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THE GRUNGE MATCH - 087

Match 087:

Alice In Chains "A Little Bitter" (1993)
Nirvana "Heartbreaker" (1987)
Pearl Jam "Help Help" (2002)
Soundgarden "Overfloater" (1996)

"A Little Bitter" is not a typical Alice In Chains song.  For one, it's pace is frenetic.  It's got a bunch of the band's hallmarks, but set at a speed about 125% above their normal groove.  I think that's why this song stands out for me in their catalog.  It also has a self confidence lacking in much of their material, as most of it deals with being down and out.  This feels like righteous anger being spewed, which is how 12 year old me got out of bed every morning to face the slings and arrows of being shit on by kids looking for an easy target.  The fact that I was a reprehensible little shit who didn't know anything about being a human being nor cared to learn wasn't making me any harder to hit, but c'est la vie.

"Heartbreaker" is a bunch of kids just busting out Led Zeppelin during their first gig, with one of them saying "I don't know how to play it!" before hand.  There's not even a working microphone for the first minute, and when it gets fixed, you wish it hadn't, though the vocals are still mercifully quiet.  A really endearing moment happens about two minutes in when they remind Kurt there's a guitar solo, and he just does whatever bullshit he can think of that sort of sounds like it.  This was, in fact, Nirvana's first show: March 7, 1987.

You might be asking yourself: "What business does a tape recorded demo of some punk kids having their first gig have any business going up against professionally mixed and mastered material by bands that shaped their generation?"  It doesn't.  But, Nirvana put me in a pickle from the get-go.  Their a) Too big to be ignored as the biggest band of the genre, and b) Fall woefully short because they were only together for seven years and three full-length albums.  The only way to get around that is to include things like live albums (which is why there are four versions of "Polly" already) and stuff like this.  And that's an issue: "With The Lights Out" is all I have left to pull from for the rest of this exercise.  That does bad things to Nirvana's score that aren't exactly fair, but this is a flawed, opinion based experiment anyway, and I'm doing the best I can with what I have.  (Look on the bright side: at least this entry isn't a repeat.  There were like four MORE versions of "Polly" I could have thrown at you.)  So something like a bootleg of some dumb kids fucking up "Heartbreaker" is the lesser of two evils if I wanted to write this thing (which, given we're 87 entries in, I guess I did.)

No, "Help Help" isn't a sad parody of "Hail Hail".  (That would be "Get Right" from two matches ago.)  The way the vocals are sung on this really gives it a sense of existential crisis that hammers home the theme of needing help.  It's not any more defined than that, but fear of the unknown is powerful, and not knowing why someone needs help when they say "Help Me" in a creepy voice can really put you at unease.  Points for atmosphere, and for the solo at the end which brings this to a chaotic, rocking conclusion.

When looking up material for this entry, I realized "Overfloater" is the only song from "Down On The Upside" that's not in my library.  I deleted it some time ago (I don't know when; probably the purge of '09 if I had to venture a guess).  On hearing it for the first time in at least eight years, I think I was too hard on it.  It is a slow song toward the very end of an album that was already dragging and littered with too many songs, but really, I should've deleted "Boot Camp" instead, because this is a much better way to end an album.  I mean, it's third from the end, but hey. 

"A Little Bitter": 4
"Overfloater": 3
"Help Me Help Me": 2
"Heartbreaker: 1

TOTALS:

Alice In Chains: 232
Soundgarden: 228
Pearl Jam: 210
Nirvana: 200

Alice In Chains strengthens their lead while Nirvana gets to 200 by default.  Coming tomorrow is another Alice In Chains song that sounds precious little like the rest of their ouevre, but for completely different reasons.  What am I talking about?  You'll just have to come back tomorrow to find out...

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