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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Downward is Heavenward
Martians Go Home

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
(Originally Printed in Escapist)

As a follow up to You'd Prefer an Astronaut, the band's 1995 debut on RCA records, HUM bring us Downward is Heavenward, a ten track destroyer. Having fallen in love with YPAA long ago, I was bracing myself for a disappointment in the new release; after all, how can a band improve on something like Astronaut? But they did, and boy did they ever. It's not to say that Downward is Heavenward is better than it's predecessor, it is simply equally as amazing, but in a distinctly different way.

Tracking HUM's growth for a moment, one may recall that their sophomore effort, Electra 2000 was a heavy, aggressive album with only a few hints of the melodic craftsmanship that would take over on You'd Prefer an Astronaut. As it stands, Downward is Heavenward seems to show that this Champaign foursome has finally found the right combination of the two after wavering back and forth. Matt Talbott and Tim Lash provide the perfect mix of droning and melodic guitars, while the rhythm section of bassist Jeff Dimpsey and drummer Bryan St. Pere are infallible, ebbing in the background one moment and crashing through the next.

The first forty seconds or so of the album's opening track, "Isle of the Cheetah," sound exactly like something taken from YPAA before the song finally settles into the more heavy sound of the album. There are a few things I picked up on right away on this song that would carry through to the others and distinguish the entire album from the band's previous release. First off, Matt's vocals seem very different, almost as if he were really singing for the first time. Secondly, every song has a unique droning feel, almost as if a tape were dragging and playing just a fraction of a second slower than normal, but without making the songs sound distorted at all.

The second track, "Comin' Home," will be the first release off the album, complete with a video the band recently recorded in Minneapolis. At only 2:44, this is by far the shortest song on the album, but is a rocker none the less. Like several other tracks on the album, "Comin' Home" was written some time ago, so don't be surprised if you've heard it somewhere before - it is a favorite in the band's live set.

Other highlights in this pot of perfection include "Afternoon with the Axolotis," which contains the lyric "Downward is Heavenward," and my favorite, "Innuit Promise," both of which utilize cool sound effects similar to those at the beginning of "The Pod."

The ninth track, "Apollo," is the equivalent of YPAA's "Songs of Farewell and Departure" with its soft, almost saddening feel.

Downward is Heavenward is the perfect "new-album." Everything about it sounds different and distinguished from the last, but the sound is identifiable in a second as trademark HUM. For all of the great things that Electra 2000 and You'd Prefer an Astronaut have to offer individually, Downward is Heavenward has them all. With such a complete package, from HUM truly have reached a point where Downward is Heavenward.

Reviewed by Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other reviews by Eric J Herboth



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