Mabie loves Franco

ôIs this local?ö

It was another humdrum day at the office and YouTube wasnÆt buffering fast enough for my bored selfÆs liking. My officemate seated beside me, Ryan, had whipped out his music phone and offered me a listen at his play list.

ôHeÆs from Cebu,ö he explained.

ôWow! Impressive,ö I said, bobbing my head to the music. And it really was. I wouldnÆt say it was like nothing IÆve heard before, but I will say that itÆs nothing like IÆve heard before from the local music scene. There was just something about it that gave me the impression of such maturity, both lyrically and musically.

ôDo you have anymore?ö

ôHeÆs coming out with a full album with a local band next year.ö

ôWait, whoÆs this guy again?ö

ôFranco Reyes.ö

I quit the Japanese game show video I was buffering and started a new search.

ôType Inyo for an easier search,ö tipped Ryan.

ôOh look! HeÆs on YouTube! Wow, he plays in the States.ö It was a gig at a club called The Garage in St. Petersburg, Florida. In the video, the man called Franco Reyes was, quite literally, rocking it out to a song called ôMass For The End of Timeô. What caught my eye, however, was how poised he was doing it. His music sounds mature, and he plays mature. Right in front of the guy holding the video camera (most probably it was a phone) was a Caucasian girl obviously thoroughly enjoying herself with the music. I watched her and couldnÆt help but feel proud. HereÆs a Filipino guy, singing an English song, playing for an American crowd in an American bar, and yet thereÆs no mistaking it: heÆs definitely Pinoy.

ôHis band hereÆs being tagged as a super band,ö Ryan cut through my immersion.

ôOh?ö I distractedly replied.

ôYeah! ItÆs got Buwi Meneses -- ô

ôFrom Parokya [ni Edgar]?!ö

ôYeah, and Ocho --ö

ôFrom Quezo ?!ö

ôYeah, and Jan Mendoza and Gabby Alipe --ö

ôHnnnggggggwaaaatt??? What the eff-- that IS a super band! ThatÆs crazy! Are you serious?ö By this time, my inner groupie/fan girl was fully unleashed. I stared back at Franco through my computer screen.

ôYou know what, he kinda looks like Jesus, too. A rockstar Jesus.ô

The video of the gig had ended. It ran some six minutes. I clicked on the Replay button. ôThatÆs one hot super band.ö

The thing you have to understand when listening to Franco is that while the band is composed of an all-star cast, itÆs not about the band. It sucks to have a clichT define things for you, but I guess thatÆs what makes a clichTÆ a clichT, right? They hold strong and true through the test of time. And the clichT that sums it up for me is this: ItÆs not about the band, itÆs about the music.

When I first listened to FrancoÆs music, I didnÆt know of the band behind it. I didnÆt know Buwi was in it, or Ocho, or Gabby, who, after listening to his music for five albums and 10 years, youÆd think IÆd know how he sings and plays already, like the back of my hand. Imagine my consternation when they performed at MYX Live and saw for myself that it was Gabby doing back-up vocal duties. I swear, I did not hear the trademark Gabby-Urbandub voice IÆve loved hearing this past decade. Personal consternations and feelings of failed fangirlism aside, thatÆs actually what I find to be the most effective and endearing traits about this band.

Before my discovery as to the whoÆs who in Franco, there was no ôsuper bandö tag attached to my appreciation for what I was hearing. It was great music, and that was it. There were no Gabby Alipe and Jan Mendoza of Urbandub, there was no Buwi Meneses of Parokya ni Edgar, there was no Otcho of Quezo, there was no Franco Reyes of Inyo -- there was just Franco. Not many tie-up bands could pull this kind of allegiance off. This is one commitment where each member, all individually recognized as forces to be reckoned with in the music industry, had to leave and check their egos at the door. And because they did, we are now graced with the presence of the band that will change the landscape of Philippine rock forever.

And really, thatÆs what makes this band super.

Listening intently to the album (by ôintentlyö I mean playing the whole thing on loop the entire day every some couple other days), I had to consciously re-inform myself that this is no foreign band. I canÆt help it, they were justà gripping and of international quality. And yet, while they sounded international, they didnÆt sound foreign enough to alienate their local fan base.

It wasnÆt just the melody that was catchy, or the strong, forceful riffs that suddenly mellow down to soothing reggae beats, it was also the presence of lyrical surprises abounding the album that makes it one package of melodic pleasantness. ôMass For the End of Timeö, for example, contained a simple call to action, which, in another occasion and context - or sung by a different artist - would have definitely sounded cheesy. Listening to it, I had to do a triple-take. Did he just say ôSave the Earth we call homeö? As a matter of fact, he did. Three times. ItÆs not only the environment they sing for, they also sing of love. Not in a romantic way, necessarily, but of understanding it. These lyrics portray their deep-seated influence from the hippie mentality - that of being one with nature, of respecting and understanding the concept of love, and in turn, channeling these to the people around you. In not so many words, itÆs all good vibes.

Do not mistake this album, however, for a musical exercise entirely devoted to feel-good music. ItÆs got its angsty side as well, a forlorn longing or desire to move beyond ôdarkened skiesö and ôtidal wavesö. It depicts a journey on rough waters, steely weather and all, but still, itÆs about moving on. It leaves a footnote for one to kill that memory, that ôCold and pale black memory/ Of you and me standing stillö. And then after that, itÆs a call to celebration, because ôthe circleÆs back to whole againö. ItÆs the totality of the human experience encapsulated and simplified in 10 tracks. Simplified, but not simplistic.

As the very last note of the very last track faded away, I could not help but feel stirred, nay, compelled to the action that they have called. ôWe only want the love in you,ö they sung. To that, I can only give a quick, definite reply, ôSure. You definitely got it.ö

At the end of this review, if you were looking for a traditional conclusion, the question of ratings usually follows. So, how many stars should Franco the super band get for their first album? None. They donÆt need a star. They are the star.

By: Mabie Alagbate

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