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THE GRUNGE MATCH - 052

Match 052:

Alice In Chains "No Excuses" (Unplugged) (1996)
Nirvana "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter" (1993)
Pearl Jam "Faithful" (1998)
Soundgarden "Mailman" (1994)

A serviceable version of the same song from "Jar Of Flies", but without the power of Layne Staley's voice or the wail of Cantrell's lead work.  It's still "No Excuses" though, so it's got something going for it, but it's a less good copy of the exact same song.

I always thought "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter" was about spies when I was a kid.  Y'know, like a "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter" would be a piece of equipment for intercepting radio signals clandestinely without generating interference.  But I see now that the song is a clever double-entendre, being that "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter" is an industry term for a song that sells records and gets radio play.  The crazy part is how the title still works both ways.  "Use just once, then destroy" could refer to a piece of spy equipment or the record industry chewing up and spitting out a one-hit wonder.  Even the feedback of the guitar is mimicking radio interference.

The song has some pep to it, a good head-nodding beat and in spite of its simplicity, Cobain's delivery works.  It's not as hard-hitting as I remembered it, even at high volume, so I guess it gets a few penalty marks for that, because this used to be a sonic billy club; now I feel like I'm in a slap fight.

"Faithful" is a mid-paced jam, but it's got nice jazzy chords during the quiet parts and nice, bouncy power chords during the chorus and mid section.  Again, Vedder's vocals aren't 100% on point; they're decent enough, but I'm starting to fear that if he doesn't learn a new way to sing at some point this is going to be the beginning of a long, painful descent into unlistenability.

"Mailman" is grindingly slow, but somehow manages to project life.  It's a life that's smoldering with jealous rage that wants to end all other life, but it doesn't sound dead is what I'm saying.  The soulful crooning of the verses gives way to the barely contained accusatory bellow of the chorus.  (It gets so heated that the vocals peg the meter and distort, but it fits the character of the song so well.)

"Mailman": 4
"Faithful": 3
"Radio Friendly Unit Shifter": 2
"No Excuses": 1

TOTALS:

Pearl Jam: 143
Alice In Chains: 135
Soundgarden: 123
Nirvana: 119

Come back for Match 053 tomorrow!

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