photo & text by nacrowe
i remember this album being referred to as UP ON THE SUCKSIDE by a middle school friend of mine in NIGERIA upon its release in the mid-1990s. i never thought that was a fair assessment.
i think SOUNDGARDEN's DOWN ON THE UPSIDE (A&M, 1996) suffered in comparison to the iconic ALTERNATIVE ROCK band's previous SUPERUNKNOWN (A&M, 1994) and BADMOTORFINGER (A&M, 1991) records, which were stellar examples of tuneful songwriting and massive-sounding music production that resulted in a sound that effectively split the difference between BLACK SABBATH and THE BEATLES. to my ears this album was more musically experimental sonically and texturally with songs like "APPLEBITE," "SWITCH OPENS," "ZERO CHANCE," "TIGHTER & TIGHTER," and "BOOT CAMP" all playing with droning open chords and looping drum patterns that create a hypnotizing mantra of sorts not that dissimilar from traditional INDIAN music. i can see now such would be a bit off putting to a fan of those previous aforementioned records. of course there were singles such as "PRETTY NOOSE," "BLOW UP THE OUTSIDE WORLD" and "BURDEN IN MY HAND" that showcase the incredible vocals of CHRIS CORNELL and the idiosyncratic guitar heroics of KIM THAYIL in a more recognizable and traditional SOUNDGARDEN format that would makes sense on previous releases.
a standout track for me includes "TY COBB," which is such a spit-in-your-eye fury of aggression that never seized to get me revved up as it did as a teenager before a sporting event. in a sense its lyrics did give off the misanthropic and malcontent vibe of the actual TY COBB with its "hard-headed, fuck you all" refrain. a similar vibe is also apparent on "NO ATTENTION" and "AN UNKIND."
my memory of this record upon its release is clouded by the breakup of the band a few months later. i really remember being bummed about that since i felt that was a DOWN ON THE UPSIDE strong record that was more diverse and ultimately interesting than their previous output. seemed a waste. i was overjoyed when they returned many years later if only because it meant the return of the immensely inventive and criminally underrated and under-appreciated THAYIL, who was always a favorite of mine going back to childhood.
definitely check out DOWN ON THE UPSIDE, an under-appreciated album by a seminal rock band.