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Depth of Field: The Lyrical Brilliance of The Camerawalls

by Xiomara Glindmeyer
Sun Star Cebu | April 3, 2011

The Camerawalls is the proverbial phoenix rising from its ashes for singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Clemen Castro or simply Clementine, the new moniker he goes by. The unceremonious departure from the now-defunct band Orange and Lemons resulted in the emergence of The Camerawalls. Almost like karmic retribution, the band wasted no time garnering laud and laurels amongst peers and discerning listeners after an internet release of their first single, “Markers of Beautiful Memories.” The subsequent release of their debut album, “Pocket Guide to the Otherworld” and the live events allowed the band to widen their fan base. It wasn’t a stretch for Clementine, having been the impetus of his successful erstwhile band.

Released in December of last year, the second album is an EP titled “Bread and Circuses.” It opens with the summery track “A Gentle Persuasion” evocative of 60s pop sound. It is an artfully seductive yet genteel song. Clementine crooning the lines “Tonight I’m in spades of light in my heart. Please indulge me. Don’t stop me. Oh gentle persuasion…” almost reads like an anachronistic Arthurian romantic verse. The song is followed by the equally peppy “My Life’s Arithmetic Means” with piano tracks by the accomplished and sublime Kate Torralba. The listener finds a song about trust and the relevance you give to a person. “Like a bubble at a touch I won’t let you break. I won’t even pretend ‘cause you’re the value of my life’s arithmetic means.”

Listen to these songs when you feel that the world is against you. I promise you, that same world will now be awash with sunshine and life will be beautiful again. The next track has a more somber message in spite of its upbeat tune. “Longevity” sings about the harsh reality that love can die for no apparent reason except that it has reached its zenith and can go no further. Painfully wrought in these lines “Your longevity in my heart now appear as a handicap. I can’t function no more”. “Birthday Wishes” is a quiet song of maturity. If one listens carefully, there is (almost) another voice track that is singing the verses in a whisper. It’s a perfect milieu for exploring the realization that it’s the things that you can’t touch that matter. “And in this fog I use my heart as a compass and in the darkness my faith is my lamp and in depression I learn the real value of living…” Those lines speak wisely that it is human connection that makes us go on. “All these years I think of nothing, no one but myself in birthday wishes. Now I think of you.” Finally, the title track “Bread and Circuse” with these lines “We choose what we have and sometimes lose more than our bread.

You’ve given life your trust and it’s been thrown back at your face…” laments ruefully about how life is at times, not fair.

Regardless of the absence of the rondalla-type instrumentation characteristic of their past songs, with Clementine’s signature androgynous voice, this album is still nevertheless distinctively, The Camerawalls. Extolling the virtues of Clementine’s lyric writing is not an arduous task. It is plain to hear that all the songs are well-written and erudite but devoid of any esoteric thus, making it is easier to relate to.

While most songwriters employ fillers, a quatrain of “yeah’s” and “ohh’s” and “aahh’s” if you will, the band is guiltless in this instance. Although some themes may have been sung countless times, their songs are eloquently riddled with idioms that may be familiar but never encountered in song. One rarely hears the same overused, unimaginative lines. Bread and Circuses is an honest soulful imagery of human nature whether in doubt, in woe, in disenchantment and in love.

The collective of Clementine, Law Santiago and Joseph “Bachie” Rudica (bassist and drummer respectively) and their fusion of sophisticatedly arranged music and the brilliantly penned poetic lyrics have established themselves as a band to be reckoned with. While the airwaves are teeming with inane songs with paltry songwriting, they urge you to listen not just with your ears but with your heart and mind. To real musicians, their job is done when their music evoke that catharsis. The Camerawalls easily surpassed that a thousandfold.

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