Agaw Agimat

Guerilla Ballroom

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Philippine rock band Agaw Agimat has always displayed a curious mind, as evidenced by the band's debut album, 1995's R -15, which explored a number of styles, including rock, punk, ska, and even polka. On 2000's Guerilla Ballroom, the band has metamorphosed into a swing band, with some punk added for good measure. While the group's four core members perform vocals, guitar, bass, and drums, Guerilla Ballroom is adorned with accomplished, swing-styled horn riffs, courtesy of two guest musicians who play saxophone and trumpet. Actually, these two "guests" should be a permanent part of the band, as without them, this excellent album wouldn't be the same. Agaw Agimat displays remarkable diversity throughout Guerilla Ballroom, as evidenced by the strong, variegated songwriting, all of which was done by two bandmembers, and the imaginative arrangements. "You Have No Right," for example, opens on a sultry, snap-your-fingers horn riff, and the song's musical ambience is 1930s swing-inspired. "Dear Sam" is a scorching, guitar-driven punk number, while "Laging Nakatago" (Always Hiding) is a smoldering torch ballad. Some lyrics are very anti-American, as heard in the caustic "Dear Sam," but the band explores other topics as well. More Philippine albums should display the inventiveness and willingness to push borders that Agaw Agimat shows on Guerilla Ballroom.