It’s amazing how great my memory is regarding some of these albums I’ve had for 20 years. I can still remember buying it at the Blockbuster in Massillon, OH. Dad always took us to the video store at the beginning of our weekend visit and let us pick out one or two movies to keep us busy. I hadn’t even known Soundgarden had a new album out when I saw it. I don’t think I got a video that night, but I got a new CD.
I can still remember telling my friends about it and I can remember when they played on Saturday Night Live. But I can’t remember why I took the disc out of its original cardboard case and put it into a regular jewel case. I’m guessing it didn’t fit into my CD tower or something. Maybe I just wanted uniformity. I saw a new copy cheap at FYE a few weeks ago and thought about replacing mine, but I’m not sure I want to do that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a really good album, but compared to Badmotorfinger or Superunknown it’s just OK.
I find it hard to find fault with any of the singles. Opener “Pretty Noose” is a stock Soundgarden jam with a freaky wah-drenched intro and solo, huge open-tuned guitar sounds and Chris Cornell’s screams. The only thing I didn’t like was that the American version of the video kinda sucked and that was before YouTube so I couldn’t just go online and watch the international version. “Burden In My Hand” makes use of the odd tunings but in a much different way. It’s more of a strange singer/songwriter ballad with a monster backing band. “Blow Up The Outside World” was always one of my favorites. I think that track captures the whisper-soft verse/ big-scream chorus dynamic better than any other song. Plus, Kim Thayil shows off some pretty awesome leads.
I think “Ty Cobb” is my favorite song on the album. I’m not used to Soundgarden doing breakneck punk songs, but they managed to sound right at home on this one by throwing mandolins and mandolas on the track. And the chorus of “Hard headed fuck you all” was just what my 13-year-old mind needed.
Other than that not a whole lot really sticks out. I like a lot of the the slower, brooding tracks. “Zero Chance,” “Tighter & Tighter” and “Overfloater” all have great melodies and lyrics. I’m not that into some of the other faster tracks. “Never The Machine Forever” is saved by one of Thayil’s great guitar solos. He’s the only guitarist that can play leads that are so fast they get sloppy but still have them sound good. “No Attention” is saved by the time shift for the last verse and chorus.
And a few of the songs I actually don’t really care for. It’s almost frustrating that I can’t put my finger on what’s wrong with this album. Honestly, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with the album. It’s a great collection of well written and well played songs. I would bet money that my biggest problem with it is that it’s not Superunknown. It’s not quite as dark and not really edgy. By 1996 grunge had gone from being a sub genre to being mainstream rock and I’ve always felt that mainstream rock isn’t nearly as cool as underground music.
Or maybe what I’m hearing is the tension that would break Soundgarden up less than a year after this album was released. Maybe they just needed a break. Cornell said that “Boot Camp” was about his childhood, but with the benefit of hindsight the last words on the album seem very prophetic, “There must be something else, there must be something good, far away.”
Helluva way to end an album.