Top positive review
The best [money] you will EVER spend.
on November 10, 2002
Hum is one of those absolutely transcendental bands. I think it's clear that DiH is their magnum opus... the production in particular on this album is unbelievable, and yet it's not overproduced. I think that back in the days of alternative rock, people just went about recording much differently. It was all about creating an original sound, and that is one of Hum's biggest strengths. It was kind of frustrating when, upon trying to get into these guys, I found nothing on the internet but a barren wasteland of dead end links. I can only assume that the band is now defunct... If I had to liken Hum to bands people know better (which is a difficult task mind you) I'd say it's sonically in the vein of Smashing Pumpkins- but by that I mean only the guitars, bass and drum production techniques. Maybe if the Pumpkins never made it big and were a humble indie band, then they might be something akin to Hum. But compositionally, Hum's songs are just something else. Tool-esque, maybe? Not quite. Hum don't aim to impress with musical technicality, and yet their music always has just a bit of a learning curve... You'll have a bit of a tough time grooving to "Isle of the Cheetah" or "Comin' Home" on the first listen. But the challenge of the music is never so much that it hinders the vision of the song or takes the spotlight. And lyrically, these guys are perfect. The lyrics are cryptic, yes... but not in the nerdiest sense, thank god. ("Yeah, there's speculation that the H stands for heroin, or heaven and hell, or the H in Jesus H. Christ, or...") They will grow on you. You will listen to a song one day, and a particular line that never caught your attention will all of a sudden describe you, in that moment, perfectly. I think there's another element in their music too... insecurity. Being known by many, respected by some, understood by very few. Obviously, Matt Talbott knows a thing or two about solitude, as the curiously scientific ring of almost all his lyrics suggest an introverted dude who's got some time on his hands. But when others are brought into the spotlight, the dominant feelings are love. Sometimes they even venture on all-out adoration, a connectedness so special that you create dreamscapes to be with the person.
So let's see, if you're already into Hum, maybe you have "Astronaut," or maybe you remember stars. But to give a song by song breakdown- "Isle of the Cheetah" is a mid-tempo masterpiece. The climax of this song (somewhere around that massive drum fill toward the end) is love incarnate, and the melody and chord changes... it's definitely one of my favorites. "Comin' Home" is a straight up Hum hard-rocker. And when these guys rock out, they rock out. I couldn't help but notice that this album has a "strategy" for hooking the listener that's similar to "You'd Prefer An Astronaut." Both albums start out with a spacey, mid-tempo tune and then go straight into a fast, heavy rocker for the second track. I'm not complaining, it works. "If You Are To Bloom" seems to groove in a way that's very un-typical for Hum, and takes a bit of getting used to... but it's positively a love song, and the lyrics follow suit. "Ms. Lazarus" is catchy, but there's not much to it for me. I think they could have put a little bit more into writing this one. "Afternoon With the Axolotls" is my favorite track. Lullaby-soft to enveloping, creeping along... right up there with the Pumpkins' "Soma." "Green to Me" gets us back to the r a w k. Energetic, but it also has that unbelievable melody to it that's pure Hum. "Dreamboat" is my second fav. A masterpiece. There are no words to describe the outro to this one. "The Inuit Promise" is kind of cute. Definitely one of the more discordant tunes. "Apollo" is the album's slow tune, and it is *perfect*. Not at all mushy or whiny, but delicate and heartfelt and desperate. And finally, we end with "The Scientists." I guess Hum didn't want this album to end on a down-note, because this tune bounces along happily.
"Downward Is Heavenward" is easily one of my top ten favorites. Hum's genius is something more modern bands should aspire to. Oh wait a minute, alt-rock is dead. Damn!