“Dolby’s 12 Days of Soundgarden: Day 7 (Down on the Upside: Nice Guy’s Album or Just Album for Saps?)”

We’ve all met the type. Your orchestral cello player. Your frowning, turtle-neck wearing wire sculptor living in a lofted penthouse. The “cool,” the cultured, the people who seem to suck up a mysterious income from a nondescript source and amble through life with an unapproving, unobjecting pallor.
I think too that we’d be deluding ourselves if we harbored the hopes that these types didn’t infiltrate the world of music criticism. Along these lines, let’s see what pitchfork thinks of Soundgarden’s 1996 followup to Superunknown. Oh, oop, they’ve erased their Down on the Upside review, and just in time to traffic in a nice heartfelt, desultory Chris Cornell commemoration for which “generic” might be just a slight understatement.
Let’s check out the Rolling Stone review. Ok, I’m not even lying: Rolling Stone, which I suppose is chivalrous to an extent for at least leaving their review UP, actually segues into a SCREAMING TREES blurb on the page where is supposed to be immortally inscribed David Fricke’s godlike lambasting of Down on the Upside (he gave it three stars out of five). Remember, folks, this is BEFORE marijuana was legalized. Just shows you how effective our hardworking law enforcement was around this time. By the way, does anybody still LISTEN to the Screaming Fu**ing Trees? Or did they ever? Can we just like retire this band already? I mean, I’m sure there’s something in the world more boring than the Screaming Trees, but I’ll da**ed if it’s jumping the fu** out at me.
Actually, you know what, on second thought, let’s TALK about the Screaming Trees. A band which obviously gained popularity for the pure reason of their denizenship in the city of Seattle in the early ‘90s and their discovery of the invention of the electric guitar. They exactly typify a clear problem in the world of criticism — the popular-is-bad tenet. See Live dismantled in the LA Times review which called Secret Samadhi “relentlessly poppy” [1] (Secret fu**ing Samadhi?) See the New York Times bigwig who got on Darius Rucker’s case for I guess not being black enough [2]. Success is taboo. It’s lonely at the top. He**, if you don’t believe all these corny a** sayings after we’ve now lost the lead singers of three of the major four grunge bands to suicides (the only one remaining is in fact from California and not Seattle), then you’re smoking some stuff I need to get. Well, guess what folks, everybody likes you if you’re some misanthropic, irrelevant dweeb with a pierced face playing arcane polka through an elephant tusk on 5th Avenue! That’s not selling out, that’s authentic art! And look, it even really reached the public! Like that a**hole in the turtle neck!
Ahem. Let me backtrack here. I’ll just let the cat out of the bag now: I listen to Down on the Upside while I’m at work at low-paying jobs and it’s extremely beneficial unto the mood at said low-paying jobs. Not a whole he** of a lot of difference from Superunknown, then, for it, in this regard. It’s like a shot to the vein. There’s nothing artistic about it: there’s nothing “cool” about it. Well, then why is the cute Chicago chick I work with swaying her hips along to it. Probably because it fu**ing rocks. David Fricke of Rolling Stone attempted to denigrate the lyrical stanza of “I think it’s turning back around / And I think I like it” as trite, but it’s nothing compared to Jurassic 5’s “I am who I am and that’s all I gotta be / No more no less what you’re seeing is me”, and I never hear them take any flak about that clunker. I mean that’s like third grade show and tell sh**. Chris Cornell at least sells the vocal in “Dusty” and doesn’t just sound self-important like he’s morally superior to “gangsta” rock (not that gangsta rock exists, necessarily).
To this day, I have not read a single positive review of Down on the Upside, Soundgarden’s last good album, Soundgarden’s last album before the decade and a half hiatus and Audioslave commencement, Soundgarden’s last album with invincible drummer Matt Cameron. Is it music for people prone to alcoholism? Probably. Are black turtle neck wearing cello players less likely to be alcoholics? I don’t think there’s any question. Are you going to put in Pavoratti and the tenors when you’re trying to get through the drudgery of one of an endless array of tedious, overheated workdays? Probably not. You’re going to go for the real vocal catharsis — the liberated self-expression of grunge rock, which when it was on, as it was in Down on the Upside, was a great thing. Otherwise, guess what, folks, it wouldn’t have become uber-popular. Could it be that the public actually knows something?
No true Soundgarden fan would go without Down on the Upside — it’s like Blue, within Third Eye Blind’s catalogue. Actually, I did this one post for DD on Third Eye Blind where for every song on the self-titled album, I found one on Blue that was like the exact same tempo. You could probably do this for Superunknown and Down on the Upside. They’re perfect brother and sister albums. Like take “Kickstand” and “No Attention.” Take “Mailman” and “Tighter & Tighter.” Take “Let Me Drown” and “An Unkind.” All yins and yangs. These birds of a feather flock together. But people were sick of Soundgarden by 1996. That’s why we’re going to put on some quality Screaming Trees, we’re going to spend some quality time with the Screaming Trees. Didn’t you say that, hipsters? Didn’t you say you were raring to go with those three Screaming Trees albums in a row you were going to listen to? I mean, are you gonna prove your coolness, or what?
[1] http://articles.latimes.com/1997-02-22/entertainment/ca-31172_1_secret-samadhi.
[2] http://www.nytimes.com/1995/11/05/arts/pop-view-if-colin-powell-sang-and-played-guitar.html.

1,532 thoughts on ““Dolby’s 12 Days of Soundgarden: Day 7 (Down on the Upside: Nice Guy’s Album or Just Album for Saps?)”

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