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Album Review by Edward Wallace

Posted in The Camerawall’s e-groups – August 14, 2008

When I first visited Manila, in the early 00s, I was a little disappointed. While there was a great underground scene, mainstream music there was occupied by crude American top forty and imitators. Where were the uplifting troubadours with croons and jangly guitars that shined like the crystal beaches, green ferns, and colorful Jeepneys?

By my second trip, things began to change. Pinoy group called Oranges & Lemons (later changed to Orange & Lemons) took the country by storm with a return to romanticism and melody. Alas, just as indi-pop was breaking worldwide Orange & Lemons ended in 2007.

Now Clementine, one of the two lead singers, writers, and guitarists of Orange & Lemons, has formed a new band called The Camerawalls, the first on his own label, Lilystars Records.

The name Camerawalls is an anagram for the names of Clem, drummer Ian Sarabia (who also writes and sings on the CD), and bass player Law Santiago. Sounding like a Filipino Brian Ferry, Clem has one of the best singing voices in Asia. He’s added the banduria and the octavina (native stringed instruments) to his palette for a lush Spanish Mandolin-like

At first the album picks up picks up where his last band left off. The opener ’Markers of Beautiful Memories’ is a catchy, breezy love song ready to conquer the radio. But with the aid of his bandmates, he delves into darker, more serious topics than Oranges & Lemons ever explored. As with Coldplay’s recent Viva La Vida, The Camerawalls manage to stay fun as they go deep. Soft, sparkling Beatlesque hooks gently carry the knives.

’Clinically Dead For 16 Hours’ recounts a brush with death and it’s emotional impact: “Crossing all the roads where lines began / break my hourglass and let the sands move in time.” ’Lord Of The Flies’ stabs at the corruption of the powerful, with a format breaking Blues Rock vibe ala Oasis or The Stone Roses. ’The Emperor, The Concubine, & The Commoner’ tells an ancient Chinese love tragedy, that fans of The Decemberists will love.

’I Love You Natalie’, ’Ignore My Weakness, Don’t Ignore Me’ and ’Solitary North Star’ are relationship songs with oldstyle poetic imagery. “As we ease the vast space between us, beneath our eyes/ twinkle of tears will appear / Do We kiss, or look intently for endless moments in wonder? / There is beauty in absence.”

The poem ’Canto de Maria Clara’ even has Clem covering the words of famous 19th century Filipino hero Dr. Jose’ Rizal over music.

This ties in with the band’s own call to arms: ’Changing Horses Midstream’ and ’Lizards Hiding Under Rocks’, where they condemn the pressure to artistically conform that came out of Manila’s woes. “The boys try too hard to be action heroes/ But they end up being pretentious geeks/ And from behind their masks, they are nothing but phoney.” …. “Desperate to be liked at any cost / The girls exchange their honor for attention.” Twack! I can relate to this here in the Seattle area.

All nine original songs are in English. Pocket Guide To The Otherworld is available on i-Tunes, giving a worldwide audience a chance to discover them, and hopefully more Filipino bands in the process.

For under the right rocks, they will find not lizards, but gold.

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