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Down on the Upside

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  • DOWN ON THE UPSIDE is the finale album from one of the Seattle Three that typified the Grunge Age (Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvanna) – and can be seen as the swan song of Grunge itself. It eschews the vaguely Zepplinish angle of its predecessor SUPERUNKNOWN, in favor of a raw, up-front approach that befits its genre.First and foremost in its songs are straight rock like “Pretty Noose” or “Rhinosaur” (the former has an almost Tool-like sound – think “Undertow”). But this album has another side. Songs like “Zero Chance” “Burden in My Hand” and “Switch Opens” are largely acoustic, and keep the album from grating. or becoming too monotonous. The former two, in particular, are wonderful in their simplicity and heartfelt lyrics. The latter is done in a very strange rhythm that gives it a catchy, experimental feel. On the note of experiment, there is “Applebite”, a five-minutes-odd song that seems to be built from third or fourth-generation recordings. “Ty Cobb” is an angry song that is its own chapter in the album. It begins with 22 seconds of peaceful acoustic music and then, with absolutely no warning, lunges into punk at breakneck speed. Strangely enough, one can hear a banjo or mandolin somewhere in the mix, about halfway through the song, that gives it a sarcastic tinge of folk.The album builds up to “Tigher and Tighter”, which is probably the conceptual peak of the album. From there we find several angles (“No Attention”, a song of loathing, and “Overfloater”, which rails against dismal, sluggish apathy).However, in my opinion, the high point of the album is “An Unkind”, a protest against the pathetic viciousness of the majority of mankind. The album closes out with “Boot Camp”, a plea for nonconformity that is at once wistful and sad.All in all, DOWN ON THE UPSIDE is a fitting and worthy end to the age of Grunge, an age that had far more highlights, I might add, than our current one.

    Posted on February 3, 2010