on April 10, 2004
I bought SYPAA back '98 and liked 2 songs on the 1st listen. Checking out that CD, my ears were NOT listening to the music, because they didnt know how to... yet. I thought the singer was below mediocrity, and really brought the band down. Whoa, was I ever wrong. I realized after listening to this CD a few times, that the singing was NOT the music...the musicians were the music, and the CD took on a whole new dimension. I eventually came to love SYPAA (and the singer).
As soon as DIH came out, I bought it. I was totally amazed at how fantastic this CD sounds. The guitar work is what sets this group apart from any other that I have heard (I'm still looking). If your expecting a wall of sound like heavy metal-thrash-speedmetal, its not gonna happen. If you want sounds from all angles, with all sorts of riff's and swirling in the background.. check it out! I've had this CD for about 4 years now, and I listen to it quite regularly. Thats a good sign of quality and perfection, as most of my CD's start gathering dust after the 1st year. If your not onboard after 3 listens, have your ears checked. Thats my opinion, nothing more ;^)
on November 5, 2003
in the great pantheon of music, one thing is clear: drug addicts write the best songs. time and again this truth is proven. radiohead, spacemen 3, pat boone (just kidding). hum should fall into that category. on the first few listens, "downward is heavenward" seems like one of those albums that sound like it was made in some magical faraway land of colorful sounds and lyrics that somehow say what our souls have been aching to scream for ages. but the more spins you hear, the more you notice how incredible the songwriting is, how phenomenal the guitar work gets, how masterfully the entire album was mixed and assembled. this wasn't a drug-induced record. these guys are just that far ahead.
"isle of the cheetah" is undoubtedly a rock gem. i defy you to find its equal. it serves as the portal into a 52 minute lesson about the universe you can't see with your eyes. from there, the album winds its way along, alternately chundering, melodic, and surreal. moments of pure genius are stacked all along the jouney, in every song. "apollo" is one of the top 5 "starry night highway driving" songs, hands down. and to top it all off, as if this album needed it, "scientists" purges all the guitar angst of the space-age life and leaves you breathless and desparate to listen to it all again.
buy this album. it is head and shoulders above all but a select few records EVER. it stands as hum's defining and most mature effort.
on August 20, 2003
as far as modern rock goes, its a pretty saturated market, with lots of bad four- and five-piece bands who dress the same, and even more sadly, sound the same. hum could not be farther from the norm.
this album is perhaps best described as 'mindnumbing' and 'stunningly beautiful.' absent are the strings, bad vocal effects and random bad rappers that seem to dominate rock music these days. at the heart of 'downward is heavenward' are the songs -- ten seperate compositions about life, space, science, and the cosmos. time spent with this album is time spent meandering through the inner workings of the human [or nonhuman?] mind. introspection is also a large part of the music. buy the cd, put it in your car stereo on a starry night, play track nine, and then reassess your position in the universe.
rarely does an album of such prolific quality slip through the proverbial cracks of the music industry as intensely as this one did. this is a lost classic of not only late 90s alt-rock, but should be held in such regard as 'ok computer' [which seems to be a cousin of 'downward is heavenward, somehow.], 'vs.', 'kind of blue', 'pet sounds', and 'abbey road.'
buy it. absorb it. it will change your view of music, life, and maybe the universe.
on February 17, 2003
I saw Hum back on the 'You'd Prefer an Astronaut' tour (man I'm gettin old), when they opened for The Verve. The funny thing is that when I saw these these guys live, you would never have thought that such a nebish and nerdy looking bunch of kids could deliver such a wall of melodic sound. You could tell by the crazy chords the guitarist/lead singer (I can't remember his name) was playing, that there was something pretty special going on. My friend and I went to talk to them after the show...boy what a bunch of [rudies].
Rock star/double platinum attitude not withstanding, I figured these guys would fade away like the rest of the alt rock movement. They did .....but not without leaving this one undiscovered gem. While inconsistent in some places, this album puts together a melodic and sonic soundscape that is unrivaled by anything else I have ever heard. It is an unadulterated corner of the music universe, which is meant to be enjoyed by the few who are lucky enough to appreciate it. The best part, is realizing that something truly beautiful can come from a very unlikely and long forgotten place.
on December 8, 2002
Hum is not a band that gets radio play. You won't hear one of their tracks booming over the public airwaves and then go buy the album for only one catchy song. Hum is good because they are consistent, not the same sound on every song, but they develop every song fully and distinctly. You may not appreciate their effort the first time you spin their record, but on the second listen it will no doubt grow on you. They play rock music that truly makes you want to listen, not weak, catchy tunes that endlessly repeat a refrain. Hum's endeavor is to produce creative music that yields a listening experience, not songs that they hope catch radio listeners' ears so that they can make a buck. Downward is Heavenward is a solid listen that will stay in your collection for years to come, getting played whenever you want to hear honest, flowing rock. Hum's music will float out to you and let your mind gently mull it over. Downward is Heavenward is a good purchase for anyone seeking a listening experience.
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.