Pinoy punk rockers Urban Bandits are back with a new album

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Arnold Morales of Urban Bandits and Put3ska. Photo by author

MANILA — It is said that the language of the streets is written in graffiti — and punk rock. And if the latter is so, then that old street parliamentarian Arnold Morales is back. 

Fresh off their reunion show last March, Morales’ seminal punk rock outfit, the Urban Bandits, are ready to more than perform another reunion show.

They are ready to rage against society’s ills once more. 

Yes, the Urban Bandits — Morales, guitarist Ferdi dela Cruz, bassist Dondi Fernandez, and drummer Rogel Dela Cruz — that 1980s Filipino punk rock band whose cassette album, “Independence Day,” featured angst-ridden anthems for the disenfranchised and those fed-up with a dictatorship, is going to release a new extended play album. 

“Six to seven brand new songs,” pointed out Morales outside the Woodman’s Head, an expat bar along P. Burgos where he joined another of those old-time pink outfits, Bad Omen, for a set that included many of the Urban Bandits’ classics such as “No Future sa Pader”, “Manila Girl,” and “Breaking the Wall” last Saturday, June 24. “New songs pero the same or new old angst.”

So why after 32 years have the UBs deigned to return and once more write songs as Molotov cocktails?

“Wala naman nagbago,” spat Morales. “Nagkaroon ng bagong pintura pero ganun pa rin. Kahit ano pa ‘yung tinatatyo nila, ang gulo pa rin.”

“Gagawa kami ng EP brand new songs,” he revealed of the project. “Mga every day na patama sa mga dapat tamaan.” 

No doubt, the fire burns fiercely in him just as it did back when “Independence Day” was recorded during those turbulent 1980s. 

During the gig with Bad Omen, the pub was packed with skinheads and rude boys – many who weren’t even born in the 1980s — who sang along to every song and danced some. Morales admitted to being surprised that sales for the re-issues of the UB’s cassettes – bootleg or not – remain strong. The recently vinyl re-release of “Independence Day” is a huge favorite and a strong seller in local punk rock distros.

“Nung una parang hindi ako keen on the idea of the album being re-issued,” admitted Morales. “Pero nagulat ako na well-received ‘yung UBs at ang music namin by people today. Marami nga hindi pa pinapanganak noon punk movement ng 1980s. Kahit kapitbahay ko, akala niya bagong release!”

Morales related that the bootleg cassettes were released when he formed ska band Put3ska in the 1990s. “Nung nasa Put3ska pa ako, mismo ‘yung nag bootleg ng cassette pinuntahan ako. Nagbihgay ng cash kahit hindi ko hiningi. Siyempre malaking bagay na may respeto siya at hindi niya kami basta basta binastos.”

“Yung plaka na release, Amerikano gumawa niyan. Nagustuhan niya. Na discover niya ‘yung Philippine music. Nung tumawag siya, pinapa-remaster niya na. So nakapili na siya ng kanta. I guess it’s all good. It is nice to see people appreciate ‘yung gawa ng band.”

During the reunion show, the UBs borrowed a bassist from another band as Dondi Fernandez is now in the United States. “Ang plano ay sana maipadala namin ‘yung bagong material sa kanya sa US para i-layout ‘yung bass parts then ibalik niya rito sa amin,” said Morales of the new recordings. 

The new album, said Morales, will be released in all formats. “Vinyl, compact disc, download, cassette. Ganyan talaga.”

The frontman pointed to the thriving local punk rock scene where bands released more records – on vinyl and cassette no less – than mainstream pop acts. Albums that sell to local and foreign audiences. “That’s the staying power of punk,” he underscored. 

Morales took a swig from the massive beer bottle that was handed over to him. He smiled; sneered even. Then walked off into the night.

New album. Hell, yeah. 

Lumilondol na naman. 



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