Hip-hop crew Assembly Generals’ new album drips with social commentary

Rick Olivares

Posted at Jan 26 2019 04:19 PM

Hip hop/rap band the Assembly Generals open 2019 with the first good release that is their second album, "Fatigue." Handout

Hip hop/rap band the Assembly Generals open 2019 with the first good release that is their second album, "Fatigue." Handout

I ask, where have all the great protest songs gone?

Ask and you shall be given.

Hip hop/rap band the Assembly Generals open 2019 with the first damn good release that is their second album, “Fatigue.” And I will underscore this by saying that this is Philippine hip hop’s version of the Clash’s Combat Rock so be prepared to be overpowered by their funk, er . . . rap.

The Assembly Generals (MCs Pao Switchtrik Toledo and Peaceful Gemini, Deng Garcia, Mon Punzalan on MPC, Jigger Divina on turntables, and Ray Marasigan on drums) reserves the biting commentary for the apathetic, willingly blind, corrupt, the guardians of morality, and well, you get the point.

“Fatigue” features 12 pointed tracks with bite and telling social commentary aimed at people who are willingly blind, apathetic, and those who perpetuate this vicious cycle of life under the gun, corruption with wave after wave of controversy and whatnot. The title alone says it all . . . it’s like, here we go again.

And the cover art, sowing the seeds of awakening? You have to appreciate all the symbolisms and metaphors of this album.

The Assembly Generals rocks your consciousness with “Kulog” that sets the tone thematically and lyrically for the entire album: “Gigising ng kulog ang sadyang tulog. Yayanigin ang paligid; ang sahig mangangatog.”

And the crew makes no bones about what it is attempting here. Although the third track, “Anino”, starts off with video game sound effects no doubt to show the band has a sense of humor; it is quick to declare that it is “ang araw ng bagong umaga” against that shadows that feed and creep on our fears.

They ask, “Saan ba tayo papunta?” in “Ligaw” and why instead of moving forward, we seem to be stuck in a vicious circle.

And that sets up the heart of the order of the album.

“Roulette” is the obvious highlight of “Fatigue” that with a mighty kick of a drumbeat that calls to mind U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” tells of an average Joe trying to make a living on the wrong side of the tracks and is ultimately felled. “A gunshot from the self-made god of men. And in the end Joe’s dead. We don’t even fuss because who shot Joe? It is actually us?”

Bang.

The exit wound?

The band asks, “Who’s next? Because nobody wins.”

They up the ante with “Hands Off” that calls to mind Rage Against the Machine’s “Bombtrack.” Remember what I said about the pointed lyrics? Well, the Assembly Generals’ technique is hurling songs like Molotovs from above.

“Taya” featuring BKLD is a strong track. And then in “ABKD,” they ask, “Bakit ba tayo nasanay sa dilim?”

“Fatigue” is an album that asks questions and encourages you to get off that wall and do something about it. Before it’s too late. And at the risk of sounding like nothing more than a manifesto in music, the album is intelligently crafted with its loops, samples, and grooves and beats. And even better, it was written with live performances in mind. So you can imagine the ferocity of this on a live stage.

It is said that during turbulent times, some really great protest or social commentary songs are written. We’ve heard Chickoy Pura’s “Sa Madilim na Sulok ng Kasaysayan”, underground punk band the Dead Brains’ self-titled debut, and Calix’s “The Lesser of Your Greater Friends” that all explore similar themes last 2018. And the Assembly Generals have picked up the fight with Fatigue.

The Assembly Generals will launch “Fatigue” at the 20:20 Bar in Makati this coming February 2.