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THE GRUNGE MATCH - 049

Match 049:

Alice In Chains "Over Now" (1995)
Nirvana "Very Ape" (1993)
Pearl Jam "I'm Open" (1996)
Soundgarden "Let Me Drown" (1994)

The song "Over Now" is eerily prescient: It starts with an ancient sounding recording of "Taps".  This is not just the last song on the last Alice In Chains album with Layne Staley (and the last song on the last proper album Staley would make period), it came out at the end of grunge's popularity.  By the time "No Code" came out nine months later, it really was all over.  It's somehow the perfect tombstone for not just Alice In Chains but the genre with which they were most closely associated.

Musically, the song captures the vibe of a wake, in a way.  The verses are jaunty, if subdued, representing the recollection of looking back on the closing of a book and remembering the good times with the bad.  The chorus of "We'll pay our debt sometime" is morbid, being that it took another seven years for Layne Staley to destroy himself and another sixteen for former band member Mike Starr to die.  It is the acknowledgment that for all the good Alice In Chains did, they would yet have to pay a price for every deed.

The real interesting lyric is at the beginning: "Yeah, it's Over Now... / ...but I can breathe somehow".  Not all loss is as final or as devastating as your own death.  Being that "Alice In Chains", the self-titled album, began life as a Jerry Cantrell solo project (which Cantrell didn't really want to do), the idea that this was meant as a memorial to a band he thought was already dead isn't that far-fetched.  That it wound up being the final song on the final studio album of said band is merely a coincidence, but a damn spooky one.

Now for something completely different.  "Very Ape" can fit inside "Over Now " three and a half times.  (7:03 vs 1:55)  "Very Ape" bounces with an electric energy to it without getting too aggressive or, pardon the pun, "Ape".  It has a nihilistic bent to it, following the curve of a one-hit wonder's career trajectory "Out of the ground | Into the sky | Out of the sky | Into the dirt".  Considering "In Utero" consisted of a heaping helping of intentional career self-sabotage, this might have been Cobain's prayer.  But of course, no such luck.  It also has a sarcastic self-aware hipster aire to it: "I'm too busy acting like I'm not naive | I've seen it all; I was here first".  It's a quick little morsel of a song, but it manages to achieve the cool it refuses to take off.

"I'm Open" is an unabashedly sloooooow song with spaces big enough to drive the starship Enterprise through.  The first things you hear are a bowed instrument droning an E note, followed by reverb-drenched arpeggios at a distance of near Earth orbit.  The bulk of the lyrics of the song are spoken word, about a man who's life feels empty, so he chooses to "dream up a new self for himself".  It's also fitting "I'm Open" is a song that's there and gone again in a flash.  It's like life in that way.

"Let Me Drown" fucking kicks you in the gut from the moment it starts.  You want to ROCK, you can't do much better than "Let Me Drown".  The riff is that simple, dirty, gritty goodness that bands like Led Zeppelin started and Soundgarden perfected.  The chorus is powerful as shit and so is the solo.  The breakdown is heavy with toms and palm muting, which builds back into that thunderbolt of a chorus...It's fucking OP.

"Let Me Drown": 4
"Over Now": 3
"Very Ape": 2
"I'm Open": 1

TOTALS:

Pearl Jam: 137
Alice In Chains: 131
Soundgarden: 112
Nirvana: 111

Soundgarden overtakes third place in our first change in a long time.  Tomorrow we'll see the beginning of Alice In Chains "Unplugged" and the end of "No Code".  Toodly Pipski!

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