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THE GRUNGE MATCH - 092

Match 092:

Alice In Chains "Angry Chair" (Live) (1993)
Nirvana "If You Must" (1988)
Pearl Jam "Life Wasted" (2006)
Soundgarden "Black Rain" (2010)

This version of "Angry Chair" is the band playing it live with no real changes recorded to sound like any live performance for MTV around that time (though I don't think it had anything to do with the network).  It's a good version, especially the vocal harmonies (which isn't easy to pull off live), but hampered by the fact that it's just a less good sounding version of the album.

"If You Must" sounds like Cobain's imitating Bob Dylan now.  It's another waltz (we've become lousy with them recently here at The Grunge Match).  It goes hard in the chorus, which is a welcome change from the flaccid verses.  The bridge is nifty too, getting grindy with the palm mutes.  By the end, this song won me over.

Now, Pearl Jam are halfway through the second term of George W. Bush, firmly in the MySpace era and right around the time of the most recent Tool album.  Nirvana's entry from today was recorded during the waning days of the Reagan administration, but not released until Bush had already won his second term.  Alice In Chains was recorded at the beginning of the Clinton administration, and released at the very end.  Time is weird sometimes.

"Life Wasted" is the first salvo from Pearl Jam's self-titled 2006 album (the one with the avocado on the cover).  It got people throwing terms like "return to form" around, which should always make you wary.  To be fair, this is the most Eddie Vedder has sounded like himself since "No Code", so maybe there's something to that.  Also, this song rocks.  It's solid, it feels effortless, it's catchy, it's got an odd time turnaround thing that doesn't sound pretentious at all...even the slower part in the middle feels earned.  This really seems like a band that's thrown off a decade of baggage and decided to embrace their own identity.  The best Pearl Jam song I've reviewed since "Yield".

Now, if you wanna talk about a time warp, try this on for size: "Black Rain" was recorded for "Badmotorfinger" but not released until 2010, when Soundgarden rematerialized out of the blue.  It's got a production sound about halfway between "Badmotorfinger" and "Superunknown" and that's probably for the best; "Superunknown" had more body.  The structure has all sorts of old-school, peak era Soundgarden touches to it, like "out of nowhere crazy guitar thing that somehow makes sense", riffs that sound like Black Sabbath would give a nod of approval to, a 9/8 time signature, Chris Cornell screaming his goddam head off...The crazy part is Chris Cornell actually tracked some of the vocal parts IN TWO THOUSAND AND TEN.  This.  Something he shouldn't still be capable of after all this time, and in some cases provably isn't.  But holy shit, they were able to mojo something together for one glorious moment, weren't they?  I remember seeing the band play this song on Conan O'Brien (one of his first musical guests on TBS), and being blown away Cornell could hit those pitches.  Listening to it again, yeah he hit them but the force isn't there.  Still, better than he should be able to do after all the throat-ripping savagery he's engaged in over his career.  In any case, it was cool to have Soundgarden back.  (Weird bit of trivia: This is Soundgarden's only charting song in the Hot 100, peaking at #96.)

"Black Rain": 4
"Life Wasted": 3
"Angry Chair" (Live): 2
"If You Must": 1

TOTALS:

Soundgarden: 243
Alice In Chains: 241
Pearl Jam: 224
Nirvana: 212

Soundgarden retakes the lead with their time warp mindfuckery!  For their next trick, they will summon the Telephantasm itself!  To be continued...

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