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Clementine & Co. Shine With A Little Help From Their Friends

Below The Radar by Jason Caballa
PULP Magazine | Feb-Mar Issue 2011

The Camerawalls’ 2009 full-length debut, Pocket Guide To The Otherword, may have demonstrated that perhaps, singer and guitarist Clem “Clementine” Castro, had been the real songwriting genius in Orange & Lemons, but the record’s overpowering Anglophilic flavor (okay fine, it’s mostly the way he sings with a British accent) may also suggest that his former cohort in O&L was responsible for the local (read: masa) appeal of his former band’s more successful radio singles. But that’s a bit of an over-analysis though.

Besides, Pocket Guide To The Otherworld was a fine record, with excellent cuts like “The Emperor, The Concubine & The Commoner,” “I Love You, Natalie,” and of course, “Clinically Dead For 16 Hours,” that even our metalhead editor-in-chief admitted to liking at one point. At the same time, I couldn’t care less for that other band that resulted from O&L’s split.

Likewise, I am a firm believer that good music shouldn’t be defined by race, region, or nationality. If some bloke from Bulacan wants to sing with a British accent, as long as his songs are good, then let him. Besides, white people have been rapping for over two decades now, and one of the best dub/reggae bands I’ve heard is from Cebu. (Then again, the worst reggae band I know is Pinoy, too, but let’s not get into that.)

The Camerawalls (From L-R: Joseph Rudica, Law Santiago and Clementine)

The Camerawalls are back with a new record, the six-track (including an unlisted piano instrumental at the end) Bread And Circuses EP. Some fans may expect a variation in sound, as the trio did go through some significant changes in the past year or so. Original drummer Ian Sarabia has left the fold, replaced by Joseph “Bachie” Rudica of Lilystars labelmates The Gentle Isolation. They’ve also had a second live guitar player for a considerable period, but he also left the same time Sarabia bailed.

The first thing one may n0tice, then, on opening track “A Gentle Persuasion,” are the beats. Rudica provides a funkier, more agile touch behind the kit, and, along with keyboards and string orchestrations provided by co-producer Jonathan Ong, makes the song more akin to indie pop acts like Club 8 and Camera Obscura than the English jangle-pop and new wave Castro seemingly drew heavily from on their first release.

Piano courtesy of musician/fashion designer Kate Torralba gives “My Life’s Arithmetic Means” a gentle pub-rock bounce, while ex-The Dawn axeman Francis Reyes provides welcome electricity to the sublime “Longevity.” “Birthday Wishes” is probably Castro at his most Lennon-esque. Not only does he sound like the late ex-Beatle, but with lyrics like “I wish for peace and love / a better country / and a happy coexistence” and “Never cease believing / dreams do come true,” it could very well be his own “Imagine.”

While all these songs are certainly more than decent, it’s the title track “Bread and Circuses” that definitely makes this EP worth the purchase. Plainly put, it’s Castro’s best song since “Clinically Dead For 16 Hours,” and with its deft beats, subtle flourishes of strings, keys and tremolo’ed guitars, and Law Santiago’s walking bassline, it could even be the band’s finest moment yet. Splendid work, mates.

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