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THE GRUNGE MATCH - 082

Match 082:

Alice In Chains "Rooster" (Demo) (1991)
Nirvana "Polly" (Live) (1989)
Pearl Jam "I Am Mine" (2002)
Soundgarden "Applebite" (1996)

The hi-hat jumps out at you (seriously, they need to check the fucking sibilance on that thing).  The sound of the recording is more reminiscent of the "Sap" EP, which would make sense since those songs were in this batch of demos along with half of "Dirt" and another song we'll be covering shortly, "Lying Season".  This version is a refreshing change from the one I've heard on the radio a bajillion times.  The production is more in line with "Got Me Wrong", which had the chill verses and bombastic choruses.  Also, this has more life to it than the somber version that got popular.  Then again, because of these differences, one might be inclined to think in the back of their head that this was a cover band, especially because the vocal harmonies aren't fully fleshed out, but I still think this is an interesting work-around if you want to actually enjoy this song after 25 years of ear fatigue.

Just when I thought all these bands were at least in the 90's, Nirvana has to drop one on me that's from when Chad Channing was still on drums.  Recorded in London on December 3, 1989, we get an early glimpse at a song that wouldn't come out on record for another two years.  This version is a full band rendition, bringing the fuzz and oomph of "Incesticide", yet played at the pace of "Nevermind".  Look, this is the fourth time I've covered "Polly".  The "Nevermind" one is a polished, intimate, practically solo performance, "(New Wave) Polly" was a fun, double time twist that's the antithesis, the "Unplugged In New York" one was kind of a boring retread of "Nevermind" and this one lands in between the first two.  Yet somehow, this is the second best of the four.  I don't think it eclipses the "Nevermind" version, but it's pretty damn good.  They've managed to make another take on this song different and interesting.  Kudos.

"I Am Mine" was the leadoff single from "Riot Act" and the video has the theme of robin's egg blue.  It's also the only song I recognize even a little from this album.  It's a plodding waltz that gets some fire in its belly by halfway, but the tune is fine enough to carry it though the first part that you don't mind the plod.  It's a build.  Easily the most defined experience I've heard from this band since "Yield". 

I've always liked the atmosphere of "Applebite", which is good, because that's all it is: five minutes of ambient grunge.  It starts with this down-a-long-concrete-hall echo effect that makes you think you're hearing double, then when you enter the room it focuses into the singular form of the song.  The intro especially encapsulates the serpentine nature the title was going for.  And speaking of doubled, I thought that intro was at least twice as long...

I always considered "Applebite" an instrumental because Cornell's vocals are so obfuscated by effects and fuzztone guitar drone that I forget they're there.  Normally, something like this would stop an album dead in its tracks, but "Down On The Upside" is more a loose collection of ideas as it is, so this five minute detour into the ether isn't unwelcome.  I dunno.  I remember liking this song more, but a) That could be in context of the album (which may fit together better than I give it credit for) and b) When I listened to this song on a more regular basis, I had wildly different tastes.  It's still fine, but on it's own it feels a little lost.  It needs to be in some sort of playlist to make sense.

"Polly" (Live): 4
"I Am Mine": 3
"Rooster" (Demo): 2
"Applebite": 1

TOTALS:

Alice In Chains: 217
Soundgarden: 212
Pearl Jam: 200
Nirvana: 191

Man, I did not realize how far ahead Alice In Chains was pulling.  Last time I really paid attention to the distance, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains and Soundgarden were all one point or less apart and squabbling for the lead.  Now AIC is five ahead of Soundgarden, SG's TWELVE ahead of Pearl Jam (who just broke 200; congratulations!) and Nirvana is only nine behind PJ instead of fifteen.  Things gettin' crazy.

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