More than the usual string of superlatives, including being a shot in the arm of an otherwise catatonic scene, Ely Buendia is a storyteller. Not just someone with above-average verbiage, or a propensity to weave a few hastily rhymed couplets. But the genuine article.
And whether it’s with the massively popular (and ultimately doomed) Eraserheads, or with any of his latter-era pursuits (the genre-bending rock outfit Pupil, rockabilly meisters Oktaves, or the soul collective Apartel), listeners are assured of an experience built on both pop smarts and an indefatigable sense of invention.
Latecomers would do well to not dwell on better known items in Buendia’s sprawling canon, though that is admittedly a ride to be relished. From landmark Eraserheads numbers from the ‘90s (“Pare Ko,” “Ligaya,” “Magasin,” “Ang Huling El Bimbo”) to second-wind smashers by Pupil in the mid-aughts (“Nasaan Ka??,” “Disconnection Notice,” “TNT,” “Out Of Control”), the more recognizable tunes do serve as balm to the weary soul.
But it is in lesser-known items in his catalogue where the listener is given a fuller picture of Buendia’s creative breadth: the one-off release Wanted Bedspacer; the split record In Love & War (made with rap legend Francis Magalona); singles performed with the Itchyworms (“Pariwara,” “Lutang”); and, more recently, his collabs with indie rockers Cheats (“Grizzly Pool,” “Plunder My Heart”).