There must be something in the water down South, specifically in Cebu. Just look at this list of Cebuanos who have helped shaped the Philippines to what it is today:
1) Lapu-Lapu, national hero and the face of the one-centavo coin,
2) June Mar Fajardo Philippine Men’s National Basketball Team mainstay and two-time PBA MVP,
3) Ellen Adarna, constantly breaking the internet and has multiple FHM covers under her belt, and
4) Urbandub, one of the best bands to ever emerge in the local music scene and the headliner of this list.
A band that was supposed to play reggae tunes (hence the name), Urbandub has come a long way from being an independent band with no major label backing, to one of the most sought after OPM acts in recent memory. You probably missed their debut album, Birth, as the album didn’t see much distribution outside of the band’s home base in Cebu. With that album being launched before the dawn of social media (it was released about a year before Friendster was founded), the odds were that Birth was never going to be a mainstream success. Fortunately for us, Urbandub went on to produce Influence that included songs like "A New Tattoo" and "Soul Searching" (2003 NU Rock Awards Song of the Year) and the rest, as they say, is history.
In this list, we take a look at the 'Dub songs we may have missed or may have forgotten. This is by no means a eulogy for the band, which we’re still hoping will reunite eventually, but more of a celebration of the greatness that was Urbandub. Here are the 10 'Dub songs you should be listening to right now.
A collaboration with fellow Cebuanos Dice and K9 (of "Itsumo" fame), "Apart" starts off with a superb bass line that no human can resist head-bopping to. Turntable scratching then sets the table for Dice and K9’s groove-inducing rhymes. The song abruptly bursts into a full-on alternative rock anthem, with the band showing heavy swatches of their Deftones influence, and doesn’t let up until the end.
"Eating Me" starts off with a galloping guitar riff which reminds us of what Urbandub was supposed to be—a reggae band that has rock tendencies. There’s an unmistakable island vibe to the track that is only betrayed by the distorted rhythm guitar. It promptly proceeds to shed its reggae skin at the chorus to transform into a punk rock ditty that Green Day would be proud of.
"Fallen on Deaf Ears"
Influence was the album where the Urbandub sound we know today started to emerge. It proved that the sophomore curse is nothing but a myth. "Fallen on Deaf Ears" is a cut from this album; it showcases the impeccable guitar work that Urbandub is now known for. The two guitars intertwine in perfect harmonic synchronicity, interspaced by syncopated beats and breaks, all held together by Lalay's thumping bass guitar that becomes a solid foundation for the entire track.
Their reggae influence rears its head again in this mellow track, though it never really fully develops. Lead singer Gabby’s voice is on full display in this one, with his emotions shining through the vocal track. But it is John’s guitar mastery that really shines—his perfect use of the delay pedal completes this track and acts as the perfect complement to Gabby’s vocals.
"Reveal the Remedy"
Look pass the catchy melodies and the soulful lyrics and you’ll discover that Urbandub songs are also technical masterpieces. The band’s arrangements are always interesting and keep listeners on their toes. "Reveal the Remedy," from the album Embrace, is a shining example of that. Guitars come in a half beat later than your brain expects, distorted guitars suddenly change to clean mid-verse, drum patterns change sporadically, and that sudden shift at exactly the two and a half minute mark is as good a plot twist as any. But in the seemingly chaotic sequence of notes and beats, Urbandub leaves you with a feeling that everything is just where it’s supposed to be.
"Safety in Numbers"
Despite easily being one of the Urbandub’s darkest songs, the band members’ skills are on full display in "Safety in Numbers." Gabby delivers a searing vocal performance and uses everything in his arsenal from delicate falsettos to belting out lines like the true rockstar that he is. The syncopated section two minutes into the song is a well-executed curveball to lead into a slightly different version of the chorus that is framed perfectly by some exquisite drumming. The song ends by bringing back the same chant that was found after the first chorus—a haunting series of notes that fits the theme of the song completely.
Under Southern Lights, the fourth album released by Urbandub, is one of the best OPM albums ever released. Songs like "Guillotine" and "Evidence" will be a part of every respectable OPM playlist in the foreseeable future. But another cut in the album that you shouldn’t miss out on is "Cebuana." This well-crafted song flows from start to finish with barely a dull moment. The story telling is sublime and listening to the song makes you feel like you’re in a different place entirely. The song gathers itself and offers some respite at the 2:57 mark before it launches to an atmospheric climax. This time, we chose to link back to one of the live versions of this song because if there’s one word to describe Urbandub’s live sets, it’s that they’re plakado (the local slang for sounding exactly how they do in their albums).
Is it just coincidence that the Urbandub song that starts with the line “I’m mapping the routes to take” seems to be one of the best driving songs the band has ever released? No, the song is not about cars nor road trips (though it is about moving forward) but the energetic pace of this track lends itself well to full-blast play-throughs on your car’s stereo unit. And despite the song’s unfortunate theme, the track just makes you want to barrel down the highway, windows down, and leave all your cares behind.
"Stars & The Sun"
The intro of this cut off the band’s fifth studio album is an eargasmic treat. A punchy bass, a dreamy guitar sound, some fantastic cymbal work, and a host of percussion instruments all meld together to create a web of sound that traps you and threatens to never let you go. And just as soon as you decide that you want to live in that ethereal sound forever, the track goes on a tangent and transfigures into a pulsating rock anthem poised to start a revolution.
Esoteric is probably the heaviest sounding album Urbandub has ever released. The track "Mantra" immediately grabs your attention with a forceful guitar riff that would feel at home in any mosh pit. The vocals borders on screaming at times as it rides the forceful wave that the instruments create. It’s a wall of sound that hits you squarely in the face and will stay plastered in your head for days to come.