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sleazy, psyched out and sludgy, mmm... - 97%

stonetotem, October 24th, 2009

Upsidedown Cross is a psyched out sludge doom band from Boston formed in the late 80s after the demise of Kilslug, a similarly druggy weird group that were more on the punk side of the spectrum. Over the years they've had a frequently fluctuating lineup, but at the time of their inception they featured three ex-Kilslug members (including the enigmatic wacko vocalist Larry Lifeless), and for the recording of their first album featured J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr on drums (but don't get any ideas about these guys bein' fruits). The group is known for their psychotic live performances and the general weirdness, primitiveness and hallucinogenic haziness of their sound, as well the drunken/drug induced antics of their idiosyncratic singer and frontman (and really everyone who was ever in the band). Their self titled debut album, released on Taang! Records in 1991 did a great job displaying the insanity and stumbling stupor of these psychedelic doom junkies, and is an ideal starting point for anyone who dare investigate their ugly unsightly legacy.

The sound here is a bit more trebly than one might expect for sluggish doomy music, focusing more on being grating, letting feedback squeal out and accentuating squirming psychedelic leads. The riffs are quite heavy for the most part, bludgeoning away on lower chords and creating simple slow rhythms. Still, Upsidedown Cross were not exactly doom metal group. They fit in somewhat with the early 90s sludge doom scene, but were more on the side of goofy sludge with a comedic hardcore punk-like attitude (such as contemporaries Sloth). And even still they were much more psyched out and weird than any sludge group around. Anyhow, beneath their loomin' sort of groovy (but not in a "groove metal" way) rhythms we frequently find noisy scratchy freeform leads. The more improvisational aspects of their playing along with their lack of musicianship and penchant for grittiness cause their songs to degenerate into hazy noisy insanity more than a few times. The bass has a solid low end clean thudding tone, smashing along with the percussion in the heavier sections. However, sometimes it has a more swingin' reverberatin' groove to it which is bound to get those acidheads swayin' along. The drums are used for little more than primitively pounding on the toms and smashing the cymbals, as the music never raises above a medium to slow pace. However they do contribute their share to these groovin' sludgy freakout jams, and serve their purpose perfectly well. Now, as for the vocals... Mr. Larry Lifeless is a supremely strange character. He's sleazy, filthy, always drunk and high on something, and is seemingly borderline retarded. He has a thick Boston accent which comes through in his vocals big time. He lurches along, yelling, screaming and bellowing off-time and off-key. He's in no way a talented man and his vocals will likely sour the enjoyment of this band for many, but there's something very charming about this braindead ne'erdowell. He adds multitudes to the weirdness of the group, and there are some out there (this reviewer included) who dig that.

Upsidedown Cross remain a unique group and a long-standing personal favourite. They play heavy, dopey, sludgy music that is virtually devoid of pretension. It's almost as if they're so braindead and neanderthalic they're incapable of being lame. Their output over the years has not been incredibly vast, releasing only two full-length albums, but they have made quite a large impression. Their debut in particular is a perfect expression of their bizarre small-minded primitive might. Fans of early 90s sludge doom such as Grief, Eyehategod and Noothgrush should find something here they like, although as previously stated, the vocals may be a deal-breaker. In general, fans of ugly, simplistic, plodding music should give this a try, and so should any curious minds seeking unique relics. One may wish to ease themselves into the wacky world of Larry Lifeless with his previous project Kilslug, as their early material is slightly more accessible punky stuff. Anyhow, doomers and assorted freaks give this one a gander, 'cause it's not just some Sabbath-worshippin' riffraff or some prissy uptight jagoffs. What we got here is some real unkempt SLEAZE.