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!
on August 28, 2002
Seven years ago I heard Hum. By some divine miracle, one of their songs "Stars", actually managed to make it to the evil radio. I stubbornly refused to hear it,
"How can they be any good if they're on the radio?"
"This song is amazing, but I bet all the others (are bad)."
So go the thoughts of a misguided, cynical college-bound boy. It's hard to trust an untrained ear. I know better now.
Do you remember that song? Remember that one guitar riff, the one that just seemed to soar up and down your spine? Now, can you now imagine an ENTIRE ALBUM as good as that single guitar riff? "Downward is Heavenward" is that album.
The sound on this album is so intricate, so complexly layered, so thoughtful, so beautiful, so perfect, so Godly. Somehow, some way, at the same time, the singing, the lyrics, and the tone are so fragile, so humble, so peaceful, so naked, so human. Whether it was conscious or not, Hum has created a masterpiece. This album is to rock music, what the Sistene Chapel is to art. You think I'm exaggerating, then buy it and listen for yourself.
To me, the music itself seems to reflect the despair of a human being's tortured soul, while the lyrics represent a human being's rational mind, desperately trying to prevent the soul from breaking. Sometimes it's hard to listen. My soul is weak....
I cannot fathom how simple human beings could ever have created this album. It is an ever-evolving work of transcendent energy. It never sounds the same, EVER, so it will never become "familiar-sounding" to you, I PROMISE. You will want to hear it again and again, but you won't exactly be able put your finger on why. That, my friends, is a good thing, and a rare thing. My soul-mate will be like this music, or else, as God is my witness, I will die alone.
Once upon a time, I thought that Radiohead was all that was left of rock music. I actually regressed back to classic rock, and then got sucked into hippie jam bands for a while. Lately, my personal circle of rock music saviors seems to be growing:
Built to Spill, 764 Hero, Sunny Day Real Estate, Neutral Milk Hotel, Pedro the Lion, Jets to Brazil, and now Hum.
Since 1995, when I first got into music, there are precious-few modern rock bands that have been worth hearing. Bands are only good when they care about BOTH how their music sounds, and the message that it sends. Bands should make you feel alive. Everything else should be discarded. We don't have time. I'm not kidding.
Mineral, Appleseed Cast, and Dismemberment Plan. They are the next to be given a chance. I hope they will make me grow as a human being, just as Hum does.
on July 6, 2002
what is left to be said that hasnt already been said about this album already. Hum have managed to truly invent a sound that no one can or will emulate. Hum takes epic themes of song writing and piece it together to create melodic genius. The wall of sound this band creates is unreal, the drifting feeling of every song is so hypnotic. If that was intentional by the band is beyond me but you can bet you wont hear a music like this for a long time coming. This album is light years away from where music is at right now. What really makes this album special is that the songs are actually catchy, its not all novelty guitar tricks and trend like song writing, these guys are the real deal. Hum are Hum and thats it, you cant compare them and you can never match them to anything! Heavy heavy guitars, Droning catchy melodic extremly thought provoking lyrics, tight complex drumming, expansive songs and some that arent, walls of sound that reach the bounderies of perfection. This album is a must own.
on May 13, 2002
With this album, HUM did something incredible, creating one of the finest pieces or art/rock and roll ever. With "You'd Prefer An Astronaut", the band came into their own, although the album suffered from poor production and some blank moments. With this album, they decided to pull out all the stops and created one of the most colossal pieces or ROCK ever. The producion is stunning... everything is mixed right and comes out crystal clear. The heaviness of the band really comes out well. Although no song is as singularly impressive as "Stars" was (in my opinion, at least), every single one is better than any other Hum song on any other record. There are no flaws here that I can find. The soundscape Hum created here is so huge, going great with their spacey themes, reminding us of those things that are too big for man to grasp... the result is breathtaking. The band went the extra mile and put everything into this record that could possibly fit, and the investment paid off quite well.
on April 13, 2001
this cd is bliss.. a pure joy. i own 2 copies, one for the car and one for home. i cant be without it. this album has changed how i think about music for a long time to come. a lot of the songs rely on sonic landscapes of big huge fuzzy guitars and droning vocals that seem to glide with the music rather than dominate it. the lyrics are pure brilliance. nothing negative from this guys. my favorite line is from a song called isle of the cheetha "your oceans spread out on sunbeams, radiant, knowing, and your hand looks so nice in mine." those are the types of things you can expect from this cd. not only does Hum write really catchy deep orginal music, they do it in a type of way where you dont really notice it untill you start understanding the music. Hum reminds me of Type O Negatives younger smarter brother. the kind of band you can bring home to your parents. this album really can surprize you with its pure orginality, at a time where being this experimental dosent pay off. all i can say is its sad, slow, heavy, melodic, smart, fuzzy, wall of sound, amazing music from the mid west but i swear i feel like im walking thru the feilds of ireland with this cd, or flying above everything in a lonely dreamlike state. not to mention the sounds Hum gets from the guitars, truly amazing stuff. if there was ever a band to learn from its Hum and this is the cd to get.
on February 27, 2001
I love the banging on the drums, loud guitar chords, and screaming into the microphone. It's better than music, it's an awesome migraine. I believe that "Downward Is Heavenward" contains subliminal messages. After listening just a few times, I kept having the same thought: The power hungry ethnocentric and zenophobic European Caucasian race has oppressed minorities for the past millennium. "Downward Is Heavenward" is the greatest masterpiece ever pieced together by a master. All the songs rock, but some of the songs REALLY rock. They rock like a huge bolder rolling down the side of a mountain, then crashing into your head. Every awesome song is really GREAT. This album changed my life. Sure, I didn't have much of a life to begin with, but still, I love this album with all my heart and sole.
I must passionately disagree with all the negative comments. Open your ears. Buy "Downward Is Heavenward" . Wait a second - buy the CD first, then open your ears. You'll hear some awesome words and some GREAT music. I don't care if you're a Christian or a Republican, this music is for you. Your mom and dad might not like it, and some of the songs will chase the pets out of the house, but it's still fantastic. That's "Awesome" with a capital "A." If you can afford only one CD this year, I feel sorry for you, but get the BEST CD of the century. One day, the greatest hits from "Downward Is Heavenward" will be put on the "Greatest Hits" album - all of them. Awesome.
Everything that you've heard by way of the grapevine is true. Take the plug on your CD player, turn it UPSIDE-DOWN, then plug it back into the receptacle. That's the only way that you'll be able to hear the 3 "hidden" tracks. Be careful, the "messages" are really heavy. "Downward Is Heavenward" puts the "A" in "Awesone." If superlatives such as "awesome," "great," and "masterpiece" aren't convincing enough to make you want to buy "Downward Is Heavenward" , let me be more direct: We know where you live!
on June 26, 2000
A little space and time shows this slab to be the best example of a shortly-forgotten hybrid of indie-rock, 90's style. Heavy, thunderous guitars assault you, drums roll in wave-like, producing a drowning sonic slop over which rides one of the most nasally matter-of-fact voices in all of rock. Powerful songwriting and esoteric lyrics abound, this being the apex of this Midwest band's powers, despite the absence of an alterna-"hit".
My one complaint is that after the initial assault, the album seems to drag about two-thirds of the way through. By "The Inuit Promise", the intonation of the vocals begins to annoy rather than transcend, and it doesn't help matters that the vocals are mixed so closely it sounds like they're being whispered in your ear. Blecch. But it's a minor complaint, as you'll spend too much time trying to get your hands out of the "devil-horns" position they've been frozen in, and your mullet-haired, beer-swigging, Motorhead-cassette-playing friends will be duly impressed that you've found a band that can hang with anything mainstream hard rock can dish out. I heartily recommend this album, and hope the band can get its collective stuff together and dig even deeper into the well they've tapped into. A million geeks await.
on April 5, 2000
It gets off to strange, scratchy beginnings, when suddenly light melody kicks in, then the large, fuzzy guitars, and suddenly you realize it's another great Hum album. Not so new anymore.....Produced by virtuoso Mark Rubel at the happening Pogo Studios in Champaign, Il., "Downward is Heavenward" has moments of utter magic, beginning with the mid-tempo "Isle of the Cheetah," a graceful, guitar-swirled Hum classic. "Comin' Home" is just the opposite, maddening, sentimental, and to-the-point as Hum have never expressed themselves; listen to the thumping drums by Bryan St. Pere. Nothing tops the dreamy-crunch knockout of "Afternoon With the Axolotls," a lofty and elegant song best played on a cold, dark, rainy April afternoon; "Axolotl's" ending is reminiscent of "Iron Clad Lou" on "Electra 2000." Guitars on "Downward" go from grinding to dreamily swirling to an underbelly of haze and fog to create a background of pure and true rock and roll; sometimes the guitars craftily sneak into the songs, for a symphony that crashes and burns everywhere. It's a very fresh-sounding album with poignant lyrics and an artsy aura that permeates the close, tightly constructed rockers. Hum had their own secret to making music that no other band has quite figured out yet - this is one of the best records of the 90's. Please Hum, join together once again.
on September 27, 1999
last december i bought astronaut and liked it alot. then i remembered hum released a new record so i got that.i wasnt sure if it would be good so i bought it on tape. let me just tell you after listening to it at least 1000 times i still love it.hum is a very different band than others that play this type of rock because they progress and put out good albums.you can tell they know what their doing because the music is very inteligent. its a very romantic record and at times sound heavenlike and very hypnotic. if thats your thing this album is for you.i can only say that the big guitars and very technical drums make this record a huge wall of sound. the wimpy but outsanding vocals make a really good contrast against the heavy distorted guitars.this is one of my favorite albums and i dont have many. the songs that i feel are best are isle of the cheetha-green to me- afternoon with the axolotls-the inuit promise and comin'home. but those are just my favorites but the whole album is great.its very good album oriented math rock.i really cant say enough great things about this record. if you only get one hum record forget youd perfer an astronaut and get this one you wont be disapointed
on December 11, 1998
I will never understand alternative radio. This album is fantastic, yet no station in L.A. even gave it a chance. This is an improvement on YPAA, which was also great. As always, you have to listen to it through a few times before finding the various textures that make each song unique. From the opening sound effects on Isle of Cheetah to the closing blasts of "The Scientists", this album is creative, intelligent, and, of course, very loud. There are a lot of great songs here, and my favorites are "If You are to Bloom", "Ms. Lazarus", "Green to Me", "Dreamboat", and "The Scientists". Well, I guess that's about half the album already. But I'll say this: the guitar work on "Ms. Lazarus" will leave you breathless, and the melodies on "If You are to Bloom" and "The Scientists" are soaring and uplifting. See if you don't find yourself humming "a dusty sleep you took too soon" in your head after a while. As in YPAA, Matt Talbott uses scientific and astronomical imagery to punctuate his songs, which I find really unique and fascinating. The one downside is that most of the songs seem to wander somewhere in the middle where they lose their momentum. But get this album anyways, because hard rock and intelligent lyrics come in the same package about as often as brains and beauty, which is to say almost never.