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Down on the Upside

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★★★★½
(96 Reviews)

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  • This is the kind of album that makes me wish Soundgarden was still around – about the only memory I had of them when they were still together (when I was still a kid) was the video for Black Hole Sun. Happens with a lot of bands with me, really; by the time I listen to their albums and appreciate their music, they’ve been well broken up.

    Anyhow, although I only have this, Badmotorfinger, and Superunknown, this is by far my favorite, and probably still would be if I owned Ultramega OK and Louder Than Love. Took me a while to get used to it, but I find that the album has incredible diversity that just blows away the already considerable diversity present on its two predecessors – with a range from metal (or grunge, whatever you want to call Soundgarden) (Pretty Noose, Rhinosaur, possibly Blow Up The Outside World, and Never The Machine Forever), punk (Dusty, Ty Cobb, No Attention, Never Named), and psychedelic / Soundgarden’s strange but great mix of metal and psychedilic / acoustic-tinged ballads (Zero Chance, Blow Up The Outside World, Burden In My Hand, Applebite, Tighter & Tighter, Switch Opens, Overfloater, An Unkind, Boot Camp). These are just general ideas of the kind of genres that Soundgarden touch upon here – it’s tough to lump all these songs into one specific genre, it’s more like a blending of a bunch of them on most of the songs.

    Finally, if I had to pick a few of the songs on here to dissect, it’d be these:

    Pretty Noose – the one I know that got radio play, since it had that familiar feeling when I first heard it. Catchy, yet abnormal, riff and great vocals by Chris Cornell; rhythm section keeps it together pretty well.

    Burden In My Hand – on of the more radio-friendly songs on here, like Pretty Noose, but still certainly not a sell-out. Nice acoustic touch with Kim Thayil’s guitar coming in after the first few minutes to add some diversity. Just plain good combination of acoustic and electric guitar, and it really shows me that Soundgarden knows there stuff; maybe it’s just me, but I find it difficult for bands to get a good blend of both together and keep it interesting.

    Tighter & Tighter – besides Burden In My Hand, this is the one that jumps out at me the most, I don’t there’s another song similar to it on the album. Matt Cameron starts it off loudly in sync with Kim Thayil’s catchy guitar riff, a great way to get the listener’s attention. Goes on in a psychedelic fashion (with Kim Thayil’s guitar solo about 2/3 into the song interrupting the slow tempo) that’s captivating and never boring, with the beginning riff slightly altered for the verses and Chris Cornell singing without going overboard. The tempo resumes slightly after Thayil’s solo before errupting into another one as the tempo of the song picks up a lot until the end of the song (with Thayil, Cameron, and Cornell practically going crazy there at the end).

    Boot Camp – probably my favorite song on here, and just so different than the other songs on here (although doesn’t quite grab the listener the same was as Tighter & Tighter). Opens with light, psychedelic-sounding electric guitar until the vocals start – my favorite of Cornell’s, as it fits the song just perfectly in how melodic it is. One of the lines: “There must be something else, there must be something good, far away, far away from here”, would be a perfect description of where I’m at in life and how I feel about that. I find it oddly ironic that this song also serves as an almost biography of Soundgarden – in the underlying tone, one can literally feel the impending break-up of the band. Would be a perfect song for 2006 / 2007, with the state of an America still engaged in the Iraq War, too.

    There’s not really many songs on here that I don’t like – can’t say I care much for Never Named, and No Attention seems sort of bland with not as much interesting happening compared to the other songs.

    Hope everyone that sees this enjoys this review – it’s actually my first one on Amazon.

    Posted on February 3, 2010