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THE GRUNGE MATCH - 054

Match 054:

Alice In Chains "Down In A Hole" (Unplugged) (1996)
Nirvana "All Apologies" (1993)
Pearl Jam "Given To Fly" (1998)
Soundgarden "Head Down" (1994)

The vocal lines are a diffrerent rhythm than I'm used to (and by the sound of it, different than they were used to as well).  Other than that, it's pretty much "Down In A Hole" with no electric guitars.  For a more in depth analysis, go read Match 021.

And so, here we are.  A song that has gained WAY more importance in light of the events that ensued not long after its release.  For the record, I've always really liked this song, but for about three years after Cobain's suicide, overplay made it impossible to listen to.  That, and because it's kind of retroactively become a farewell, a coda, an "Of COURSE that's what it means!  It should have been so OBVIOUS!"  The lyrics contain certain words like "buried", the title has been ret-conned into an apology for having to leave this Earth and bugger off to rock & roll Valhalla, etc. etc.  The irony is Cobain probably would've despised his deification, but here we are. 

The song has a cool riff, it's bouncy, it somehow sounds sunny in spite of espousing a complete lack of self-esteem, and of course, the zen message that was probably something Kurt thought sounded good at the time, but became a mantra for millions trying to cope with and figure out what the fuck just happened: "All in all is all we are".  It's one of those phrases that doesn't really mean anything; it's too vague and circular (a short circle at that).  But you can project whatever meaning you want onto it, so it seems deep, but that depth is coming from within yourself.  Praising the lyric is like praising your mirror for looking good when it's really you that does.

In a perfect world, "All Apologies" shouldn't have been as important as it was.  It shouldn't have been the end.  It should have merely been the end of an album.  And a damn fine end at that.  But, like I've said before, here we are.

And how's this for a mindfuck?  In the same entry, I'm writing about two songs, four years apart, one the last official track on the last official album of Kurt Cobain's lifetime, an album that I purchased on cassette because I wouldn't own my first CD player for another two months, and the other is the epicenter of an MTV news story that was the first time I ever heard of illegally downloaded music or mp3's.

I should explain.

"Given To Fly" was played on radio stations a month earlier than it was supposed to be, and not just in one market.  Stations across the country were putting it in rotation, with Sony threatening legal action if they kept playing it.  The song was supposed to roll out nationwide on Christmas Eve 1997, but by December 1st, it was already everywhere.  Why?  Because DJs downloaded the thing.  It's not even the first time this happened; I remember hearing a shitty, 64kb live bootleg version of "2x4" by Metallica about a month before "Until It Sleeps" even hit air, but that was just Lazer 103.  "Given To Fly" was the first time it happened in every market at once.

It also led to an MTV news story where Kurt Loder went to college campuses and talked to students who were not only downloading mp3's and burning CD's like there was no tomorrow, they were sharing their whole libraries with their friends.  This was a year and a half before Napster went on line.

That's the weird, artifact-riddled nature of this review process; because different bands start at different times and put a different amount of songs on albums and the like, crazy shit like this lines up. 

The song itself has been criticized for ripping off Led Zeppelin's "Going To California", and there is more than a passing similarity.  To Pearl Jam's credit, they take it in a different direction with an epic chorus and bridge, definitely reclaiming some of their lost power.  It's a bit fair to midland because the verses don't just rip of Zepplin, they're boring too.  But the choruses and bridge make up for it and everything averages out to good.

"Head Down" is one of the least inspired songs on "Superunknown".  It's slow, it's plodding, it's repetitive, but junior high me could relate to it, the idea that showing emotion was weakness and keep a stiff upper lip, yadda yadda, something about toxic masculinityyoutrylivingthroughthatemotionalwarfarenobody'sperfectwhateverthatshitwasalongasstimeago.  This isn't a bad song, but I've never really dug it either.

"All Apologies": 4
"Given To Fly": 3
"Down In A Hole" (Unplugged): 2
"Head Down": 1

TOTALS:

Pearl Jam: 147
Alice In Chains: 140
Soundgarden: 128
Nirvana: 125

Come back tomorrow and see what new timelines converge...

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