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4.3 out of 5 stars
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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 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 ;^)
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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.
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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.
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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 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 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 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 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.
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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.
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