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THE GRUNGE MATCH - 077

Match 077:

Alice In Chains "Whatcha Gonna Do" (1988)
Nirvana "Spank Thru" (Live) (1991)
Pearl Jam "Can't Keep" (2002)
Soundgarden "Dusty" (1996)

"Whatcha Gonna Do", along with the next four entries, is also from the pre "Facelift" demo in 1988.  It's still got a pseudo-Guns vibe, but it's way less basic, it's got more attitude, Sean Kinney don't give a FUCK on them drum fills, the pre-chorus takes a vicious turn...this is the best Alice In Chains song I've reviewed since at least "Jar Of Flies".  It does have a weird mid-section that goes all funk rock for no good reason, but the verses and chorus are so energetic, so biting and so...FUN you can't really deny it.  It benefits greatly from remaster, because there's no way it sounded this good as a demo.  In fact, as far as pure sound, this might be the best they've ever sounded.  It's definitely the best drum sound they've ever had.

"Spank-Thru" was recorded in Rome, November 1991.  It's one of the first songs Nirvana ever recorded, demoing the song in 1985.  It's nothing like anything else from their albums.  It's kind of got a hillbilly twinge to it, but inexpertly played in that mocking way Nirvana always has.  Then it starts being a rock song, and the swagger and vitality make it somewhat compelling.  It's still a sore thumb in a bag of hammers as far as their discography is concerned.

"Can't Keep" is our first post-9/11 composition.  From a sonic perspective, I had a moment of "Did I accidentally click the Soundgarden song instead?" because "Dusty" prominently features an acoustic guitar.  The atmosphere of "Can't Keep" is different though, more aspirational.  It has a darkness to it, definitely some night music going on here, but like a bonfire on the beach night, with a little bit of youthful exuberance thrown in to keep spirits bolstered.  This feels more weighty, more...here than most of "Binaural" did, which is a good first step.

"Dusty" is a boss-ass song.  It's got weird rhythm, it's got cool vocal harmony, and it's got a bite without having to be heavy.  It's even got atmosphere.  "Dusty" also features the lyric "I'm Down On The Upside", so it's the de-facto title track.  There's a lot of interesting little twinges going on in the second or third layer of guitar too if you pay close attention.

This one's a bit of a toughee.  "Whatcha Gonna Do" is an absolute hammer of a song, but "Dusty" is tasty as fuck.  They're both really good but in different ways.  Yeah, "Whatcha Gonna Do" has kind of a bunk mid-section, but I'd rather crank that in the car than "Dusty" most of the time, so...Hmmm...I think I'm gonna go like this:

"Whatcha Gonna Do": 4
"Dusty": 3
"Can't Keep": 2
"Spank-Thru" (Live): 1

...which hurts a little, cuz "Can't Keep" is worth more than a 2, but...competition is competition.

TOTALS:

Alice In Chains: 200
Soundgarden: 199
Pearl Jam: 193
Nirvana: 178

And with that Alice In Chains not only takes the lead, but becomes the first to join the 200 club (which meant something much different in the 80's)!  In spite of a good effort, Pearl Jam slips another notch in the face of stiff competition.  Though if they can keep that level up (I'm largely unfamiliar with "Riot Act" so who knows?), they might have a chance to get back on top.

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