa/Mahalin mo nalang ako/Ng sobra sobra
Para patas naman tayo/Diba?

Sasalubungin natin ang kinabukasan/Ng walang takot at walang pangamba
Tadhana'y merong tip na makapangyarihan/

Pinaiyak ka ng manghuhula/Hindi na raw tayo magkasamang tatanda/
Buti nalang/Merong langit na nagtatanggol sa/Pag ibig na pursigido't matyaga

Long as we stand as one/Ano man ang ating makabangga/Nothing will ever break us
Wala talaga/As in wala

Hahalikan nalang natin ang kinabukasan/Ng buong loob at yayakapin pa
Tadhana'y medyo overrated kung minsan/

Gumawa nalang tayo ng paraan
Gumawa nalang tayo ng... (Baby)
Gumawa nalang tayo ng paraan
Metropolis - Aptly the last song as Rico bades goodbye and good night. At least for now of course.
Sweet, sweet dreams Sleep tight, good night
So there goes Rico's universe. The good is that is he's back making music--- that is neither this generation's privilege nor it's gift, but just some kind of luck that we got he got to spend making his music in this era. The bad is that he pulled some punches--- you can credit/blame that in his hope to plainly express himself. You can doubt the end result, but you can never doubt the emotions involved.