Uphill Down -- Uphill Down

Uphill Down
Uphill Down
Squirrel Cake, 1994

From what little information I have been able to find on the band, Uphill Down existed roughly for the duration of Bill Clinton's first term in office, dropping two or three records during that period, including this self-titled seven-incher. Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, Uphill Down were local openers for such scene luminaries as Hot Water Music, Strung Out, and Diesel Boy. Indeed, Uphill Down has all the hallmarks of the sort of record a perennial opening band would have released in the early nineties. It appears to be one of those DIY efforts an unsigned group would have pressed on the cheap, lug from gig to gig, and hawk from behind a folding card table while the crowd milled about the club between sets. Not surprisingly, the photocopied liner notes and free silk-screened patch and sticker tucked into the sleeve hint at the sort of charmingly enthusiastic self-promotion of which any self-respecting troop of Clinton-era pop-punkers would be proud.

All of this is speculation, of course, and none of it is intended to be disparaging. I mean, if my surmises are correct, the Uphill Down EP is certainly nowhere near the bottom of the stack of similarly-produced early nineties pop-punk releases. The problem is, it's nowhere near the top either.

What we've got here is pretty run-of-mill pop-punk: short, fast, fun, a bit campy, and to the point. There's also a rather gratuitous cover of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It," absurdly sped up to clock in just under 1:45. With mellow backing vocals, well-placed harmonizing, good-natured lyrics about friends sprinkled with bits of pre-emo introspection, and waves of power chord melody sloshing over a steady backbeat, Uphill Down is about all one could ask for from an opening band. It's also just what you'd expect: a bunch of relatively indistinguishable songs played in roughly the same style as the more accomplished headliner, just competent enough to whet the appetite without stealing the show. Unfortunately, though, such music rarely makes for a memorable disk.

The cover art, though, is great -- one of those little bits of punk art that just makes you smile. Here we've got an impossibly lanky, bespectacled caricature of Jeff Calvert, the band's drummer, wearing a Star Trek t-shirt and a knit ski cap, looking as if he is about to be abducted by two of Roswell, New Mexico's finest Extra Terrestrials. Sweet.


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