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THE GRUNGE MATCH - 074

Match 074:

Jerry Cantrell "Cold Piece" (1998)
Nirvana "Been A Son" (Live) (1991)
Pearl Jam "Sleight Of Hand" (2000)
Soundgarden "Pretty Noose" (1996)

"Cold Piece" is the longest Jerry Cantrell composition on record, clocking in at 8:29.  It's much better than most of "Boggy Depot" while somehow not being super different.  It's got a shuffle groove that keeps things interesting, the chorus is just the right level of hard to mesh with the breezy groove of the verses, it's got horns via Fishbone and bass via Les Claypool, it's got clarinets and pianos & shit, and it earns its length by making a skeleton worth building on top of in the first place.  I don't even mind the lyrics because they're not central to the song.  It's just important that this has soul and you can bob your head and tap your feet to it.  And there's the ingredient we've been missing: soul.  Even a dour dirge can be great if you put some soul into it, but instead we got tracks like "Jesus Hands", "Satisfy" and "Hurt A Long Time" that don't even feel like Cantrell cares that they're happening.  But "Cold Piece"?  It's happening.

"Been A Son" almost sounds like the original played through inferior speakers.  It's so close to the "Incesticide" version that the live setting serves to detract from the experience with its slight imperfections.  It's still the same cool little bouncy tune it ever was, so it's still alright.

"Sleight Of Hand" gets all spacey out the gate with a delicious clean tone with Oort Cloud sized reverb on it.  This is definitely a vibe-oriented experience, especially given how unintelligible Eddie is.  But then I read the lyrics and realized this obfuscation is intentional.  The song is about someone not remembering who they are anymore after years of the daily routine and the dreamlike state of being alone and wondering what everything is and thinking "I would do that.  Really, I would.  Let me..." then forgetting what it was you even wanted because obligation has robbed you of even the memory or the time to finish the thought.  "He waves goodbye | To himself" is a line I've had experience with, so yeah, the dreamy qualities of this song are a feature of this internal haziness.

By the time "Pretty Noose" came out, I was so sick of Soundgarden.  "Black Hole Sun" and "The Day I Tried To Live" had been played to SHIT by that point, and here comes a song that I felt didn't measure up to those that got just as much play as the others.  I was not on board with "Down On The Upside" until I bought a used copy in damn near 2002.  Rock radio had put me on such Soundgarden overload I couldn't listen to them objectively until years after their peak.  (Same could be said about Stone Temple Pilots.  I didn't start liking them until "No. 4" in 1999.)

Like I said in yesterday's Matchup, "Down On The Upside" is more concerned with melody and tune than guts and bravado, and as an angry young man, that turned me off pretty hard because I thought all "good" music had to be tough at the time.  Looking at it with the benefit of hindsight and from an angle of (attempted) objective appraisal, it's similar enough to Soundgarden's music from that period, it's just moving along different axes.  Instead of the "How much does this rock?" axis (X) or the "How complex do we make this?" one (Y), they're going along the "How much melody can we play with while leaving the X and Y coordinates roughly the same as before?" axis (Z).  And the result is a mid-paced jam like "Pretty Noose" that's ostensibly weird yet somehow still catchy and even a bit anthemic.

"Cold Piece": 4
"Pretty Noose": 3
"Sleight Of Hand": 2
"Been A Son" (Live): 1

TOTALS:

Alice In Chains: 189
Soundgarden: 189
Pearl Jam: 188
Nirvana: 174

Now Soundgarden and Alice In Chains are tied for first with Pearl Jam trailing just one point behind!  Shit cray!  (Don't ever say that again, old man.)  (O...ok.)  Tomorrow we introduce the "Music Bank" boxed set so look the fuck out!

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