Downward Is Heavenward
HUM'S GUITARS GO crunch in the night. Think Helmet and Smashing Pumpkins, with the angsty, antiseptic bluster of the former and the high-concept, melodramatic reach of the latter, but without the annoying vocalists. Though not psychedelic in the "dude-I'm-stoned-sense," the dense sound these nice young men kick up might work well in an "alternative" music laser light show: the kind with lots of shimmering, elusive shapes but no song-specific drawings.
Though continuing the scientific/astronomical vibe of 1995's You'd Prefer an Astronaut, Downward Is Heavenward isn't as consistently engaging. Sure, a couple of songs rock mightily. "Green To Me," the best cut on the record, makes a body want to drive the car a little faster and do a little slow head-bangin', and "If You Are To Bloom" spreads out into an almost jangly coda after marching purposely for a couple of minutes. "Comin' Home," the lead single, might get a few spins on MTV and KFMA, but like much of the record, it just don't move me. Hum seems to have refined their sound somewhat, but the result rings a little cautious, like they spent a lot of time crafting a well-produced record instead of going into the studio, rocking hard, and hoping it stuck to tape. The result is a little on the "yeah, so what?" side.
You Should Be Sinnin'
THE DIRTYS ARE today's equivalent of mid-'60s garage crud lunatics, the Sonics, if they mated with Iggy and the Stooges in the family playroom amid a couple kegs of cheap beer, a couple teenage nymphos, and a mountain of cocaine. Not unlike the Sonics, the Dirtys maintain equal doses of sonic guitar overload and demented lyrical hysterics. While the Sonics sang such bent garage treasures as "Psycho," "Strychnine," and "Boss Hoss," the Dirtys respond with "Shanty," "Sex Pain," and the live "Drink, FightÖFuck." "Shanty" sounds like Iggy in his late '70s period, when he went totally insane from all the speedballs shot with James Williamson and the Asheton brothers. Produced to squalid imperfection by Mick Collins, ex-Gories guitar basher. The 15 drunken hoots by these Port Huron, Michigan, boozehounds is an unstoppable exercise in musical aerobics. This is frenzied, non-stop trash'n'roll excess that might revive the corpse of GG Allin or summon the dormant septuagenarian, Chuck Berry, to undertake one last North American tour. Hail, hail rock and roll!
IF THERE IS such a musical movement as "post-rock," it will likely revolve around Rex's drummer, Doug Scharin (or Bundy K. Brown, who also appears on this record). There probably isn't a busier rock drummer. Scharin played in the aptly named Codeine, and still plays in HIM, and June of '44 in addition to Rex, and it's because of his rare capacity to build and keep tension at odd, slow and lopsided musical tempos. One listen to his musical punctuation, and it's obvious that his mastery makes him indispensable. Like most good drummers, he fits invisibly and seamlessly into the music. Rex's music is more suited to a long scenic drive, a soundtrack, a halcyon Sunday filled with naps or a late-night come-down. They aren't sedate, exactly. Rather, the band members are masters of a delicate, poetic tension. On their third CD, 3, Scharin and Rex strip their music down to its most sublime and minimal scapes with a form of musical faith that feels tangible. Their inebriated lyricism swings from a whiskey shot of anger to a sullen, self-analytical morbidity, but never do you get the sense that the band is holding any pretense whatsoever. With the barest viola on "Jet," "Other James," and "Clean," the songs are reflective and powerful, awash in emotional tides revealing more in their silent spaces and elegant lapping than a thousand tsunamis could. They've brought rock out of the seemingly intractable time signature of 4/4 without making it seem like a heartless math equation. On their previous releases, Rex stretched songs far beyond the typical three-minute pop song limit. Here, the tracks generate enough interest to make you wish they played even longer.
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