It’s been 25 years since the Eraserheads released their demo-turned-cult-classic, Pop U! and after seven full studio albums, over 120 tracks, and more than seven hours, 11 minutes, and 12 seconds of recorded material, the ‘Heads have released more than enough songs to fill an average listener’s daily playlist.
Dissecting such a playlist will reveal quite a few obvious choices for a "Greatest Hits" list: "Ang Huling El Bimbo," "Ligaya," and "With a Smile," for example. With such a huge discography, some songs will understandably slip through the cracks and stay dormant in the pits of pop culture.
We've found a way to show them the love they deserve.
We dust off our old tapes and browse through our cassette collection to revisit the Eheads songs that were underappreciated. These songs could’ve been hits but were never released as singles. They didn’t have proper music videos, nor did they appear in any TV show, movie, or commercial spot. They weren’t even covered for the tribute albums released a few years back. But that doesn't mean they aren’t any less awesome. Ask any true fan about them and they probably can bust out a stanza or two impromptu.
Here are 15 classic but overlooked songs from the Eraserheads catalog. And just in case you’re expecting, no, we won’t be including songs from the Kris Dancel-era 'Heads (they simply weren’t the Eraserheads and they conceded to that fact as well, eventually renaming the band Cambio).
As soon as the keyboard intro of "Shirley" plays, you know you’re in for a fun trip. Ely perfectly describes the rollercoaster ride of a collegiate romance that if it were released today, it would probably be the theme song of a Jadaone-JaDine flick already. It’s dirty, gritty, and not particularly well-recorded—but as with many Eraserheads songs, you probably knew someone with the same story as Shirley, was a Shirley, or was the binata (but sans the magandang kotse), making this a classic in its own right.
"Shake Yer Head"
The simple arrangement of "Shake Yer Head" resulted in one of the cleaner cuts in the ‘Heads debut album, Ultraelectromagneticpop!. Its simplicity makes this track truly shine. It gives you an unplugged and intimate feel, with clean guitars all throughout, and Raimund stepping out from behind his drum kit and settling for a tambourine. You might as well have been in the same room while they were recording the song. The track feels genuine and it left us shaking our heads to the beat.
"Sa Wakas" is a perfect example why the Eraserheads’ songs have a lasting appeal. Ely and the boys sing about young love, sembreaks, driving, and drugs (if Tito Sotto is to be believed)—things we’re all too familiar with. And when "Sa Wakas" was released as part of their sophomore album, Circus, we were treated to an ode to college students who have earned that valued piece of paper. It served as the soundtrack to our triumphant shout or, most likely, the biggest sigh of relief. Sa wakas, indeed.
With arguably the best riff in local alternative music (we say Top 10 all time in OPM history), this song showcases the chops of Marcus Adoro. Perfectly constructed around Adoro’s guitarwork, it builds up to a frenetic “confession” and explodes into a glorious penance, and finally resolves to that same head-bop inducing riff that every guitarist should learn how to play immediately.
"Waiting for the Bus"
While Ultraelectromagneticpop! holds more importance in OPM as the album that launched not only the ‘Heads but also a new era of local music, Cutterpillow is considered by many as the best in terms of content and sheer number of great songs. There is literally no bad song in this entire album which is why you’ll find quite a few cuts from that album in this list. And among this collection of all-good-enough-to-be-singles, "Waiting for the Bus" stands out. The rhythm section of Buddy and Marcus really holds down the fort on this track, laying the pavement on which this bluesy song confidently chugs along.
Is that a woman laughing? Or screaming? We don’t know but get past the eclectic choice of intro instrumentation and you’ll find a gem of a song in "Walang Nagbago." It coasts along nicely with a solid pop progression before reaching its climax—a falsetto-fueled bridge that will surely give you an LSS guaranteed to last for at least a full work day. The title itself could be used to describe how the song withstood the test of time and how it still sounds as good as it did back when we first heard it more than two decades ago.
"Back 2 Me"
A song about being left behind by your OTL, "Back 2 Me" starts with a stadium rock-esque drum intro but quickly dissipates to a full blown punk track with a chaotic pace which it maintains for the entire song. It’s as if the song structure mirrors the process of being abruptly dumped by starting out clueless and questioning, and snowballs into a complex mix of emotions that include disbelief, anger, and an undying hope that you’ll get back together. A mosh-pit provoking track, it has less than 30,000 views on one YouTube page after five years of being online—shame on you, Internet.
This cut from Cutterpillow contains one of the more hypnotizing guitar licks in OPM history. Anyone with an acoustic guitar in ’95 probably knew how to play that intro riff and played it every chance they got (but then stopped and played another song after doing so). What most people missed is that the riff just sets the mood for the song—listen to it in its entirety and hear a sad, yet familiar tale. The way the man tells his wife his final wish is a moving homage to how hard we work only to make ends meet and that unrelenting hope that we find comfort at least in death. Heavy stuff right there.
"Old Fashioned Christmas Carol"
At first listen, the album Fruitcake doesn’t seem to make sense at all—that’s if you’re not familiar with Frannie Wei and her journey to Fruitcake Heights. See, this album was meant to accompany a storybook (and was actually put up as a musical once) so we’d be hard-pressed to find songs that can stand alone outside of Frannie’s story. But perhaps the most Christmas-y of all the songs in the album is "Old Fashioned Christmas Carol," a mish-mash of yuletide tunes like "Frosty the Snowman," "Silver Bells/Jingle Bells," and "12 Days of Christmas." This ditty’s chorus is a joyous greeting of “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,” making this a legitimate alternative to the classic carols we know.
Supposedly part of the movie Run Barbi Run, a movie that featured the ‘Heads alongside Joey de Leon, this reggae-inspired song didn’t make the final soundtrack—making it eligible for our list. While this is probably not on most people’s playlists, it definitely deserves a second listen if only for Buddy Zabala’s bass lines. He brings the groove for the song’s entire five-minute duration and just glues the piece together. We dare you not to snap your fingers to this song.
Based on the Salvador Dali flick Un Chien Andalou, this is probably one of the heavier songs written by the quartet. It’s a simple song, just a Bm and a G, with an F# thrown in for good measure, but when that guitar riff hits you, it grabs you, and forces you to take heed. For lack of a better way explanation, it really does take you to that “place in the world where the sun don’t shine,” wherever that is for you. Not a poppy song by any standard, this didn’t connect with people as much as the band’s other hits because of it’s darker tone and somewhat un-relatable lyrics but that doesn’t make "Andalusian Dog" any less of an epic song.
Most of us know about the song "Kaliwete" (which isn’t about lefties) but not everyone knows about the song "Kananete," which, as you probably guessed, isn’t about our right-handed brethren. Give this song a listen and discover a guitar-driven song that you can rock out to. The verses are reminiscent of current pop/alternative music being dished out by likes of the Itchyworms, illustrating just how much of an influence the Eraserheads had on the local music scene.
Originally recorded for their demo tape (yes, in cassette format), "Scorpio Rising" didn’t make an appearance again until the compilation album Aloha Milkyway was released in 1998. And while "Julie Tearjerky" was undoubtedly the king (or queen) of Aloha, charting all around Southeast Asia, the re-recording of "Scorpio Rising" was a pleasant surprise. And while the Pop U! version had its charm in an underground, bootleg, cult classic kind of way, the cleaner sound and better overall quality helped the track reach its full potential almost a decade after.
"Peace it Together"
A cut from one of the more slept on albums of the Eraserheads (Natin99 was one of the two studio albums that didn’t reach Platinum status, the other being Carbon Stereoxide), "Peace it Together" is a song that we just can’t ignore, especially given the relevance it has for the country today. A call for us to stand united as a nation and start making a difference, the track’s message still rings true 17 years after its original release while still being as catchy as ever. Sing it with us: “We can if we wanted to, let’s start with me and you, both of us together. Basag ipagdikit-dikit, pusong punit-punit, let’s peace it together.”
A far cry from the sound the Eraserheads are known for, Carbon Stereoxide wasn’t received positively as far as album sales go. "Hula", like the single "Maskara," was darker and heavier than most of the songs that the ‘Heads released. Listening to it now, these tracks sound more like the eventual projects of frontman Ely Buendia (think "Pupil" or "Mongols") than an actual Eraserheads song. But to call these songs bad is technically incorrect—it’s not just what we were used to. "Hula" shows how well the four members’ playing complemented each other, with Buendia’s understated and effortless vocal performance acting as the cherry on top. The verse lures you to a false sense of calmness which is abruptly taken away by the chorus’ almost frantic pace (hinted only by the 3rd line of each verse) only to slam the brakes on you before you realize what happened and drops you back into a tranquil state.