“If it ain't broke, don't fix it.” Not exactly the most original adage to open a paragraph with but, for this particular band, it will suffice. Far be it from me to claim Yoda-like wisdom regarding the complexities of music but, as an avowed fan since the tender age of eight, I have my opinions. Since before The Beatles, Rock Music has been declared clinically dead more times than I care to recall. That the countless Lazarus-like resurrections of the genre have left critics scratching their sizeable heads verifies the potency and timelessness of the music. A quick perusal of today's charts, however, confirms that Rock is currently at a transitional stage. Self-proclaimed experts like to sound intelligent by claiming: “everything moves in cycles.” Therefore the current trend of reworking the New Romantic Movement of the 80s should come as no surprise. The problem? An entire generation of neophyte music devotees being led to believe that this shit is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Then there are the aspiring Radiohead-wannabes who are so obsessed with being “avant-garde” that they completely go off the deep end. What they produce isn't so much music, but rather, musical masturbation.
The beauty, then, of Taggu nDios is that they're not out to re-invent the wheel. Likewise, they evade painting themselves into a corner by NOT consciously replicating past Movements verbatim. T-shirts, jeans and jamming are the order of the day. And what comes out of those amplifiers just happens to be good, balls-out, get-your-butt-on-the-floor, teeth-rattling, head-banging Rock. Instead of being contrived, the music sounds natural. The band's original compositions show traces of all the greats…infused with that distinctly Pinoy flair, of course. The incendiary riffage and thunderous drumming of Led Zeppelin. The inebriated looseness of classic Aerosmith. The hysterical melodiousness of KISS. The arrogant bluster of Poison and Motley Crue. The haughty bravado of Guns & Roses. The rage of Metallica. The earnestness of Temple of the Dog. The smolder of early Pearl Jam. The verve of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The robustness of Wolfgang. And, of course, the searing audacity of Razorback. Down a few beers and you would swear vocalist John Torres even LOOKS like a young Kevin Roy.
Taggu nDios bear, oddly enough, none of the frailties that plague relatively new bands. Formed in early 2004, the group's creation was largely organic. Most of the current lineup frequented Torres' studio-space-cum-lounge on Katipunan. As there just happened to be several instruments lying around, impromptu jam-sessions quickly ensued. A half-joking gig offer later and a new band was born. What is most surprising, then, is the palpable musical alchemy that exists between these self-taught musicians. Many gig-goers actually come out of performances mistakenly thinking that the band was founded on childhood friendships. But what is history in the face of talent? Drummer Pierre Asuncion alternates between the jazz-inspired musings of Matt Cameron (Soundgarden) and John Bonham's bone-crushing assault. Bassist Mikey Abola reminds one of the terse Fieldy (Korn), as well as the ever-present vim of Flea. Pat Co's rhythm guitar work is reminiscent of the down and dirty Izzy Stradlin' (GnR) mixed with the steady hand of James Hetfield. Lead guitarist Dave Reyes' clever licks bring to mind the great Stevie Ray Vaughn and the bluesy Jimmy Page. And despite the inevitable comparisons with Razorback's charismatic frontman, there is something of a Kurt Cobain edge to Torres. He can belt like Roger Daltrey (The Who) but it is his ability as a songwriter that intrigues. A true example of the Cobain-school-of-composition, his lyrics read like the confessional poetry of Sylvia Plath. Angry yet redeeming.
When asked about the significance of their much-misspelled band name, Taggu nDios invariably look to their vocalist. “A self-coined term, it means ‘refuge in God.'” Not being the most “orthodox” of people, you would think that this would someone like ME uncomfortable. But don't get the wrong idea about this band. These are not evangelical swindlers capitalizing on people's beliefs. It's not as if Torres is going to commence doing pelvic-thrusts mid-gig, closing the show in a Jesus Christ pose a la Creed's malodorous Scott Stapp. On the other hand, he isn't going to bite the head off a snowy-white dove, roll his eyes back into his skull and run around in circles while intermittently speaking in tongues. As with their music, just take the name for what it is.
All kidding aside, though, this not a band to underestimate. That they are still in the studio developing new songs isn't any indication of an amateurish approach to the very serious business of music-making. As implied in the subconscious manifesto of the group, Taggu nDios are FAR ahead of the game. In their own words: “We would rather be known as a great live band than as a band with a great CD.” Hell, The Jerks went DECADES before laying a single track down. Success for these young musicians, then, is an INTERACTIVE affair with their growing number of followers. And it's about-bloody-time that someone figured this out. That a Rock band should crave financial success is nothing to be ashamed of...unrealistic displays of so-called “idealism” never paid the bills, after all. What many bands FORGET in their trudging crusade towards respectability and dignity, however, is that music will ALWAYS be a social activity. Selling a million records doesn't really matter if your live show is crap, right? A performer can only be deemed thus if he or she has someone to perform TO. A gig is an unspoken conversation between two parties…the person on stage and the person watching. When this conversation falters, then what's the point? And if it takes a generous helping of righteous “Rakenrol” from Taggu nDios to kick our asses out of complacency, then we would do well to be thankful.