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THE GRUNGE MATCH - 036

Match 036:

Alice In Chains "Don't Follow" (1994)
Nirvana "Beeswax" (1992)
Pearl Jam "Immortality" (1994)
Soundgarden "Jesus Christ Pose" (1991)

It's kind of amazing how pastoral the first two thirds of "Don't Follow" sound.  This is some playing a guitar in an autumnal wheat field type shit.  Then a harmonica comes in and paints a little bluesier picture, but at its core the song is a long, deep breath.  It may be resignation, with lyrics like "Pass me down that bottle," but then with about two minutes to go, Layne Staley takes over from Jerry Cantrell and it's like it's time to get out of the field and hitchhike back to the city and deal with real life again.

It's at this point that I realize how painfully average Nirvana really were.  For most of their discography, they coast by on being naturally charismatic and knowing power chords.  They don't try very hard, and most of the time it's fine.  "Beeswax" is fine.  It's a little annoying, but it works because Nirvana can make a lot of things that shouldn't work happen without any effort.  But since I'm measuring them against bands that seem to be trying harder, songs like this get exposed a bit.

Okay, here's where things get dark and meta.  "Immortality", no matter how often Eddie Vedder denies or hints at it, is at least partially about Kurt Cobain's suicide.  It was written mere days after the fact and performed live not too long after.  It's also about the perils of fame (which were damaging Pearl Jam nearly to the breaking point by 1994), but still.

I've always liked this song, even without paying attention to the undertones (maybe especially because I try to ignore them).  The contrasts of harsh and soft are not the simple stereotype in spite of conforming to the quiet verse/loud chorus format for one simple reason: they commit to both modes.  They're actually being contemplative during the verse, you feel the reflection on heavy topics, but the crash of the chorus doesn't sound intrusive either.  It's an earned transition (and not even a full one at that, as an acoustic guitar is present every step of the way).  This is how you do a song like this, nu-metal.  Fuck off.

I remember the first time I heard "Jesus Christ Pose".  My mom was driving us home after I picked this up, and the weird riff after the introductory feedback starts in and on about the eighth repetition, she just goes "Nope!" and skips ahead to track five.  This is a weird song.  It's technical as shit, with a bunch of tom-centric drumming, lots of lead work that fades into and out of the foreground, the bass is going nuts, lots of guitar shrieks that make you want to turn it down in spite of yourself but the mid-section gets really groove-thrash and tightens up to some pretty gut-punch-y material.  Then the weird riff comes in again at the end, accompanied by assaulting amounts of feedback, and oh yeah, Chris Cornell is going APESHIT during pretty much the whole song.  This is probably the most technical, tight song in the entire Grunge Match.  And for that:

"Jesus Christ Pose": 4
"Immortality": 3
"Don't Follow": 2
"Beeswax": 1

TOTALS:

Pearl Jam: 111
Alice In Chains: 97
Nirvana: 83
Soundgarden: 71

Tomorrow, we say goodbye to both "Vitalogy" and "Jar Of Flies".  Interesting how that works out.

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