8 of the Darkest Eraserheads Songs – In Time for Halloween
Oct 28, 2022   •   Wincy Aquino Ong
8List.ph is published by ID8, Inc.
Oct 28, 2022   •   Wincy Aquino Ong
Wait, what’s this? Dark and spooky and…The Eraserheads?
Mind you, this is not a Halloween trick, 8list readers. We’ll let you know that while the Eraserheads’ catalog sure did have a lot of light, breezy, and hope-filled songs (“Ligaya”, “Toyang”, “With a Smile”), the band did have a handful of songs that skewed towards the dark and haunting.
Well, for starters, their band name alone was cribbed from a David Lynch horror movie, one that featured disturbing soundscapes and the nightmare-inducing image of whatever creature this is:
Perhaps their chosen name alone could give you a hint that there was a darker side to their songwriting.
With chilling chord progressions and lyrics about disembodied voices, if you look back at some of their songs with a magnifying glass, there was much horror and dread to be found in their music.
It’s Halloween, folks, and just as ‘Headsmania is on an upswing again thanks to their much-awaited reunion concert this December 22 at the SMDC Festival Grounds, 8List brings you eight of the darkest Eraserheads songs that are sure to raise the hairs on your arms.
Read this and howl!
The most obvious choice in this list, of course, would be “Ang Huling El Bimbo”, from the Cutterpillow album, the song that made them go down in history as one of the most important bands in the Philippines.
As much as this song has been used for a McDonald’s commercial, and as much as Ely Buendia used ascending major scale chords in its chorus (ones similar to The Beatles’ “You Won’t See Me”), most of us know how this Greek tragedy of a song ends on some rather eerie notes.
This song about after-school dance lessons is basically Maalaala Mo Kaya meets The Twilight Zone. The plot twist? That girl you’ve been hearing about in the first two choruses…she’s been dead for many years!
What makes “Ang Huling El Bimbo” especially chilling are the violins by the sixth minute, which sounds like a string quartet is playing at a funeral.
Hair-raising fact: The last six notes of the violins’ melody is actually the opening notes of Bimbo Jet’s 1974 hit song “El Bimbo”. (Don’t believe us? Check it out on Spotify.)
“Maskara”, from Carbon Stereoxide, was one of the last Eraserheads singles before the band went their separate ways in March 2002 – hauntingly right about the same week actor Rico Yan died of cardiac arrest!
(Creeped out already, dear reader? Cue the thunder and lightning.)
By this time, the Eraserheads were clearly lifetimes away from the funny campus-slacker personas they crafted during their Ultraelectromagneticpop! days.
Bathed in guitar distortion and buoyed by a descending chord progression, “Maskara” is the ‘Heads at their dreary best. It’s the gloomier cousin of “Pop Machine” — another song of theirs about the baggage fame brings, this time a think-piece about the pressures of putting on a face to please the crowds.
The song has snatches of lyrics that wouldn’t feel out of place in an issue of Hiwaga Komiks, from “Alam kong may kilala kang / Marami ang mukha” to “Nag-iibang-anyo”.
Also, do catch the music video directed by Marie Jamora and Ely Buendia for some added nightmare fuel, what with its MiniDV textures and use of latex special effects.
Roughly translated as ‘beautiful rainbow’ in English, “Maselang Bahaghari” is actually a song filled with so much hope, but strangely, it doesn’t have the same sunny register as “With A Smile”. What gives?
That is because the song is a study in contrasts — optimistic OPM lyrics set to the darkest of electronica textures. It’s Lea Salonga meets Thom Yorke.
Heck, what are rainbows but sunlight and rain?
With ghostly chords that hark back to the Manila Sound of the ‘70s, this song is the Eraserheads’ first sampling of their foray into gloomier territory, one that reminds listeners of Sonic Youth’s morbid rendition of “Superstar”.
Dark. Dark, indeed.
The correctly spelled “Spoliarium” is truly an on-the-nose pick for this list, but hey, it’s still worth discussing, right?
Despite its associations with the Pepsi Paloma scandal being dispelled countless times by the songwriter, the managers, and practically everyone in the Eraserheads’ circle, the song still deserves its spot, if only for its blood-curdling lyrics, which feels like it was written by a philosophy major stoned out of his gourd.
What is actually a song about a drunken night out with friends can be interpreted in many ways as the lyrics are as enigmatic as an Egyptian riddle.
The questions never end. Who is the narrator talking to in the chorus — some god-like figure who can stop the world? What did Enteng and Joey write on the glass door?
They say that speculation is the secret sauce of horror. Perhaps the Eraserheads knew that all too well.
While others may regard “Ha Ha Ha” from 1997’s Sticker Happy album as a throwaway exercise in alliteration—can you count how many H’s are in the lyrics?—this under-the-radar track could actually make your skin crawl upon closer inspection.
First off, we get acquainted with Ely Buendia’s fascination with disembodied voices:
Ako’y biglang nakarinig ng tawa
Then we arrive at Verse Two, where the song talks about committing suicide out of curiosity about the afterlife. What is this—a pop song or a cult-ritual handbook?
Para lang malaman ang katotohanan
With choruses that run like laugh tracks on some forgotten sitcom, “Ha Ha Ha” is proof positive that there’s something creepy lurking behind the Eraserheads’ catchy tunes.
Ah, the horrors of living and dying in a Third World Country, where there are no safety nets and the cost of burying someone is akin to highway robbery. (Let’s coin a new sub-genre: Financial Horror!)
“Poorman’s Grave” from 1995’s Cutterpillow, with its ramblin’ Bob Dylan groove and hippie guitar riffs, belies a dark tale about poverty in the Philippines and the futility of religion.
With a narrative thread straight out of The Book of Job, “Poorman’s Grave” is as dark as dark can get. It just so happens it’s so damn catchy.
Released in 1998, when the ‘Heads were going global and headlining tours in Asia, “Julie Tearjerky”, on closer inspection, is a mausoleum’s worth of cryptic wordplay and spooky imagery.
While insiders would know that, in truth, it’s a song dedicated to their road manager Julie Pacanas, to the ears of the uninitiated, it sounds like a nursery rhyme written by a man experiencing hallucinations.
Take this stanza for example:
I hear her calling my name
I hear her calling my name
Julie Tearjerky on the ground
She’ll swallow anything that’s round
Why is the eponymous Julie Tearjerky a disembodied voice? Why is she on the ground? Does this mean she’s dead and is six feet under and…she had died from a dose of poison? (We tremble at this interpretation, folks.)
The creep factor is turned up to eleven by the bleached-out music video by director Matthew Rosen. In the video, we find the ‘Heads performing in the now demolished Gala Mansion in Parañaque, where a school girl rapidly ages into a lola by song’s end.
Hrm, could it be that the Eraserheads just wanted to give us a good spook?
The penultimate song from the Natin99 album, “68 Dr. Sixto Antonio Avenue” is arguably the creepiest, most stomach-turning song in the Eraserheads’ oeuvre – one that can be equaled only by Rivermaya’s “Ambulansya” or Unique Salonga’s “Ozone (Itulak Ang Pinto)”.
With a chord progression that borrows from John Williams’ Theme from Superman, “68 Dr. Sixto Antonio Avenue” is a collection of spooky happenings at the titular address.
From knife-wielding figures to gun-toting motorists, the nightmares in this song never cease.
It is one of the rare piano pieces in their catalog, and it warrants repeat listens, especially for those of you who want a dose of dread in their evening playlists.
Think we missed any dark Eraserheads songs? Tell us about them in the comments!
Wincy Aquino Ong is a Filipino author, illustrator, musician, director, actor, and podcaster. He is mostly known as a songwriter for the bands Narda, Us-2 Evil-0 and Patience Dear Juggernaut, the director behind the films San Lazaro and Overtime, and an actor in the TV series Rakista. He is also the co-host of the podcast The Telebabad Tapes. A lover of the horror genre, he has written and illustrated for the horror books Tales For A Rainy Season and PICOF's Darkness Anthology.
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