Friday, December 12, 2014

Hum - Downward is Heavenward (1998)

Undeniably one of the most underrated alt rock albums of the '90s

Hum, were a critically acclaimed Illinois based alternative rock band of the '90s  who had their 15 minutes of fame with their "Stars" hit single and Downward is Heavenward, their fourth and last album released in 1998 was expected to sell more than its 1995 predecessor -  You’d Prefer an Astronaut which quietly sold over 250,000 thousand copies on release mostly on account of the Stars hit track.

Unlike what was commercially projected, this album fared poorly but was appreciated by both fans and critics so much that its still ranked amongst one of the best alternative rock albums of the 90s. 

Evidently, the band’s fourth effort was a dramatic step forward and finds Hum here at the peak of their songwriting and musicianship. Hum’s music has been described as hardcore, psychedelia, and almost everything in between. The musical references here are numerous and diverse, including outfits such as Helmet, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, and even a touch of R.E.M. (just listen to the melodies on "Ms. Lazarus" or "Comin’ Home" for proof of this). 

It would be unfair to label Hum as a hardcore band just because they have some heavy handed guitar lines here and there. Hum also has a soft side, a pop side, a shoe-gazer side, and a psychedelic side that each appear from time to time on this album. Despite the ferocious guitar lines on many of the songs on Downward is Heavenward, lead singer Matt Talbott never really sounds angry. He actually sounds a bit introspective and reserved. The odd pairing works, though, making Hum more interesting than many of the hardcore bands playing similar music of those days. This is a slice of genuine 90s alt rock that you all msut listen to.


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