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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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on December 26, 1999
Back in 97 when I found out that Hum was doing a new album I could not wait to be the first person I know to grap it up. Owning the other three albums, Fillet Show, Electra2000, and You'd Prefer an Astronaught, this one comes in a close, very close second. YPA is better in my mind, a must own. Actually all are a must own. This little known Champain Il. band is awesome. Along with the Album came a glorious concert. I cannot put it into words, just like Downward is Heavenward. "Afternoon With the Axolotls" is possibly the greatest song on DiH. Starting out nice and simple...then Bam, you are immerged in bliss of guitars and drums coated with Matt Talbott's vocals. And soon as you know what is happening, it is taken away back to the simple flawless sounds of the inro with Matt's and Tim Lash's guitars and Brian St. Pere's perfect drums and wonderious bassist Jeff Dimpsey . After hearing this song millions of times and seeing it done live, I still love it. Just like the entire album, I cannot say enough things to try to convince anyone to get it and the other albums. I think everyone should own a Hum album, and most everyone I know does. Buy it, you will not regret it.
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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 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
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on July 21, 1999
I have a rather extensive collection of music (currently over 1300 cd's), and this album sits quite comfortably in my Top Ten. Whenever I play this album for anyone, I can only describe it as "Ear Candy". The astral-rock fuzz and the driving rythym are blended beautifully with the delicate lead vocals. The lyrics are definitely deep, and sometimes downright confusing in nature, but when the song is looked at it should be - as a whole piece of work - then the different parts seamlessly create one moving experience. The off-beat riffs of "Isle of Cheetah" and others only further serve to draw the listener in closer to investigate what the band is doing. Once that happens, you've already been played for a fool because you're now caught in that wonderful weave of music that Hum so uniquely creates. First track to last, this is an album you can slap into your player and know that for the next hour+ your ears will be immensely satisfied. The only problem is that some of these songs will stick with you for hours after listening to it...and if you find that to be the problem, then maybe the problem is you. I only wish we had more stars than 5 to give this truly magnificent accomplishment. Hum certainly lives up to it's name...
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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.
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on March 11, 2004
This album is so addictive, it kept me up at night for a few weeks after getting it. Lyrics about medicine men and satellites... numbers, and the System fading away... and brilliant guitar work. I just hope people can get through the first two songs, as they are merely ordinary in the face of the rest of it. Mind you, they become good songs once you come to appreciate the amazing thing that is Hum, but to the untrained ear I think the first two songs might sound like just run-of-the-mill 90s alt-guitar-rock. I recommend skipping to track 3 (If You Are to Bloom) the first few listens. That's a minor issue, though. I bought this masterpiece purely on the amazon reviews, and yes, it lives up to all the amazing praise seen here. I just had to confirm it yet again in case any are still in doubt. If you're into music that probably no one else you know will have, then this is what you want - it is the epitome of the obscure Magnum Opus.
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