Reprinted without permission from CMJ New Music
Monthly, June 1996
DOWN ON THE UPSIDE
As soon as Superunknown was released, long-time Soundgarden fans could finally be proud of their band, knowing that the kings of the rock groove could also write an excellent song, as epitomized by the breakthrough hit "Black Hole Sun." And the idea holds on Down On The Upside: When the band accomplishes both groove and melody, as on "Zero Chance" or the rocking "Rhinosaur," there's nothing better. "Rhinosaur"'s groove is massive, with the stairstep guitar riffs and abrupt changes in rhythm that guitarist Kim Thayil adores. Chris Cornell's voice is in good form as well; he's been shrieking less and less since the band's debut EP, and concentrating lately on his lower register, opening up the breadth rather than the height of his vocal cords. So as Soundgarden continues to tantalize with its growing songwriting talent, there are, as usual, a few groove-only moments that go nowhere ("Applebite", "Never The Machine Forever" and "Never Named"). Thankfully, the musicianship is, also as usual, so superb as to go almost unnoticed; Matt Cameron's drumming is perfect, always powerful but never heavy-handed. Thayil's guitar is also more understated than usual, and judging by the number of good songs that bassist Ben Shepherd co-wrote with Cornell, the latest addition to the band is proving to be as essential as the three original members. Down On The Upside is neither an attempt to cash in on the band's past success, nor a return to older, less melodic efforts; rather, it's a satisfying continuation of the band's slow maturity without any fuss or hoopla. File Under: Classic rock, the way it oughtta be. Recommended if you like: Temple Of The Dog, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin.