Because there is plenty here that works: from the funky music to the fantastic lyrics, dramatic situations and imagery so vivid, emotions so raw it can only be yours.
I knew it when I heard “Kapit Mahal” via Billy B.’s now-defunct UR radio show, but I know it even more now: that was no fluke. Top Junk released its indie debut last year, but I count it as one of my early 2011 finds, literally: I bought it at Route 196 as I bobbed my head to The Purplechickens’ Here’s Plan B gig of reminiscence. Yes, it was like being fresh out of college that night, but that’s stuff for another story.
Right now the story is this: Top Junk knows how to give due respect to rakenrol by being such. Where nothing is hard-sell, everything’s about celebrating the freedoms we hold dear, everyone’s in on it, too. “Managinip” makes sure of that, even when the funk makes it seem like a standard pick-me-up song about hope and dreaming. Except that it is literally about the world of dreaming, an invitation to enter it, one that’s difficult to refuse because it’s about freedom. “Age of Your Heart” also speaks of a freedom found in the fact of having unfulfilled all-possible plans, having lost all that’s concrete, having told all stories, and at that point just wanting to up and leave.
Then there are Top Junk’s love songs which are all poetry. The music takes care of making sure it isn’t too difficult as such, but the lyrics are what keep these songs alive. And when I say that I don’t mean charming ditties or broken sonnets; I mean the love song in contemporary rakenrol style, with the bass blaring, the drums making the heartbeat faster, the guitars keeping the ears piqued. I mean the love song as we know it: complex and complicated, never just about the boy meeting the girl, always with an amount of humor, and some real sex.
The latter comes out in most of the English songs. “Strawberry Mouth” might be the most creative use of strawberry as image, as scent, as taste, and the frenzied music just adds to the urgencies equated with such eroticism. The same sexiness works in “Hung Over Trippin’” which isn’t as frenzied but in its conversation with you about beer and beaches, moving and leaving, actually allows the imagination of flight and strangers. Oh please, right about now.
This sexiness is downplayed in songs that drip with demands premised on desire if not romance. “Never Let Me Go” would be cliché were it not dealing more complexly with the fact of being let go: where the subject to be freed refuses its possibility, and instead in all awareness wants its opposite. This complexity is just confusion of course in “‘Di Na Magdaramdam” which is ambiguously between putting one’s foot down about love, or begging for it to stay. In the end it is the former that wins.
As melancholia does in songs like “I Remember” and “Staying Home.” In the former it is a reminiscence of romance that is stark in its uniqueness: a scar that stares back, a decision to have (and not just to love), the notion(s) of dreaming, literally. The latter, while about a sad post-fight-morning, speaks of rationalizing how things went wrong, and ultimately about having the other’s back, no matter, no question.
The humor happens in the strangest of loves in songs like “Kapit Mahal” and “Cyber S.” The latter uses the Internet and Friendster (pre-Facebook) terms for a virtual flirtation between speaker and object of possibility and desire. It is consistent, and works with the idea of a sort of “cyber surrender”—yes, that is what the “S” means. With all that said, carrier single “Kapit Mahal” does capture exactly what Top Junk’s about, exactly what makes it unique and different for the times. It starts strong and just flies with it: the humor, the sexiness, that flirtatious call for someone to stay, come now, hold me, let it happen, see it through.
Yes, boys, it’s as good as it sounds.
* Previously published in the now defunct Pulse.ph.
* You can download this old Top Junk album from the Top Junk website.
* Super excited that Top Junk’s launching their new EP tonight, and bummed that I can’t make it. Though at least it reminded me to re-post this review that was posted on Pulse.ph, which has since disappeared from the interwebs. It reminds of why I’m excited about this EP, no matter that I can’t go to the launch. Can’t wait to get my hands on Retox.