For the first time in their over 20-year career, Sheila and the Insects finally sound like bugs on their new album Love or Limbo.
On the opening track "Alarm," guitar shrapnel buzz like a swarm of bees as drums rush at frenetic speed like ants rushing to feed their queen. This Cebu, Philippines-based alternative band has always been on the brink of rock stardom in their homeland but never quite jumping the fence. Defiantly independent, Sheila and the Insects have never sold out - no forced Tagalog ballads, no turn-off commercial detours into metal or rap-rock, no Nickelback stadium anthems, no mainstream pop jingles, no major label distribution or promotion. They recall Canada's the Tragically Hip in their working man's status, free from trends and giving all to their fans. The main difference is that while the Tragically Hip became national treasures, Sheila and the Insects have sadly not busted out of their cult hero status in the Philippines.
As Love or Limbo further proves, SATI's appeal is for a larger audience overseas. The group has always taken pride in their British New Wave influences years before acts such as the Killers, Snow Patrol, and Franz Ferdinand took them to the U.S. charts. The single "Always" is perhaps SATI's most gloriously New Wave moment. Attached with a sexy, eye-popping music video (trust me: it's hot), "Always" scorches the dance floor with Ian Zafra's jittery, angular riffs, Wesley Chiongbian's throbbing bass, and Vince Yap's pulsating synthetics. (Imagine a cross between Talking Heads and A Flock of Seagulls). It is fun and funky with some of Orven Enoveso's most playful singing.
Enoveso's soulful baritone - a cross between Richard Butler's husky vocals and Steve Kilbey's crooning -- has been an integral part of the SATI sound. He is a magnificent singer, among the Philippines' finest and most underrated. On "Monolove" and "The Wave," Enoveso pulls the heartstrings with passion and melancholy. "The Wave" is SATI's most emotionally devastating song since "Your Comedy" from their classic 2000 debut Plastic Eyes, Static Minds.
There isn't a bum cut on Love or Limbo. They can't afford to have one, really. The band finances these records themselves, and no peso is wasted. Some artists fake indie status for hip credit; Sheila and the Insects live and breathe it.