Hum’s Downward is Heavenward is a lost gem among rock records in general and 90s rock records especially. Those of you with particularly acute memories might recall that Hum scored a minor US hit in 1995 with the single Stars which is actually one of the weaker songs imho from You’d Prefer an Astronaut.
Even so, I really enjoyed that album and, during that year, Hum became one of my top tier bands for the remainder of high school and the beginning of college. Devoted fan that I was, I eagerly awaited the band’s next album. On the cold January morning in 1998 that Downward is Heavenward was released, I remember leaving school between classes and waiting for the mall to open so I could buy it.
But it seems I may have been the only person who did that, because this album tanked… big time. The album barely made a splash and no one seemed to take any notice of it. Sales were abysmal and the record label (RCA) dropped the band later that year. The group split up shortly thereafter.
I once had a short-lived newspaper column called ‘records that time forgot’ where I would find old, nearly forgotten records at used stores, thrift shops, etc, with an eye toward resurrecting lost masterpieces, and then write about them. Downward is Heavenward almost became the subject of one, even though the album was barely 3 years old at the time, because I felt it hadn’t had the chance to be remembered, let alone forgotten. And that’s a real shame, because this thing is smartly put together and executed by expert musicians.
Like its predecessor, this album features some very tight and complex songwriting, with a brilliantly clean distortion that overlaps shrouded and oblique, but thought-provoking lyrics delivered with such earnestness by Matt Talbot. Then there’s that guitar riff that never seems to end in Ms. Lazarus, I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard anything so intriguing.