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Down on the Upside

music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Down on the Upside

Artist: Soundgarden
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: September 1996

Review by Ken
3½ stars out of 4

After the raw metal fury of 'Badmotorfinger' and the subsequent commercial success of 1994's 'Superunknown', Soundgarden surprised everyone by treading a far murkier and gloomier path on their 1996 follow-up, 'Down On The Upside'. The millions of fans who purchased Superunknown on the strength of radio hits like 'Spoonman' and 'Black Hole Sun' didn't find much to like on the new album, so they didn't bother to look for it at their record stores. As a result, 'Down…' wasn't the monster seller it should have been, and its possible that this could have led the band to believe that their songwriting days were being numbered. Soundgarden disbanded a year later.

Which is all really shocking and sad, because Down On The Upside is actually one of the best albums they've ever done. While I personally wished that Chris Cornell and Co. would go back to the hard grunge sound they pioneered with earlier albums like Louder Than Love and Badmotorfinger, it's become apparent that the band have since preferred to indulge themselves in a quieter landscape of sounds and vibes. That doesn't mean that the album doubles as a sleep-inducer; because new tracks like 'No Attention' still rock out with fearsome anger and confidence, while others like 'Pretty Noose' and 'Tighter and Tighter' echo some of the more sinister-tinged, driving guitar riffs of the Badmotorfinger era. But it's on the mellower and musically experimental tracks like 'Never The Machine Forever' and 'Zero Chance' that Soundgarden show hints of the new direction they were generally headed towards.

Although the album proves a difficult listen the first time, you have to listen to it a few more times to really capture the beauty of sound and weird noise that Soundgarden perfected as an art form. Though this album may not have been the most fitting of epitaphs to the band's career, it is enough to remind us of the loss the music world suffered when Soundgarden decided to just call it a day.



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