Skip to main content

THE GRUNGE MATCH - 050

Match 050:

Alice In Chains "Nutshell" (Unplugged) (1996)
Nirvana "Milk It" (1993)
Pearl Jam "Around The Bend" (1996)
Soundgarden "My Wave" (1994)

You can tell right away that something's not quite right.  Layne Staley is shaky as hell.  He stays in key the whole time, but he sounds super nervous, like his voice will stop working any second.  He's also wearing sunglasses in a dark room and gloves.  There were rumors it was to hide gangrene, and though they were false, the dude was projecting this aura that made you believe it could be true.  To add to the lack of energy, Jerry Cantrell had food poisoning.  A couple of songs from this "Unplugged" session took multiple takes, and it was about three hours to tape 70 minutes worth of material.  Add to that the funeral vibe of the set (a little too much like a darker version of Nirvana's not two years earlier), and you get a real uncomfortable setting.

The song "Nutshell" has always been, to me anyway, about letting go in the face of the inevitable.  It's actually about facing up to the inability to kick an addiction, which given that this is one of Layne Staley's last public appearances is pretty fucked up.

It's not a great performance, but it's good enough, and it's a great song to begin with, so that will carry it through.

I remember requesting "Milk It" at a Roller Rink once because I was that kid who wanted to hear his own weird bullshit music even if it wasn't situationally appropriate.  (For the record, dude played it.)  That was the last time I've been roller skating, coincidentally.

The song might be Nirvana's most brutal.  It's a goddam sledgehammer, mostly because holy shit Dave Grohl.  There are a few guitar...ad-libs I guess you'd call them, during the quiet parts, and they feel sarcastic.  They feel like someone laughing at the apocalypse, but the only two people in the room are the killer and his victim.  The whole thing is unhinged and all you can really do is stand back and gasp at its ferocity.

"Around The Bend" closes "No Code" out on a chill note.  It's incredibly laid back, but sunny in its disposition.  It's basically three go-rounds of the same verse with different lyrics and a suspension that leaves you hanging at the end "Gone off Around the Bend..." and that's how the album ends.  Throw in a slide guitar twinge or two and some piano chords and you've got the whole thing.  It's relaxing.

"My Wave" gets your fist pumping.  It had its share of overplay at the time, but it seems to have become more of a rarity post 1995, which is a shame, because this song is all kinds of solid.  And it does it with all kinds of weird time shifts and odd time signatures, yet they never lose that sense of groove.  (What's crazier is that Kim Thayill claims they didn't plan any of that shit out in advance.)

This was a really tough choice (made tougher because I reviewed "Pennyroyal Tea" by mistake; that's tomorrow), but I've got to go with my gut.  Bit of an upset, really:

"Milk It": 4
"My Wave": 3
"Nutshell" (Unplugged): 2
"Around The Bend": 1

TOTALS:

Pearl Jam: 138
Alice In Chains: 133
Soundgarden: 115
Nirvana: 115

Once more, Nirvana and Soundgarden are tied!  And Alice In Chains has quietly crept within striking distance of Pearl Jam!  Come back tomorrow, when Pearl Jam will "Yield", though they ain't about to stop (and neither are we!).

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

THE BIG FOUR SONG CHALLENGE SERIES - Update Wrap-Up

Well, The Big Four Song Challenge Series Update has drawn to a close, and here we are in the aftermath.  Metallica edged out Megadeth on the strength of bonus material, Anthrax did okay and Slayer should have broken up when Jeff Hanneman died.  For real, all coming back with another album did for them was...well, make them money and allow them to keep touring and making more money, so there's that.  But more importantly, by releasing "Repentless", they dropped from two to three on my completely arbitrary opinion based blog series status ranking system!  Surely, that can't have been worth a couple million bucks?

Anyhow, I'm getting the feeling that rock music in general is going to need to evolve into something completely different or call it quits altogether.  Rock has had its 60 year run just like jazz did before it, and if it doesn't come up with something soon, it will fade away from the public consciousness, only to return in Gap commercials in the 2040…

THE BIG FOUR SONG CHALLENGE SERIES - Matchup 172

Anthrax "Impaled" (2016) VS Megadeth "Dystopia" (2016) VS Metallica "Atlas, Rise!" (2016) VS Slayer "Jihad" (Live from Sofia, Bulgaria) (2010)

Unfortunately, Anthrax drew the short straw here, as "Impaled" is a middling intro that, on top of being a bit of a non-song, goes on a hair too long for its own good.

"Dystopia" is a solid, upbeat fist-pumper that was a no-brainer to make the first single off the album of the same name.  It may seem a little milquetoast for the first half, but once the "single" part falls away, it reveals a banger in the back half that makes you remember why you like this stuff in the first place.  It'll take more than one listen to realize how cool this song is, but on play two or three you'll be nodding your head with a pleased scowl on your face.

My first impression of "Atlas, Rise!" was "This is the most average Metallica song ever."  Like if you took all the Met…

THE BIG FOUR SONG CHALLENGE SERIES - Matchup 178

Anthrax "Suzerain" (2016) VS Megadeth "Conquer Or Die!" (2016) VS Metallica "ManUNkind" (2016) VS Slayer "Cast The First Stone" (2015)

"Suzerain" is your pentennial reminder that Charlie Bennante don't fuck around.  Definitely the most fiery song on "For All Kings", and probably the closest to the old Anthrax as we're going to get ever again.  Bang your head in reflection.

"Conquer Or Die!" is more old school, though whether that works for or against it is up to you.  It's the three minute instrumental interlude.  This one is...fine.  Honestly, it's better than fine when compared to the song I have to review next, so I shan't complain too loudly.  But it is a song you wouldn't exactly miss if it fell off the face of the planet either.

"ManUNkind" was the point where I stopped giving "Hardwired...To Self-Destruct" the benefit of the doubt and started dreading the fact that I h…