on 25 January 2008
I've finally decided that Soundgarden's 'Superunknown' is my all time favourite album!
I'm not gonna be so arrogant as to say "it's the best", because like any art form, it's all down to personal taste and opinion.
After nearly 15 years, it's easily the album I listen to the most and get the most out of.
Only Pearl Jam's 'Vs' and Blind Melon's 'Soup' come anywhere near.
I just find it incredible that an album with so many obvious influences, can still manage to sound totally unique, original and innovative.
You can hear the slow, sludgy riffs of Black Sabbath. The mystical musings of mid-career Led Zeppelin. The psychedelic rock of Pink Floyd. The pop melodies of the Beatles. As well as hints of AC/DC, Tom Waits & Grateful Dead.
But despite all this, the album sounds unlike anything I've ever heard.
It's not just the flagship songs, the title track, 'Fell On Black Days', 'Spoonman' & 'Black Hole Sun', that make the album great. The lyrics and the textured layering of the sound make 'Let Me Drown', 'My Wave', 'Mailman' & 'Fresh Tendrils' more than just straight forward rockers.
Then there's the doomsday, apocalyptic feel to 'Limo Wreck', 'Day I Tried To Live' & '4th Of July'. Had it not been written some 7 years earlier, 'Limo Wreck' could easily have been about 9/11.
The beauty of the lyrics to 'Like Suicide' and the left field Eastern sound of 'Half' just add to the complexity of the album.
When you consider that Soundgarden are the only band from the 90s Alt/Rock scene that could get away with a track like 'Head Down' and the fact that 'She Likes Surprises' could easily have been found on a Beatles album, is just the final tick in the box for me.
This, of course, along side Chris Cornell's unparalleled vocals, Kim Thayil's unique guitar sound, and also that drummer Matt Cameron & bassist Ben Shepherd add so much as songwriters and not just as musicians.
Should be appreciated as a truely great piece of art.
on 21 July 2004
A true masterpiece in music, the sheer consistency and quality of this album is frankly, at times, astonishing. Across the 16 tracks and 71 minutes of music there is virtually no excess baggage or filler.
There are heroic moments aplenty. The awesome opener of "Let me drown" (check out Chris Cornell's awesome scream near the end of this track) and the epic title track, which builds in intensity with each chorus, are both fantastic high watermarks on an album overflowing with excellence.
For the grunge fans, "Fell on black days" and the gutteral "mailman" are as dark as anything you could wish for. The latter offers a glimpse inside a relationship gone so sour that the protagonist almost delights in the destruction wrought by it, noting that while he is "heading for the bottom" he is not alone-"I'm riding you all the way."
There are some decidely spooky songs in the fray too. Cornell's voice on "Head down" is enough to make the hair on your neck stand up-his tone and technique are quite different from what the casual listener will expect from a man with one of the most spectacular voices in the history of rock. Following this is "Black hole sun," a song which should be familiar to anyone with an interest in alternative music. Although this is one of the more accessible songs on the album, the tone and subject matter are as bleak as anything surronding it, with Cornell noting that "times are gone for honest men" in a line that expresses great weariness and cynicisim with latter day society.
There are some true gems in the second half of the album. Chief among these are the devastating mire of "4th of July" in all her psychedelic glory and the jaw dropping "The day I tried to live" which showcases the immense talent of all four members of Soundgarden.
Soundgarden even throw in some humour, in the fantastic "Spoonman" and the even better "She likes surprises."
The term "grunge" will forever be applied to Soundgarden, but this is far too restrictive a term to encompass an album of this quality. At it's best it simultaneously wallows in despair and soars above anything produced by contemporary artists. This was the album that truly broke Soundgarden from a large underground act to mainstream success. But don't let that put you off. This is an uncompromising album, one that belongs in the collection of all rock fans and indeed, in the collection of all music lovers, as a paradigm of late twentieth century alternative rock music.
on 27 September 2003
Before ill-advised facial hair, pink sleeveless vests, bleached tips and every member of Rage Against The Machine except the hyperactive rapping one, there was this. Before that very different, very experimental, but ultimately very good solo album that unfortunatly got him nowhere, this is where Chris Cornell lay his hat.
To those who don't know, Soundgarden were one of the greatest bands flowing through the Seattle trend of the early 90's known as grunge. Combining Black Sabbath-esque, muddy guitars, with a voice like no other, Soundgarden were a force to be reckoned with already thanks to the impressive Badmotorfinger, but when Superunknown hit right in the middle of the on rush of teenagers in flannel tops running out buying Nirvana and Pearl Jam albums, they weren't just one of grunge's finest bands, they were and still are one of rocks finest gains.
While some couldn't stand Nirvana's overly dirty production and Kurt Cobain's strained vocals, Soundgarden were creating rock music that could not only be liked by those of long hair and knee-length shorts, but fans of traditional hard rock. And that doesn't mean they sold out since it was always this way. Sure, Superunkown's production is a lot cleaner than previous albums but it only adds to SG's qualities, not take them away. 'Let Me Drown', is one of the finest opening songs of all time, combining a greasy riff, with a rock attitude, no-way-out lyrics and a Cornell scream that is like no other. One thing that Soundgarden were doing best was writing memorable songs. The likes of the previously mentioned, 'Let Me Drown', and the two singles, 'Fell On Black Days', and the epic, 'Black Hole Sun' stick in the memory and will have you humming along despite their slightly overpoweringly strong scent of depression. But when Soundgarden rocked, they rocked and rocked you too. The title track is possibly the most 'rock' song on the entire album, with a cracking riff, while still sticking to those grungey roots.
There's also plenty of chant-alongs on Superunknown, and when I say plenty I do mean that in a prolific sense. There's, once again, the opening track, there's the clunky 'My Wave' which harbours a fine chorus, there's the two singles I already mentioned, the superb 'Head Down', 'Spoonman' and 'Limo Wreck' add varying songs that sound different but always stay in line and don't let go of your attention. The fact that this album is 16 tracks long could also be pretty daunting. If asked if I'd prefer a sprawling piece of work, or a tight 40 minuter, I'd go for the latter. But Soundgarden not only have enough appeal to keep you going, they also have a certain aura about them that makes you want to keep listening that you can't quite explain. 'Fresh Tendrils' may be pretty much a one riff song, but it's a good riff and that's what matters. '4th of July' is positively storming and over-bearing, especially in its introduction, and adds to a very diverse album that sticks in your mind, doesn't overbear you and ultimately does what it's supposed to, only with a much more sure-fire style than ever before.
So this is a rock album that has grunge roots, but written by a grunge band with rock roots, and it certainly works well. I believe 'Superunknown' to be better than Nirvana's 'In Utero', to be better than Pearl Jam's 'Vs' and better than any album that modern day wannabe's try to put out. Cornell never sounded better (listen to him now...), and the band were tight and wrote a few classics in the process. Who says listening to grunge is depressing?
It was just great in the early to mid nineties to have a really top grunge band that didn't present you with drug problem (as great as Nirvana and AIC were), or a rubbish attitude (like Pearl Jam). Soundgarden were just a fantastically unique band, who released 3 or 4 albums before disbanding towards the late nineties. Superunknown would have to be the best of the lot. Best known for the classic Black Hole Sun, it features Spoonman, Fell on Black Days, The Day I Tried to Live and My Wave. It really combines a classic rock sound, unique vocals, and that grunge production (terrible term, but they were from Seattle) that kept us all spoon-fed with tunes during this time. And you get 16 tracks for your money - not bad going!
on 17 July 2009
I was recently looking through some old photographs and came across a picture from around 95-96 of a teenage me wearing a Soundgarden T.shirt. It got me thinking, I remember them being my favourite band for a while but I moved into my own place at a young age and lost touch with a lot of my old C.D.s. Having pooled my pocket money with my brother to jointly purchase most of our music in the first place I left the vast majority of my collection at my parents, being half my bro's and not wanting to overcrowd my pokey flat. Not having much money, I never got around to replacing them, however, I have recently purchased a high capacity mp3 player and have been digging out some of my old albums, some not being as good as I remember and the odd one being better. The photograph I mentioned earlier prompted me to check out Soundgarden again and boy am I glad I did. Superunknown is an incredible album sounding as fresh today as it did back in 1994. I am not one to gush about music or film if I like something then I will say without going overboard but this record is simply phenomenal from the opening thrilling rock powerhouse of 'Let me drown' to the mean and moody 'born on the 4th of July'. If I was to name every stand out track then I would have to name all 16, so just check out the tracklisting.
Chris Cornells vocals have never sounded better, his work with Audioslave was pretty impressive but his voice had taken a slightly too gravelly direction that the Superunknown era Cornell didn't have in such abundance. Even Robert Plant in his heyday would have been jealous of some of his super human singing.
I am a massive Black Sabbath fan (Ozzy and Dio era only)who Soundgarden were frequently compared to, but in my humble opinion, much as I adore Sabbath's 70's and early 80's albums I really don't think they produced anything as good as Superunknown and that is a huge compliment coming from me. I personally feel that this album signals the beginning of the end of great albums I think their was a few towards the end of the decade but a few years later and the dawn of the digital age, bands were less concerned with producing fantastic records but more bothered with four great singles and six fillers to complete the record.
Sorry for waffling on so much but to finish my debut review! I just want to say that I feel it is criminal that this album isn't spoke in the same breath as Led Zep's 4 or Radioheads OK computer, not comparing the sound to those albums of course, but they are two examples of records that normally make top 100 greatest album lists, which as bold a statement as this is. Superunknown should hold a regular high place in these lists. You could ask anyone in the street if they know who Led Zeppelin or Nirvana are and 99 per cent would say "of course I do" but mention Soundgarden and you't be lucky to get more than five in one hundred and they would probably only know Black hole sun, this to me is sad.
Last I heard, Chris Cornell was working with Timbaland! I doubt that anyone who gets into him through this association will be interested in the sort of music that Soundgarden play, as his Timbaland produced stuff probably is R&B tinged.
To sum it up, if you haven't got this album and you like searing rock vocals, dark Sabbath esque riffs and superb lyrics then buy this album it is stunning.
on 28 July 2006
Soundgarden were so much more than the grunge band they were labelled as. Mixing the hard rock riffs of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath with eastern tones and psychedelic blues. Not to mention Kim Thayil's guitar playing and of course the icing on what is already a fantastic cake being Chris Cornell's voice. The greatest voice in rock history!
From the moment the first track begins right through until the last track fades away you'll be treated to an album of sheer brilliance. There simply isnt a bad song here. From the head down rock of "My Wave" the eastern tinged riff of "Black Hole Sun" and the dark menacing drone of, for me, the stand out track "4th July" this record will have you in a headlock for the entire time and when you come up for air you'll want to do it all again.
on 16 January 2003
This is quite simply the best album I own. Having not experienced much grunge before buying this album (except for the odd Nirvana album), it was one hell of a way to be introduced to such a band. Chris Cornells vocals are a powerful blend of Robert Plant, Axil Rose and the guy from Pearl Jam (whose name escapes me). 'Black Hole Sun' was the reason I bought this album and I consequently found another 16 reasons why. There is no point in mentioning any particular songs, just put your Hi-Fi on random mode, sit back and enjoy. Make sure that all neighbours are out though, because before long you will be on full volume. Powerful, melodic, ace, unique and superior, buy it now!!
on 22 June 2003
If you like Soundgarden you've already got this album, if you're not sure buy it now!! Quite simply the best album they ever recorded in their far too short manifestation. Not as raw as previous offerings (Still love 'Rusty Cage')but must surely go down in history as one of the greatest rock albums of all time! Chris Cornell has been often miscast as a wailer but I personally think he's one of the best vocalists in Rock, I'm a straight guy but sometimes his vocals can bring a lump to your throat and a tear to your eye, best offerings on this album 'Fell on Black days', 'Black Hole sun','The Day I Tried to Live','Like Suicide' mainly because of Chris' vocals but the whole album is a classic and if you're planning a single trip to the moon take this album cos' it rocks then it doesn't then it rocks again. Just buy it, I'm on my fourth copy now. If you only get one Soundgarden album in your lifetime make it this one. Simply the best!!
on 4 September 2014
Really nice put together anniversary issue, reminded me what a great band soundgarden are, not a bad song on there. Musically and lyrically one of rocks greatest bands, superunknown is my particular favourite and the day I tried to live is mesmerising. The bonus disc is great to, great out takes . If your new to soundgarden then this is an essential purchase with plenty more to explore. Highly recommended .
on 11 July 2014
Amazing album by an amazing band. This is where SG evolved from a Seattle Grunge band to a more worldly and experimental outfit. There is hard rock, punk, a hint of Eastern mystic and Beatlesque songs. Quite simply indispensable. Shame the box set does not have live recordings of the Superunknown Tour.