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Down On the Upside

Soundgarden

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Album Review

Superunknown was a breakthrough in many ways. Not only did the album bring Soundgarden a new audience, it dramatically expanded their vision, as well as their accomplishments. If Down on the Upside initially seems a retreat from the grand, layered textures of Superunknown, let it sink in. The sound of Down on the Upside is certainly more immediate, but the band hasn't returned to the monstrous, unfocused wailing of Louder Than Love. Instead, they've retained their ambitious song structures, neo-psychedelic guitar textures, and winding melodies but haven't dressed them up with detailed production. Consequently, Down on the Upside is visceral as well as cerebral — "Rhinosaur" goes for the gut, while "Pretty Noose" is updated, muscular prog rock. Down on the Upside is a deceptive album — it might seem like nothing more than heavy metal, but a closer listen reveals that Soundgarden haven't tempered their ambitions at all.

Customer Reviews

Underrated Album!

I love this album. I picked it up for 15 Francs in France years ago, and didn't really give it a proper listen until I'd got really into Superunknown. I love both, but prefer this. It's got a subtlety of intention that only really comes to the fore after a few listens. Dusty and Overfloater are two of the best songs, but really, the album has no dud tracks. Give it a listen, and a chance, and you'll fall in love with it.

Arguably Their Best...

I've never ever been able to understand the negativity that this album got from some corners. I've honestly tried. Listened to it over and over again, left it a while and done my damnedest to listen to it objectively again. And I can honestly say this is arguably their best/ most accomplished effort. I say arguably because it's genuinely impossible for me to separate the significance and importance of both Badmotorfinger and Superunknown as well.

While even the first two full-lengths were incredible in their own way, it was with Badmotorfinger that they finally produced what they'd been hinting at, and really come into their own with their own sound, a far cry from the Zeppelin and Sabbath tribute they could've been in danger of becoming. It was at the height of the grunge movement but for all the right reasons never felt like it belonged to that scene. Heavier, bolder, more challenging, it made what they did with Superunknown even more inspired an inspiring in equal measure.

Superunknown had elements of everything they'd ever been and more, showcasing a maturing in songwriting way beyond any of their so-called peers. There was no doubting at all now that Soundgarden never really were grunge but an animal unto their own.

And that leads me to this album, Down On The Upside. Listening to it, I can only assume that the aforementioned negativity it garnered from some corners was a reflection on how successfully they'd cemented their place in musical virtuosity with their previous work; equally a reflection of those who felt they owned the discovery as we've all done with those bands so precious to us in immortalising our youth. In short, no-one wanted to admit that it held up against the album(s) they'd fallen in love with two years before.

I can only assume this because to all intents and purposes this album, when you listen to it with objective, non-precious ears, is an extension of Superunknown, or at least where Soundgarden were always heading based on that album. It has all the best qualities in terms of the songwriting they were so clearly heading in from that point onwards, and then some. Its surely a natural progression when you consider the diversity of its predecessor; both Beatleseque majesty and sludgy riffery in equal measure that could've lent anyone of its songs to Down On The Upside, the same to be said vice versa. All in all, Down On The Upside is a fantastic extension / successor to Superunknown, and one that purposefully follows in its virtuous footsteps.

Here's hoping they don't go and ruin that legacy by putting out anything less than perfect...

Review

It's a lot more artistic than other soundgarden albums, it has a great phychdelic side to, the solos are more epic, but the main riffs are more subtle and not as aggressive as Superunknown or Badmotorfinger.

Pretty Noose - 9/10
Rhinosaur - 7/10
Zero Chance - 7/10
Dusty - 7/10
Ty Cobb - 9/10 (But it's so out of place!)
Blow Up the Outside World - 9/10
Burden In My Hand - 7/10
Never Named - 5/10 (The low point)
Applebite - 8/10
Never the Machine Forever - 8/10
Tighter and Tighter - 10/10
No Attention - 6/10
Switch Opens - 7/10
Overfloater - 10/10
Unkind - 7/10
Bootcamp - 8/10

Biography

Formed: 1984 in Seattle, WA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '10s

Soundgarden made a place for heavy metal in alternative rock. Their fellow Seattle rockers Green River may have spearheaded the grunge sound, but they relied on noise rock in the vein of the Stooges. Similarly, Jane's Addiction were too fascinated with prog rock and performance art to appeal to a wide array of metal fans. Soundgarden, however, developed directly out of the grandiose blues-rock of Led Zeppelin and the sludgy, slow riffs of Black Sabbath. Which isn't to say they were a straight-ahead...
Full bio