Having come up through high school in the mid nineties, we were kind of at the ‘decline and fall’ end of grunge, rather than at the late eighties early nineties fertilization end. Soundgarden was very much Superunknown, and then Down on the Upside. It all seemed to end so abrubtly, but years of added perspective better place those two albums in context. This year I’ve been better acquainting myself with the missing formative albums, when Soundgarden were more Soundgarden than Soundgarden. I’ll often berate myself for not being wise enough to have been onto these albums at the time, but then I remember, when Ultramega OK came out I was an 8 year old with a crew cut and listened exclusively to Dire Straits‘ Brothers in Arms.
The place Soundgarden hold in the grunge annals is an interesting one – potted with to-be grunge icon encounters – (the best known including drummer Matt Cameron’s move to Pearl Jam and the criss-crossed grunge family tree of Temple of the Dog, but also the lesser known involvement of original member and eventual Sub-Pop co-founder Bruce Pavitt). As catalogued in this interesting article, Soundgarden were originally touted as alternatives’ great white hope – the indie band that would make it big in the mainstream, until some unknowns out of the back end of Washington State dropped Nevermind and sold a bajillion records.
Soundgarden’s sound is an odd metal-rock hybrid that when examined a little more closely is much more genre-defying than defining. Most of the time their syncopated and arrhythmic signature sets them apart from contemporaries as much as the likes of black sheep Tool, but they are equally liable to bust out the biggest, dumbest, power-chordiest cock-rock.
This year Soundgarden have done the unthinkable and reformed after a twelve year break, during which Cornell had undertaken solo recordings and helmed the woeful boot-rock outfit Audioslave. It remains to be seen if the resurrected Soundgarden will be a patch on the orginal incarnation, although its difficult to see how…
Regardless, in tribute to the formative albums of one grunge’s heaviest of heavyweights, this weeks Album of the Week playlist is a treble of trebles – Three songs from each of their first three records, in reverse chronological order, Badmotorfinger, Louder than Love and Ultramega OK.