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THE GRUNGE MATCH - 047

Match 047:

Alice In Chains "Nothin' Song" (1995)
Nirvana "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle" (1993)
Pearl Jam "Present Tense" (1996)
Soundgarden "Stray Cat Blues" (1992)

In a band with a history replete with questionable lyrics, "Nothin' Song" is their absolute nadir.  This shit SUCKS.  (And tomorrow's song is bottom five too.)  The music ain't much better either.

Frances Farmer was an actress who was committed in the late 1940's in her hometown of Seattle and spent years in an institution.  Many salacious rumors floated around, that she was a paranoid schizophrenic, that she was an alcoholic, that she was hooked on dope, that she'd had a lobotomy while locked up...The truth is hazy, but Kurt Cobain empathized with her plight after reading her biography in high school.  Courtney Love even wore one of her dresses at her and Kurt's wedding.  What does this have to do with the song?  Not much.  It's pretty bog standard.  If you were a band just starting out trying to write a Nirvana song, this is what it'd sound like.  The lyrics are vague enough they could be about anything and never feel like they made a point.  The definition of ho-hum.

"Present Tense" is a really slow, spacey, mellow yet kind of dark in places number.  By the three minute mark you finally hear your first taste of drums in the form of a quiet cymbal roll and the inclusion of a second guitar (until then, it's just Vedder and presumably McCreedy).  Then the song kicks into gear at about four minutes in and is a nice, comfortable slab of rock, fading back into spaciness just as quick as it came.  Usually I call bullshit on songs like this, but Pearl Jam earned every inch of this one.  It's put together in a way that doesn't feel like you're being led on or that the length is being padded or that this song is going nowhere and the change comes in precisely when it's supposed to, not a second sooner, then leaves when it needs to. 

Now we've got Soundgarden covering the Stones.   And honestly it's the closest they ever got to sounding like Audioslave.  It reminds me a little bit of "Dandelion" except with better vocals, Kim Thayill laying his usual tapestry of leads in the background, and the lyrics aren't actually about a fucking flower.  So not nearly as much like Audioslave as you might think.

I was debating between "Stray Cat Blues" and "Present Tense", but when I went back to listen to them again, I didn't even bother with Soundgarden.  The lyrics to "Present Tense" struck me pretty hard the second time around.  The idea Pearl Jam puts forth that you can spend time dwelling on all your past mistakes and be the only one that still hates you for things no one else even knows about or you can...just...not do that?  Yeah, "Present Tense" hits me on a level I wasn't prepared for.  It gets the win.

"Present Tense": 4
"Stray Cat Blues": 3
"Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle": 2
"Nothin' Song": 0  (Seriously.  FUCK this song)

TOTALS:

Pearl Jam: 135
Alice In Chains: 126
Nirvana: 105
Soundgarden: 105

We have a tie!  Let's see what tomorrow's fortunes hold.

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