Raffi for the Down & Out


After wading through a spittle stream of wretched jock-punk bands, there's something awfully comforting about a disc on which you get only a guy and his acoustic guitar. All the songs are wrought from echoey, ghostly production qualities that pretty much guarantee the thing was recorded in someone's bathroom, probably with a microphone duct-taped around the shower head. There's also something charming about the handwritten letter that accompanied this CD: "To Whom It May Concern: Well, if you're reading this, I take it you're playing the CD as well, but then again, this is all in theory. I don't know the proper protocol for writing to a published paper, so I'll just associate freely and hope you follow through."

Is that polite or what? This Chua cat goes on to tell us that he considers himself Spanish, Chinese and Filipino but almost always gets mistaken for Mexican, Hawaiian or Indian; that he used to teach music to grade schoolers, playing mostly Raffi tunes; and that while composing his letter to us, he was drinking and blasting Social Distortion.

The combo of alcohol and Mike Ness usually means somebody's a-hurtin', and Chua, it turns out, is in some deep, dark despair. As warm and intimate as his demo sounds, his lyrics are all about the bad funk he's fallen into—just look at that title! In "Cold Night," Chua has no money and nobody to love, and he just wants to drink his life away. In "Fatal Destiny," Chua really wants to be in love, but . . . "My instincts tell me there's no use in trying/Boy, you're gonna die alone." In "Broke 'N' Down Blues," he has empty bottles scattered all over his floor, and he has been down so long he doesn't want to get up anymore. "The Lonely Song" is yet another heartwarmer, and we're certain songs like "Cursed" and "Hopeless Romantic" would've been, too, had the CD not started skipping and getting all problematic (between all the static, we detected distinct melodies and vocal mannerisms that reminded us of Jonathan Richman and/or something old-timey, like off the new Dylan album).

Ultimately, Chua builds a solid case for his expertise in the matter of broken hearts—hey, he just wants to be loved! Somebody date him soon so he can pen something happy and write us even nicer letters! We so rarely get nice letters. . . .

Info: cai_weili@yahoo.com; (949) 842-3410. OC and Long Beach bands and musicians! Mail your CDs and tapes (along with your vital contact info, plus any impending performance dates) for possible review to: Locals Only,OC Weekly, P.O. Box 10788, Costa Mesa, CA 92627-0247.

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