Parokya ni Edgar – ‘Borbolen’ review: pop-rock kings of mischief serve nostalgia and heart
Written by ABR on 10/01/2022
The day that Parokya ni Edgar lose their sense of humour and decide to take themselves too seriously will be a dismal time in Pinoy music. Thankfully, this tortuous pandemic has done little to dampen their penchant for wisecracks and absurdity. And ‘Borbolen’ – these kings of mischief’s 11th album in their 28 years in the biz – is a reminder that PNE’s irreverence and shameless sentimentality are still firmly intact.
The record kicks off with the title track (a Kapampangan word that roughly translates to “troublemaker”). A dancey, new-wave-esque guitar line slinks through as frontman Chito Miranda waxes nostalgic about lifelong friends, whose antics he sometimes finds irksome, but whose presence he sorely misses (“panay kalokohan kahit sa seryosong usapan / nakakainis / ngunit pag wala ay nakaka-miss”).
It’s a fitting preface considering how ‘Borbolen’ was made: the band’s members finished the album apart, sharing recordings via email and Google Drive. Miranda also sings wistfully about his decades-old relationship with his bandmates: beloved backing vocalist Vinci Montaner, who is part of the album though absent from new band photos, guitarists Darius Semaña and Gab Chee Kee, bassist Buwi Meneses, and drummer Dindin Moreno. “Minsan muntik na ko mamatay kakapigil ng tawa / paano kaya ko nasama sa mga kolokoy na ‘to? / Siguro nga sadyang borbolen tayo,” he sings: “I once almost ended up dead trying to hold back fits of laughter / How did I end up with these pranksters? / Maybe we really are just troublemakers”.
These “fits of laughter” and “troublemaking” come in waves in the 14-track album. In ‘Creepy Tito’, there’s a sleazy uncle with an armpit fetish called Rudy who proposes to consensually dip his lumpia (spring roll) in a willing auntie’s “vinegar”. ‘Basketball Ni Darius’ is similarly replete with snickering double entendres on shooting hoops and tall men’s penises. Silly and shallow? Perhaps – or clever and riotously funny.
‘It’s Masarap’ cheerfully parodies the theme song of Eat Bulaga!, the country’s longest running noontime TV show – except Parokya indulge in thick guitar solos, thumping drums and a glam rock bite, Miranda singing about a delicious mystery soup. Just as enjoyable but less confounding is a remix of ‘Pati Pato’, a sludgier version of the 2019 rap track featuring Gloc-9, Shanti Dope and DJ Klumcee – Miranda spitting self-effacing verses with the best of them.
Then there’s the schmaltz. Parokya are unabashed romantics who risk the cornball route when professing their devotion. It often pays off, as on ‘Rosas’, which gleams with an ’80s-rock sheen that picks up in mood where the song ‘Borbolen’ leaves off. ‘Smile’ – where Chee Kee takes over lead vocal duties – is a quieter moment on the record, as well as its sappiest. But PNE also make room for snide clapbacks like ‘Wag Ka Na’, which addresses an ex and her muscly, but less successful boyfriend.
The album’s good humour is also its fault: ‘Borbolen’ won’t truly break your heart. Yes, the band flex their clever and cheeky lyricism over skillfully light and airy melodies, but Parokya are also capable of delicate and introspective storytelling as on the likes of 1996’s ‘Buloy’, which is about friendship and suicide. There are no such emotional gems in the new record, its songs unlikely to stir strong feelings that will stay with listeners decades on.
Still, ‘Borbolen’ is packed to the gills with emotions and stylistic textures that tick vital boxes: wit, humour, heart. We’ll need all three as we venture into 2022.
- Release date: December 10
- Record label: Universal Records
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