Reprinted with permission from Stephen R. Fox, June
SOUNDGARDEN: DOWN ON THE UPSIDE
Being one of the first of the Seattle bands to make the jump to a major label, SOUNDGARDEN has consistently been a few steps ahead of the rest, but it's taken a bit longer for their stature as a marketable product to catch up to that of their artistry. Resting on laurels has never been a SOUNDGARDEN trait, however, and with the release of DOWN ON THE UPSIDE, they prove that each record shows a tremendous amount of their growth. Erupting with a wah-ed guitar riff that would make early Screaming Trees fans giddy, "Pretty Noose" ignites a release that is a slightly different shade of black than earlier SOUNDGARDEN efforts. All four members have music writing credits on DOWN ON THE UPSIDE which gives it a bit of something for everyone while holding it together with the same Black Sabbath-via-the Beatles flare SOUNDGARDEN have come to perfect after 5 full-length albums. Knowing earlier releases helps you appreciate the juxtaposition of riffs and swells to harmonic choruses, but SOUNDGARDEN's latest can stand alone as a snapshot of their reign of noise. Subtlety has its place on DOWN ON THE UPSIDE as well, featured in the John Lennon influenced "Blow Up The Outside World" and "Burden In My Hand" (battling for this album's "Black Hole Sun" status) and the alluring, almost instrumental "Applebite." Until now, bassist Ben Shepherd's songwriting abilities were only evident on an album by Hater, a side project featuring SOUNDGARDEN's drummer, Matt Cameron, but a great deal of Hater's aesthetic is transferred through DOWN ON THE UPSIDE on the Shepherd-penned "Zero Chance" and "Dusty." Chris Cornell, while occasionally sounding like Sting ("Boot Camp") and Eddie Vedder ("Zero Chance"), maintains his status as one of rock's best vocalists, screaming and growling through most of this platter. Kim Thayil is as innovative as ever with "Never The Machine Forever" and "Rhinosaur" showcasing the same intense guitar urgency that helped the early SST release, Ultramega OK, bring the majors calling. Simply stated, this record is gorgeous, and its maturity and density may help put some distance between these innovators and their imitators.
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