The Camerawalls and Kenyo, A Quite Disapppointing Musical Divorce

After the bitter break-up of Orange and Lemons on 2007, McCoy Fundales and Clementine Castro carried on to form their own bands, pursuing to make music based on their own musical differences. However, I am not disappointed of this break-up because I love Orange and Lemons as a band. Rather, I am upset thinking of the possibilities if Orange and Lemons continued to create music.

It seems inevitable to compare the McCoy and Clementine divergence to the dismantling of the Beatles and the careers of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Let us take a look at John Lennon first. His experiments with Yoko Ono, materialized in Unfinished Music: Two Virgins and of course the Beatle songs “Revolution #9”, “Strawberry Field Forever”, “Tomorrow Never Knows”, among others, give body to the rebellious aspect of the Beatles, musically speaking. Lennon’s absurd poetry and the profound vulnerability and pain in his songs make up the large emotional component of the Beatles music. McCartney, on the other hand, is a musical genius, able to create sweet melodies and intricate musical melodies (just listen to “Yesterday”, “When I’m Sixty-Four”, “Helter Skelter” and other McCartney tunes).

However, I would have to say that John Lennon’s solo works are quite lame (By the way, I’m a Lennon fan). John Lennon/ Plastic Ono Band is a great album in terms of lyrics, but the music is really hard to enjoy. Lennon’s sharp commentary on “Working Class Hero” and “Isolation” is pure poetry, but man, who can say that the music is of level to any Lennon/ McCartney song? On the other hand, McCartney did great musically on Band on the Run, producing complex and infectious tunes like “No Words”, “Let Me Roll It” and “Band on the Run.” However, the lyrics went full-speed to the pop direction. It tackled love and other cheesy topics, leading me to conclude that McCartney’s lyrics’ do not possess the profundities of a song like “A Day in the Life”, for instance.

The musical divorce between Lennon and McCartney cut the Beatle listeners into half, but I would not flinch to say that no Lennon or McCartney solo effort would ever surpass the musical technicality and lyrical depth of the best Beatle songs. This thing goes with McCoy and Clementine.

The Camerawalls

Let’s go first with The Camerawalls, formed on 2007. Clementine proved himself to be a much more poetic, serious and hip musician. His work with The Camerawalls displayed his fascination for The Smiths and Morrisey. Take a look for instance at the single “A Sight of Love.” The song employs sus-chords in 4th and 5th, a distinct voicing style by The Smiths. Clementine made the acoustic guitar cut through the playful, airy bass and percussion, replicating Johny Marr’s jangly acoustic sound. “Bread and Circuses” on the other hand quotes post-punk elements present in “This Charming Man,” for example. Finally, Clementine himself has a voice hybrid that of Morrisey and Lennon, mixing Morrisey’s depth, roundness, airiness and UK English vocal enunciation with Lennon’s whiny, semi-nasalized singing.  His lyrics, on the other hand, seemingly always allude to the melancholy, subtle wit and ironic undertones of Morrisey’s poetry. His lyrics are optimistic and at times even cheesy, but nonetheless, he always tries to escape from cliché’s and triteness. I guess it is part of his taste for cosmic, mind-bending psychedelia of 60s music.

Overall, The Camerwalls’ music is somewhat fresh and exciting, a novel addition to the Filipino pop music populated by Eraserheads and Parokya ni Edgar copycats and the usual mushy pop tunes from mainstream artists. I only have one problem with these guys: why always write songs in English? I think it is inevitable to observe that most of the fans and listeners of The Camerawalls come from what we usually call “the hipster crowd.” The cultured, middle-class, party-going DIY audience is a very limited, almost elitist, group. Most importantly, I think, is the dangerous possibility that this hipster cult following listens to The Camerawalls because they sound like the Smiths or because they are reminiscent of The Beatles or John Lennon, rather than because they really like the unique sound of this band. Unlike Orange and Lemons, the Filipino element is somewhat silent or facile, if not absent, in The Camerawalls’ music. I am not a hipster, but I like The Camerawalls’ work. I think it is just better for them to connect more to the local culture in order for them to avoid being isolated and alienated from the general Filipino listeners (Of course this, I wouldn’t blame them it they wanted to pursue an international career. But The Smiths’ wrote about Britain and the British experience).

Kenyo

There is a very discernible animosity between Kenyo and The Camerawalls, especially between the fans. Most Camerawalls fans are unflattered with Kenyo’s ‘classic Filipino music’ approach to their sound. Kenyo, I think is more gravitated towards experimenting with Filipino music styles and Filipino cultural themes. The song “Kalayaan” is a reminiscent of the traditional kundiman sound, fused with some hardrocking, anthemic guitar work. As of now, Kenyo is displaying some fondness with ‘reviving’ classic Filipino love songs, an attitude we first saw in the Orange and Lemons’ tinkering with the “Yakap sa Dilim” in Kami nAPO muna. Some of the interesting takes are “Sana” and “Hanggang Sa Muli,” both displaying Kenyo’s departure from the familiar Orange and Lemon/ Smiths/ Beatles sound and a desire to delve into the roots of classic Filipino music and start musical experimentation from there. In terms of lyrics, Kenyo veered away from the aestheticism inspired by Clementine during their Orange and Lemons’ stint. McCoy tackled the usual topic of love, etc., with a more localized and pedestrian take, a visible effort to connect to the larger Filipino audience. References from The Smiths and their other influences are still perceivable in some instances, but it was obviously toned down to accommodate more musical styles.

Kenyo’s effort to rejuvenate general interest in the roots of local Filipino music is commendable, but I think what is the weakest link in their music is their tendency to fall into pop standards, which of course is a large limitation. In contrast to the general freshness of the Orange and Lemons sound, Kenyo is much more pop-oriented.

My conclusion, as it may sound obvious at this point, is that Clementine and McCoy must really re-consider about a reunion. The potentials of this partnership, I believe, are enormous, and I’ll anticipate it.

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