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 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 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 11 August 2014
Having reached the age of 60 I despaired when I learnt my love of vinyl was once again considered "Cool"
I started buying records as a teenager in the late 1960's and on acquiring my first Led Zeppelin album knew I had found my favourite genre. Sabbath's Paranoid quickly made its way into a collection that continued to grow year on year until just after my 40th birthday when I bought this for the first time and realized it was a truly great album.
This is the fourth time I have bought this album ( twice on vinyl twice on CD ) as it appeared that my offspring always felt the need to liberate a copy on leaving home.
Superunknown is more than a collection of the well-known singles like Spoonman, black hole sun and the rest. It's a collaboration of gifted, always warring, musicians creating a magnificent picture of despair in drop d. which draws on and surpasses the roots provided by Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.
Thankfully caught their reunion tour this year. It was great to see them still arguing.
I always worry about buying remasters and anniversary "re-issues" as they can be disastrous wastes of money (oasis' definitely maybe recently comes to mind)
Not in this case as this easily betters the CD in sound quality.
on 21 September 2003
Hands down - One of the best albums ever to be recorded. I don't know how many times I've listened to this record, but it's many. Chris Cornell is one the best, most inventive and interesting singer/songwriters out there. Every guitarplayer should check out superunknown (and "down on the upside" and "badmotorfinger" too) and get an idea of how playing fast has nothing at all to do with excellent guitarplaying, and how alternate tuning has. It'll blow you away.
For anyone out there not into guitar, have a listen to Chris' voice. He's truly got one of the greatest voices in the world, with an ability to make anything sound great (like Eddie Vedder in Pearl Jam, which is also one of the greates bands on the planet).
It's too bad they broke up, because this band really produced one the masterpieces in music with Superunknown.
A definite buy. You won't regret it.
on 9 September 2010
Back in 1994, Soundgarden with Cornell on lead vocals released their masterpiece. He was one of the great grunge voices of the era. His voice soared over the bludgeoning, guttural riffs of Kim Thayil, especially on this album.
Previous albums had impressed, but Superunknown was a bold statement. 70 minutes and 15 diverse tracks was quite a lot to take in. Were they aiming for a White Album of grunge, maybe? The bottom line with this album is it is full of great, heavy songs, many of which were quite anthemic, and a lot of it is more metal than grunge.
Fell On Black Days, starts with a great, driving low riff and a superb vocal from Cornell. Mailman, is heavier, almost draggier (in a good way), as Cornell sings about "heading for the bottom". The title track follows which races along at breakneck speed, sounding enormous. Thayil plays not one but 2 guitar riffs and Cornell belts out the lyrics as if his life depended on it.
There is room for moodier introspective (with a degree of heaviness) on tracks like Head Down, The Day I Tried To Live, both of which feature unusual, exciting chord progressions. Along similar lines Black Hole Sun made a huge impression on MTV, being both a moody anthem, and being radio-friendly.
At the opposite end of the spectrum Spoonman is a heavy anthem featuring jackhammer drums, rampaging riffs and a spoon solo (!) in the middle (failed to start a musical trend), while Kickstand is a short, sharp, punky shock to the system.
On Half they try their hand at Eastern stylings while 4th of July drags a little on sludgier than sludgy riffs, but in the main the ten tonne, 20 metres below sea-level guitar riffs and vocal pyrotechnics win the day here. It's one of the essential albums of the grunge era.
on 25 February 2001
I have owned Superunknown since it was released. it was the first soundgarden record i bought. To this day it is still one of my favourite albums. There are many great things to be said of this recording. Perfect production, fantastic vocals, searing guitar work from both Thayil and Cornell, drums from Cameron fitting perfectly with each track. What stands it above its contemporaries for me is the apparent simplicity but underlying complexity of the music. Couple this with the vocal range of Chris Cornell revelling in the highs,(Superunknown, My Wave) and dragging us through the more downbeat songs, (4th of July, Like Suicide). i can even forgive a few of the ropey tracks towards the end because the quality of their companions is so high. BUY IT!!!!
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 25 February 2012
Superunknown is quite simply the best rock/metal (not gonna use the G word) album of the last century. Kerrang magazine reviewed the album on release and stated that this was the album that all other albums will be compared to as this is pretty near perfection.
The thing that makes this album so amazing is that it is so experimental and sometimes off the wall but it hits the spot and delivers on every level. Soundgarden didn't play it safe and make something easy for the masses to digest, oh no, they gave us some of the most thought provoking lyrics (Like Suicide, 4th of July) and rip your face off riffs (My Wave, Mailman) and put them with songs like "Half" and "Head Down" which challenged the listener. "Black Hole Sun" was the hit from the album but is far from the strongest song on here.
I bought the cd whilst visiting Seattle on its day of release so my cd ends with "Like Suicide" which I prefer as a full stop to the album.
Soundgarden never bettered this album and having seen them live three times, this tour was the best I saw them at. Tight but loose, heavy but tender, joyous but sad.