Champaign Illinois’ finest band Hum established an insurmountable precedent for themselves with their 2nd full length record “You’d Prefer An Astronaut.” The record, released in 1995 contained the band’s biggest hit and most well known song “Stars.” The song became a staple of modern rock radio and was championed by everyone from Howard Stern, The Deftones, and was even featured in a Cadillac commercial. A space rock band being used as a soundtrack to sell cars. I’m confident no one least of all the band themselves, saw that coming.
Though the follow up record and today’s Lost Diamond sold markedly less copies then it’s predecessor, it seems to have a more lasting legacy. We’ll get the accolades out of the way first by saying that indie tastemaker powerhouse, Pitchfork, declared the record one of the best of the nineties and ranked it #81 on a list of 100. The 10 songs on Downward exhibit a dramatic increase in quality as far as songwriting and overall cohesiveness are concerned. Nearly every song uncovers a whopping guitar theme executed with the precision of a remarkably well seasoned band.
Echoes of opening track “Isle of the Cheetah” can be heard today in countless other bands like Cave In, Hopesfall, Finch, and the Deftones to name a few. The first single “Coming Home” is decidedly uncommerical compared to the bands fluke hit but over time unveils itself as a timeless and peerless example of dominant guitar rock.
The album was issued in “Super Audio Compact Disc” format and the extra attention to fidelity no doubt aided the intricacies and nuances of the music. All this quality unfortunately had no bearing on the band’s bosses at RCA records who were clearly unimpressed with the lackluster sales of the record. Further to that, the band disbanded shortly after it’s release. Although the marketing department at RCA had no idea what to do with such an elaborate piece of art, their Artist & Repertoire department clearly did with staff member Bruce Flohr being responsible for signing the band and later Boston metal legends Cave In. Not a bad professional track record to say the least.
In conclusion, the band’s style was so groundbreaking that a tribute album was released with powerhouse up and comers contributing like Junius, City of Ships, Arctic Sleep, and Constants. The tribute record featured songs from all three of the bands records with a majority of the tracks being from Downward. It’s a shame that no one chose to cover the album’s centerpiece (and arguably the bands best song) “Afternoon With The Axolotls” as it’s simply stunning. Although they no longer tour the band convenes once a year or so to play a local show and fans fly from all over the world to see these legends plug in one more time.