The Buildings’ debut record, “Cell-O-Phane”, is a brilliant record as far as debuts go. For one thing, it’s an audacious record that clearly defines the band’s intent, making it the musical equivalent of the Kool-Aid man bursting through a brick wall. “Cell-O-Phane” is recorded by the band on their own, without the help of professional studios and producers and yet the resulting record is still better than 80% of the records that I’ve heard lately. It’s neither lo-fi for lo-fi’s sake, nor is it amateurish. It’s a fun record brimming with creativity and it helps that the people who make up the band are talented musicians in their own right.
“Cell-O-Phane” opens with “A Modest Proposal”, a perfect encapsulation of the band’s sound in just one song, with its pop hooks and punk rock outro. The band pushes their pop smarts to the forefront with the tracks “Different Shades of Blue”, “Manila’s a Trap”, and “Lou’s Coffee Shop”. There is enough edge in the instrumentation that they serve as the perfect counterpoint to Reodica’s vocals which makes it reminiscent of some of the edgier 80’s indie pop and C86 acts.
On the fifth track, “Howard’s Favorite Song”, the band shows their knack for complex arrangements with its off-kilter guitar and bass parts that serve the song well. It’s this attention to detail and a keen understanding of dynamics that sets this band apart from some of their peers. “Howard’s Favorite Song” is followed by the track “Lucid Sister”, which is probably my favorite track from the record. It’s an indie rock ballad through and through and it would probably make songwriters like Robert Pollard and Bob Mould proud.
It’s a nice change of pace before the band returns to more guitar-heavy fare like “The Doom Squad” and “Peppermint & Sage”. The band follows those two tracks with the dirge-y “Museum Tower”, a track that probably owes a little bit to the band’s fixation with The Velvet Underground, and yet it doesn’t sound like a ripoff. With the following track, “Wonder Showzen”, the band successfully shakes off the ‘twee-pop’ tag that is usually thrown their way. It’s a straightforward rock song that would make even the most cynical music fan bang their head and wave their lighters in the air.
The band ends the record perfectly with the catchy stripped down number, “Apollo 11”. It’s a perfect breather after the intense “Wonder Showzen”, and it unintentionally segues neatly into the first track, which is an amazing thing I discovered after repeated listens of this record.
Not only is “Cell-O-Phane” a perfect debut record, but it is a perfect record in every way possible. The songs are great, the instrumentation is spot on, and the production is brilliant. And considering that the band made this record with limited resources, this is the highest praise I could ever give this record. Filipino bands need to step up their game because “Cell-O-Phane” is a masterpiece.