I'm a pretty hardcore Soundgarden fan and when the weather gets warmer I tend to listen to them more often (the same with Stone Temple Pilots). While Badmotorfinger will always have a place in my top 100 albums of the 90s, their final album Down On the Upside is the one I always return to (even when the weather is inclement). Certainly Louder Than Love (1990) is a monster album and Superunknown is solid from Let Me Drown to Like Suicide but for my money Down is just awesome. In some ways it reminds me of Helmet's Betty (1994) and Ministry's Filth Pig (1995) because the band departed from the regularly scheduled program.
At first listen Down is a random mix of video hits, crunch harkening back to the early days, and oddly introspective and syrupy (thanks to Ben Shepard's bass work) bong hits. However, if you sit down or, in my case, are cooking and can play Down at a respectable rock level - this self produced (co-produced by Adam Kasper) album works so fucking well. There are tracks I prefer over others - I'm not a huge of Rhinosaur - but the second half is just stunning. Kim Thayll knocks it out of the park out on his penned Never the Machine Forever (in my opinion the second track on the second side of the album). It's a classic crunch track with lines like, "Never means forever brings everything." Do I know what it means? No but it makes fucking sense and sounds awesome.
I listen to Down and think of it as a farewell, almost nostaligic, album. I wince when I hear Audioslave or some half-assed Soundgarden knock off. It's like seeing an old dog with rotting gums that stays near its food bowl because it's too sick and old to walk.
If you missed Down On the Upside when it came out or dismissed it when it came out, I suggest giving it a listen if only for the brilliance of Switch Opens & Overfloater.
Coming soon on HYR: Why Filth Pig is the best Ministry album.
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