Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An album I forgot was great.


I listened to Superunknown by Soundgarden on my way to and from work today. A couple of things jumped out at me.
  1. Start to finish, stem to stern, soup to nuts, this is one fantastic album. There are a couple of tracks I don't like quite as well as some others, but not enough-so to skip past them (Radiohead's The Bends and OK Computer are in this boat, too).
  2. It's heavy; unbelievably heavy in places ("Fourth Of July" comes to mind). It's sludgy and crunchy in spots, just plain-ol' intense in others. But...
  3. ...it has an airiness and melodicity to it (if that's a word). Unlike modern nu-metal-inspired bands — if indeed nu-metal can ever be "inspirational" — this doesn't suffocate under its own weight, nor is it pasteurized and liquefied and electronically compressed to hell like today's stuff (Disturbed, I'm looking at you). There's room for the music to breathe.
  4. I read somewhere that when Soundgarden wrote songs, they never really noticed the odd time meters that fell out — or, in many cases, jumped-ship mid-song — until afterward. But, like every good music nerd, I noticed, and the end result is an album that challenges a new part of your brain: "Oh? You think you got this song pegged? Well, lemme throw this at ya." Magnificent.
This was the first Soundgarden album I bought (probably in about '96ish). I can't remember where I got it, but I remember being so blown away by it, I went back and picked up their previous album, Badmotorfinger, very soon after at the late, great Dr. Disc* on campus at UW. It took me a while to get into the earlier album; it's a little rougher around the edges than Superunknown, but once you acquaint yourself with its surroundings, it's just as satisfying to listen to.

While Soundgarden may have recently reunited, it's still unclear if they're going to record any new music. Alice in Chains got back together (minus Layne Staley for obvious reasons) and recorded a new album, which is absolute shit and sounds like every other band out there. Part of me wants Cornell & Co. not to record a new album, for the same reason I wasn't completely sold on the idea of Clerks 2 right away: if it's bad, it could tarnish the earlier work.

Then again, this album is so good, I'm not sure if it's tarnish-able at all.
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* This was the only place I ever walked into, heard music playing, asked the clerk what the album was, and bought it. The album? Girlfriend by Matthew Sweet, which I still love, because I have a huge thing for power-pop.

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