It is not that hard to picture the lads of Dr StrangeLuv a band out of Laguna in the “greater” part of the Greater Manila Area, trudging along the terrain of their suburban environs like the mythological Sysyphus moving back and forth from home to school to mall to church and so on for all eternity. Sissypuss their debut album is no doubt inspired by such travails.
The duo comprised of the “obnoxious brothers” Grandioso and El Scum aka “the Ingenious Bastards” are the strangest thing to come out of Manila’s outer rim of late. It is out in suburbia where bands like this (Pavement that quintessential alternative rock band out of Stockton, California being a prime example), comprised of perfectly normal kids isolated from the city-center, with loads of time on their hands, are able to lazily stumble into a sound that teases out the mundaneness, absurdity and sinister aspects of middle class existence.
Sissypuss their freshman effort can only be described as a dis-assemblage and repackaging of various cultural forms both musical and lyrical into a strange but familiar mix. In it, a lo-fi quality is layered with complex samples and sonic punk melodies. It’s sort of Fantastic Plastic Machine meets Beck.
The closest comparison the band claims their listeners make of them is with American indie band, Guided by Voices, but for me that is too superficial a comparison. As I mentioned, their style is really a pastiche of different musical artifacts from different periods.
In Be the Boss a kind of country twang is combined with an almost spoken word-ish delivery and some funky guitar riffs reminiscent of the Velvet Underground. In Aight’ Ma, their lead vocalist mimics Bob Dylan. In one track I listened to at the maiden voyage of The Show with No Name (SND.FM) their sound approximated an apocalyptic Johnny Cash.
They describe their style as “space age blues funk and anti-folk”. Nowhere is this more evident than in Gimme Some Mo’. It is a track that could provide the auditory background to a scene in a Quentin Tarantino movie (you know d
uring that part where the villain is about to cut off an appendage from a hapless bystander). A clever fusion of disparate elements that creates a cinematic feel to it.
This visual appeal is maintained in I’m Still Breathing where they serve up a dreamy sound track that conjures up a starry scene from a Western flick where the cowboy rides off into the sunset, in this instance brandishing an electronic raygun flashing in the darkening skies.
Some might say it is inappropriate to compare music to film, but with Dr StrangeLuv I think it is inescapable and what makes their debut so triumphant. In dreaming up Sissypuss, visual imagery and atmospherics serve as just as important an aesthetic reference point as chords and beats.
In this sense, listening to Sissypuss is like watching an indie flick comprised of disparate narratives woven into one. Each track represents a different scene with a unique sense of time and place. Some might regard this an ambitious effort for the newcomers, but in the end, the collection amazingly hangs well together.