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Down On The Upside
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77 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2002
I own every full-length Soundgarden release, but Down on the Upside is without a doubt the best of them. To understand its greatness, one must look at their earlier work.

Soundgarden's early work on Sub Pop and SST certainly stands on its own as genre fare but isn't as accessible and therefore isn't always as listenable as their major-label releases; Badmotorfinger, Soundgarden's first, was a brilliant album technically and lyrically but is really a 'one mood' album which seems to paint itself into a corner fairly quickly; Superunknown, their second, was a commercial smash hit and has some nice tunes, but is a little too easy and too overproduced, weaker than Badmotorfinger artistically and radio-friendly enough that the ultimate 'conversation' gets lost beneath the gloss and the hooks.

Down on the Upside, on the other hand, is an absolutely stunning, mature album. Down on the Upside covers lots of ground -- from post-punk aggro to trippy, swaying, sighing laments to hook-laden, heavy Seattle-esque grooves that easily outshine the best hooks on Superunknown -- and each new note is easily taken in stride. It is on Down on the Upside that Soundgarden finally sound like veteran, established musicians. Production is perfect for the material -- showcasing Thayil's sunlight-tinged riffs and Cornell's voice while managing to stay loose and natural, not forced or clinical as their earlier major-label releases (especially Superunknown) could sometimes sound.

I find Down on the Upside to be reminiscent of Faith No More's Angel Dust, Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti or Sonic Youth's Washing Machine -- all are albums which demonstrate a kind of confident, relaxed subtlety and mastry that can take your breath away. They are the albums on which you feel like you can really hear what the band is saying to you...

In my original review, I said that I wouldn't name any favorite tracks because the entire CD is excellent. However, after reading another review about tracks that supposedly "fall flat" I've decided to edit my review and name my three favorite tracks on the disc. Zero Chance is achingly ennui-laden and has two of the best lines ever in rock music; if you loved the Pumpkins' Mayonaise or STP's Still Remains then Zero Chance might make you cry (or drink) as well. Switch Opens is lovely also, hinting at the incredible untapped genre-expanding potential posessed by Soundgarden, something that has unfortunately probably been lost to us. Finally, Boot Camp, the last track on the CD... is absolutely stunning... dreary... devastating... deceptive in the allusion everywhere in the song to some kind of hope... that is never found. Three minutes long, but feeling like only ten or fifteen seconds, Boot Camp may be the ultimate summary of Soundgarden's career, of the '90s and grunge as a whole, even of the entire post-Vietnam era. I own nearly a thousand CDs but I've never heard anything like it before or since: "There must be something else... must be something good... far away... far away from here... far away... far away..."

It's a lyric and a line outside of time, a thought outside of history. It is anthropology and praxis rolled into one. It makes your hair stand on end, makes you close your eyes and swallow.

Those are my favorites on the disc.

But (my closing remains the same), this is a disc that tells its story best as a whole, from beginning to end. Don't miss one of these gems for years because you happen to hit skip the first time you listen and then never manage to stop...
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2000
Compared to other Soundgarden albums, this one tends to be more raw and bass-heavy than others. It also tends to be a bit more slower and psychodelic than its predicessors, which is why it will take you 3-4 times to really get used to the feel of this release.
I honestly didnt care for DOWN ON THE UPSIDE that much after its first two listenings, but being a hardcore Soundgarden fan, I HAD to give it another chance.....And Im glad I did.
PRETTY NOOSE is your typical radio-friendly type of rock with its upbeat tempo, but after that, Chris Cornell & Company take you on a journey through psychadelic songs (BLOW UP THE OUTSIDE WORLD, APPLEBITE, SWITCH OPENS), a punk song (TY COBB), acoustic laidened tracks (BURDEN IN MY HAND and ZERO CHANCE) and my favorite track, NO ATTENTION has the energy and brutality to leave you wanting more.
After listening to the solo release of Chris Cornell, I can see why Soundgarden broke up...This is truely a release that was done completely as a band. You have slower, emotional songs (BOOT CAMP) and heavy rockers (RHINOSAUR) all in the same breath...A very good final studio recording by the best band in the 90s.
Just give it a chance.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 1999
DOWN ON THE UPSIDE is the finale album from one of the Seattle Three that typified the Grunge Age (Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvanna) - and can be seen as the swan song of Grunge itself. It eschews the vaguely Zepplinish angle of its predecessor SUPERUNKNOWN, in favor of a raw, up-front approach that befits its genre.
First and foremost in its songs are straight rock like "Pretty Noose" or "Rhinosaur" (the former has an almost Tool-like sound - think "Undertow").
But this album has another side. Songs like "Zero Chance" "Burden in My Hand" and "Switch Opens" are largely acoustic, and keep the album from grating. or becoming too monotonous. The former two, in particular, are wonderful in their simplicity and heartfelt lyrics. The latter is done in a very strange rhythm that gives it a catchy, experimental feel.
On the note of experiment, there is "Applebite", a five-minutes-odd song that seems to be built from third or fourth-generation recordings.
"Ty Cobb" is an angry song that is its own chapter in the album. It begins with 22 seconds of peaceful acoustic music and then, with absolutely no warning, lunges into punk at breakneck speed. Strangely enough, one can hear a banjo or mandolin somewhere in the mix, about halfway through the song, that gives it a sarcastic tinge of folk.
The album builds up to "Tigher and Tighter", which is probably the conceptual peak of the album. From there we find several angles ("No Attention", a song of loathing, and "Overfloater", which rails against dismal, sluggish apathy).
However, in my opinion, the high point of the album is "An Unkind", a protest against the pathetic viciousness of the majority of mankind.
The album closes out with "Boot Camp", a plea for nonconformity that is at once wistful and sad.
All in all, DOWN ON THE UPSIDE is a fitting and worthy end to the age of Grunge, an age that had far more highlights, I might add, than our current one.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2007
This is the kind of album that makes me wish Soundgarden was still around - about the only memory I had of them when they were still together (when I was still a kid) was the video for Black Hole Sun. Happens with a lot of bands with me, really; by the time I listen to their albums and appreciate their music, they've been well broken up.

Anyhow, although I only have this, Badmotorfinger, and Superunknown, this is by far my favorite, and probably still would be if I owned Ultramega OK and Louder Than Love. Took me a while to get used to it, but I find that the album has incredible diversity that just blows away the already considerable diversity present on its two predecessors - with a range from metal (or grunge, whatever you want to call Soundgarden) (Pretty Noose, Rhinosaur, possibly Blow Up The Outside World, and Never The Machine Forever), punk (Dusty, Ty Cobb, No Attention, Never Named), and psychedelic / Soundgarden's strange but great mix of metal and psychedilic / acoustic-tinged ballads (Zero Chance, Blow Up The Outside World, Burden In My Hand, Applebite, Tighter & Tighter, Switch Opens, Overfloater, An Unkind, Boot Camp). These are just general ideas of the kind of genres that Soundgarden touch upon here - it's tough to lump all these songs into one specific genre, it's more like a blending of a bunch of them on most of the songs.

Finally, if I had to pick a few of the songs on here to dissect, it'd be these:

Pretty Noose - the one I know that got radio play, since it had that familiar feeling when I first heard it. Catchy, yet abnormal, riff and great vocals by Chris Cornell; rhythm section keeps it together pretty well.

Burden In My Hand - on of the more radio-friendly songs on here, like Pretty Noose, but still certainly not a sell-out. Nice acoustic touch with Kim Thayil's guitar coming in after the first few minutes to add some diversity. Just plain good combination of acoustic and electric guitar, and it really shows me that Soundgarden knows there stuff; maybe it's just me, but I find it difficult for bands to get a good blend of both together and keep it interesting.

Tighter & Tighter - besides Burden In My Hand, this is the one that jumps out at me the most, I don't there's another song similar to it on the album. Matt Cameron starts it off loudly in sync with Kim Thayil's catchy guitar riff, a great way to get the listener's attention. Goes on in a psychedelic fashion (with Kim Thayil's guitar solo about 2/3 into the song interrupting the slow tempo) that's captivating and never boring, with the beginning riff slightly altered for the verses and Chris Cornell singing without going overboard. The tempo resumes slightly after Thayil's solo before errupting into another one as the tempo of the song picks up a lot until the end of the song (with Thayil, Cameron, and Cornell practically going crazy there at the end).

Boot Camp - probably my favorite song on here, and just so different than the other songs on here (although doesn't quite grab the listener the same was as Tighter & Tighter). Opens with light, psychedelic-sounding electric guitar until the vocals start - my favorite of Cornell's, as it fits the song just perfectly in how melodic it is. One of the lines: "There must be something else, there must be something good, far away, far away from here", would be a perfect description of where I'm at in life and how I feel about that. I find it oddly ironic that this song also serves as an almost biography of Soundgarden - in the underlying tone, one can literally feel the impending break-up of the band. Would be a perfect song for 2006 / 2007, with the state of an America still engaged in the Iraq War, too.

There's not really many songs on here that I don't like - can't say I care much for Never Named, and No Attention seems sort of bland with not as much interesting happening compared to the other songs.

Hope everyone that sees this enjoys this review - it's actually my first one on Amazon.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 13, 2000
Though it wasn't as popular or as critically acclaimed as its predecessor, "Down on the Upside" was a noticeably better, more experimental Soundgarden record. "Pretty Noose" and the great "Rhinosaur" get things off to a rugged and very rock oriented pace, as only Soundgarden can do and master so brilliantly. "Dusty" has kind of a funky guitar groove in it, while the smokin' "Ty Cobb" is folksy, fast and punk sounding, all at the same time, with a tough take-no-prisoners tag line repeated non-stop by the angry lead singer, Chris Cornell.
Starting at "Applebite," about midway through, things take a decidedly even gloomier and more downtrodden tone, though some of the music is as heavy as Soundgarden get, which says a lot. It's the point in the album that may separate the casual Soundgarden fan - who may find it a tad tedious - from the die-hards who love this kind of stuff. Still, if you can't get psyched hearing explosive tunes like "Never the Machine Forever" and "No Attention," you should probably check your pulse. Some of their old-time grungy sludge peeps through on the great "Tighter and Tighter," which also features a memorable "sleep tight" chorus by Cornell, whose vocals may be at an all-time high on his last Soundgarden effort. Also, take note and don't skip over such greats as the awesome "Switch Opens" (perhaps one of the best on the album), the dirgier "Overfloater," "An Unkind," and "Boot Camp," which dreamily but succinctly displays some longing to break free on the part of Cornell, perhaps a not-so-subtle hint of some solo stuff to come.
Soundgarden didn't take huge pains to transform their sound here, but they most certainly broadened their musical horizons and overall spectrum. A lot of quality studio sounds come out of this album, and a lot of time and arguing went into it. It's a very song-heavy, deep album that has tons to offer. Interestingly, many of the songs contain unique bridges and even completely different transitions from moment to moment. In that way, it's quite an ambitious and worthwhile record. Basically, heavy guitar rock can't get much cooler.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2006
Its been ten years as of 2006 since this album was released.
Many consider this album the end of an era, for grunge and
alternative. Some say it was In utero that was the last and
best album of grunge. Not sure. This is my favorite soundgarden
album, I'm just starting to realize that. Its just so good,
so unique. They rock hard, "Ty cobb" "Never named" "No
attention" "Dusty" " Pretty noose." Everybody wrote songs on
this album. It was such a group effort. Chris Cornell only
wrote seven of the sixteen songs. Even Kim Thayil wrote one on
the not so favorite, " never the machine forever". But its
still interesting its on the album. Everything about this
album is great. The lyrics, although they can be depressing,
but nowhere near as depressing as superunknown songs, " like
suicide"," fourth of july"...etc. Here: " Born without a friend
and bound to die alone" [ Zero chance]
"So kil your health and kill yourself And kill everything you love And if you live you can fall to pieces And suffer with my ghost." [ Burden in my hand] I think Ben shepard wrote some of the best songs. Ben,who wrote some of soundgarden previous more weirder songs like " head down". That song is so bizarre. Here, a song like, " Switch opens" was just a great add. All the main
singles Cornell wrote, except for "Ty Cobb" by Shephard.
" Tighter and Tighter" also was a great song by chris. Brillant, catchy, creative, rocking.Matt cameron did a fantastic drumming job and wrote some great songs too. Fantastic. Cornells, " Boot Camp" is one of the best enders of any album.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Proving to be the last studio recording from one of the best bands of the 90's; Soundgarden's "Down on the Upside" was perhaps the group's most listenable and mainstream aimed album, which says a lot considering the massive success of the previous "Superunknown". "Pretty Noose", "Blow Up the Outside World" and "Burden in My Hand" were all radio hits and are all radio friendly, but where this album shines is with songs like the punk fueled "Ty Cobb", the rocking "Rhinosaur", "No Attention", "Boot Camp" and two of the band's best songs in "Never the Machine Forever" and "Tighter & Tighter". More bass heavy and melodic than previous releases, I didn't really care for "Down on the Upside" at first, but it grew on me over time. All in all, this isn't the best album to come from this legendary band, but it is a solid album, and a fitting farewell for one of the greatest bands of the past decade.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2011
Down On The Upside (1996) in my opinion is almost as good as Superunknown (1994). Soundgarden was really on a roll from 1994-1997, then they broke up, only to get back together in 2010. They broke up at the right time, as grunge was pretty much dead by 1997. I look forward to some new material from them after 15 years. I'm curious to see if it could rekindle grunge music or will they change their sound?

Now about this album...

This album, like its predecessor, is loaded with familiar songs that were played on the radio. Such songs as Pretty Noose, Blow Up The Outside World, and Burden In My Hand were big hits. My personal favorite song on this album is Overfloater. I also like Ty Cobb. This album isn't as heavy as Superunknown, but it still rocks. Soundgarden was spreading their wings more with this album. Chris Cornell is in top form at the microphone.

I highly recommend Down On The Upside.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2004
A lot of people jumped on the Soundgarden bandwagon when Superunknown came out, and it's those newcomers or casual fans that were disappointed with this one. Mainly they were disappointed because this album had a lot of hard-and-heavy songs ala Louder Than Love and Badmotorfinger. Most older Soundgarden fans recognize this album as the excellent hard rock album that it is. Another reviewer complained that the second half of the album is weak, but songs like "Never the Machine Forever" and "No Attention" have that classic thick, chunky Soundgarden sound, and "Tighter and Tighter" "Switch Opens" and "Overfloater" build on the kind of groove the band had going with Superunknown. "Unkind" is another rocker, kind of a mix between Superunknown and Badmotorfinger. The only complaint I can think of is that there are several slow, stoner rock songs, but they are all cool songs so no complaint from me!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2007
Well as we have all heard from nearly every critic in tha book...Superunknown was SG's masterpiece! Well that maybe so, as that being what they became best known for, but if Superunknown is the masterpiece...DOU is their absolute magnum opus, their crowning achievement WITHOUT question!!! And their was simply no better way to go out on top as such. Granted we all wish SG could've or would've stuck around and made at least 1 more, but they accomplished all they needed for their time. Their is no finer band to come out of that era(grunge or whatever they wanna call it), with the exception of maybe TOOL. And absolutely without question - this is one of the most musically and lyrically stellar albums of the entire period....Brilliant. SG still lives through time. Possible the 3 best songs they ever recorded, yet least known are here: Overfloater / Zero Chance / Tighter & Tighter
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