Soundgarden “Telephantasm”


(28 Sept 2010, A&M/Interscope)

Somewhere near the top of the list of jobs I’d never want is to be the guy who has to spend the next few weeks combing over Chris Cornell’s body of work to compile a hits album that is set to be released in ten… nine… eight…

I shouldn’t say that. It probably won’t be that bad. I’m sure there’s a team of people crunching numbers, scanning YouTube and Spotify stats and flipping coins deciding what will go on and what will be left on the cutting room floor.

Telephantasm is as close to a perfect Soundgarden retrospective album as you’re going to get for the price and length. 2 CDs/1DVD makes for a great overview of the band’s career and helps point to albums one may wish to explore further. Plus it’s not so long that it’s a chore to listen to and attention starts to wander.

“All Your Lies” does not start things off well. All tracks are in chronological order and this comes from a 1986 compilation featuring other popular bands from Seattle. I’m not sure if it’s poor production that turns me off from this track or a horrible guitar effect. Either way, I’d much rather skip to…

“Hunted Down” which is the first track featuring the Soundgarden we all know and love. Those screeching vocals and crazy guitar lines are all there. But before we can build momentum and get on a roll we have…

“Fopp” is a cover of an Ohio Players song. I’m not a fan. Funk is not something I find myself getting very heavily into and Soundgarden do not do it well.

“Beyond the Wheel” is just so-so. I can’t really feel strongly about it one way or the other. It’s definitely heavy and unique but has too slow a pace to really rock too hard.

“Flower” is the first song on this compilation I love. It has an odd main riff that worms it’s way into my head and is unique enough that I still haven’t gotten sick of it. This is the beginning of Soundgarden becoming a powerhouse.

“Hands All Over” picks up where “Flower” stops. It’s similar, but this is more of a good-time party rocker.

“Big Dumb Sex” has a title that fully explains itself. It’s big. It’s dumb. And the word fuck is used many, many times.

“Get on the Snake” is a good, groovy rocker, but it’s not quite great.

“Room a Thousand Years Wide” is the beginning of mega-stardom Soundgarden. This is one of the lesser known tracks from Badmotorfinger, but I’m not sure why. I enjoy this track a lot better than…

“Rusty Cage” isn’t a bad song. I always think of a motorcycle racing game for Sega that it was used in. Did any of you ever play Road Rash? It was pretty fun.

“Outshined” is the perhaps the biggest track from Badmotorfinger. The strange thing about it is how much it’s just a grunge version of the hair metal Soundgarden replaced. It’s just much sludgier.

“Slaves and Bulldozers” is another great deep cut. Why a track like this isn’t heard on the radio every hour is beyond me, but that’s probably why I can’t find a job as a station manager.

Disc Two starts off with a stellar live version of “Jesus Christ Pose.” This song has a ton of urgency, power, and speed on its album version, but the live version kicks all those elements into high gear. If you never hear another Soundgarden track, this is the one to hear.

“Birth Ritual” comes from the Singles Motion Picture Soundtrack. It’s another so-so song. It sounds like a stock track that they had lying around so they threw it on there.

The next five songs are taken right from Superunknown and are mostly the same tracks that appear on the album. The only alternate take is “Fell On Black Days” which is the video version. I think I enjoy this version better than the album version, but it isn’t extremely different. The only difference comes from Kim Thayil’s guitar lines. The rest has a nice laid-back, live-in-the-studio vibe.

Then there are four tracks from Down on the Upside. This time there are two alternate tracks. I remember when they performed “Pretty Noose” on Saturday Night Live. It’s a good version, but not stellar. “Blow Up The Outside World” is taken from an MTV Live ‘N’ Loud performance. It’s nice to have different versions instead of the same thing I can get on the other albums in my collection, but these tracks aren’t must hear like “Jesus Christ Pose.”

The album ends with “Black Rain,” an outtake from the Badmotorfinger sessions. Not a bad track, but I can see why it was left out.

 

All that’s missing from this collection is “Loud Love” and “The Day I Tried To Live.” The latter makes an appearance on the DVD, but it would be nice to hear while I’m listening to this cruising down the highway. If they were to add those tunes and a few more alternate/live takes I would call this collection perfect. As it is, I’ll have to give it 3.5/5 stars.

I just wonder how many discs the Cornell tribute will be. Telephantasm provides a great groundwork for the Soundgarden stuff, but there’s nothing from Temple of the Dog, Audioslave or any of his solo work. It’s going to have to be a box set, with (hopefully) a truncated version for us cheapos.

I just hope it does justice to a stellar career.

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RIP Chris Cornell


Wow. Just… wow.

You know, when I was younger I wanted to grow up and be Chris Cornell. I was extremely disappointed to discover the job had already been taken.

Now that it’s open again I doubt I could fill his shoes.

I’ve gone on record as saying I wasn’t a huge fan of King Animal, but I was looking forward to its followup. I’m disappointed that I’ll probably never hear that now.

Hope you enjoy my hastily thrown together playlist.

 

 

Soundgarden Superunknown

Soundgarden Down on the Upside

The Where’s My Shirt Tour

#Top15onthe15th

Rock on the Range 2013

RIP J. Geils


You probably wouldn’t take me for a big J. Geils fan. To be fair, I’m not a big J. Geils fan. But how can anyone with a pair of ears (or even one ear) resist that melody in “Centerfold”?

I certainly can’t. And I’m excited to read Boppin’s Post on Geils’ Top 10 to hear some of the band’s songs beyond those three I already know.

Day of the New – S/T (Green)


Days of the New green(31 August 1999, Outpost)

One of the greatest things about music is its ability to take you places. Hearing a song can make you feel like you’re back in junior high school without a care in the world. A lot of songs bring scenes in movies to mind (think of Forrest Gump). Sometimes it can take you to a whole other world. Days of the New’s second album has the power to transport me from wherever I happen to be back to Hyrule.

My mom met the man who would become her second husband while I was in high school. He was living in a small apartment above a bar with a mattress, a chihuahua/shih tzu mix and a huge stereo from Rent-a-Center. It didn’t take long until he moved in with us; and brought the dog and the stereo. It’s easy to date when he moved in because he only had four CDs: Ozzy’s No Rest For The Wicked, Yngwie Malmsteem’s Facing the Animal, Godsmack’s debut and DotN’s second album.

“Enemy” was a big hit at the time and he loved it. He would play that album over and over while drinking at the kitchen table with his buddies. Being in high school I wasn’t old enough to drink and probably spent at least a little bit of time studying. But when I wasn’t studying I was sitting in front of the television with my little brother because around the same time he moved in with that huge stereo we got a Super Nintendo and A Link To The Past. I have no idea how many times we played through that game together, but I can remember having a lot of fun with him. I think that may have been the best bonding we ever did.

And the great thing is that whenever I hear Days of the New’s second album I can think back on those days.

the_legend_of_zelda_a_link_to_the_past_snes_game_coverIt probably helps that the album starts off with the sound of horse hooves. How else can I get from the water level to the desert level quickly? I’m a huge fan of all the segues that blend the tracks together. I honestly can’t name most of the songs on this album, and probably couldn’t tell you where most of them begin or end because it works as such a great cohesive whole.

The secret weapon is Nicole Sherzinger who would later achieve mega stardom as the lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls. It feels really weird to write that because the musical styles of the two groups couldn’t be more distant. But Sherzinger does have a beautiful voice and uses it to great effect with Days of the New.

Singer/Guitarist/Songwriter Travis Meeks got a lot of grief for pulling one of those megalomaniacal stunts of firing his whole band, but in his defense did you ever listen to Tantric? That was not a band I enjoyed. Sure, they were competent musicians and their stuff was okay, but there was no fire behind it. It always sounded like safe, middle-of-the-road rock to me. I just imagine them bringing the songs to him and him saying “No. You’re all fired.”

The acoustic guitars are still front and center but there’s plenty of other instrumentation to shake things up. The acoustic guitar thing was a good gimmick that definitely got them attention with their debut, but I’m guessing that wouldn’t have kept peoples interest if they’d just repeated that formula.

I’m not sure what all the instruments were used on this album , but I’m guessing there’s an ocarina in there somewhere. It really takes me back then.

 

The Best of 2016


Ahhh, it is finally time for my favorite blogging activity of the year: the “best of” list. I’ve come across a few already filled with death metal and/or indie rock that I have never heard, but I hope this list will have a little something for everyone. Then again, I didn’t see anything from my Amazon wishlist the last time I went to FYE so I’m pretty sure I’m out of touch with the times.

Bloody Hammers Lovely Sort of Death – This album popped up on my radar courtesy of Mr. 1537 and managed to beat out Al Jourgenson’s Surgical Meth Machine and Green Day’s Revolution Radio for the low spot on this list. I’m sure those artists will be pretty upset about that.

 

The Descendents  Hypercaffium Spazzium – This was a pretty good record, but it felt a little too of the moment. This album definitely sounds like it was made in 2016 and you can hear a lot of modern influence. For my money, I’d recommend Cool to be You.

Otep Generation Doom I got a little grief for enjoying this one, but I’m a sucker for militant, butch lesbians with anger problems.

Helmet Dead to the World – I managed to catch these guys live twice this year, which is unheard of for me at the ripe old age of 33. But they managed to impress both times (even with their singer being at the ripe old age of 56).

 

David Bowie Blackstar I would have loved to have listened to this one more, but I stayed away from it because of recent problems with depression. Hopefully next year I’ll get to spend a little more time with it.

 

Garbage Strange Little Birds

 

Weezer – The White Album After several lackluster albums Weezer have somehow managed to redeem themselves with the awesome Everything Will Be Alright In The End and now this one.

 

Rachel Bloom – My new favorite Jewess. Is that a racist term?

Local H Hey Killer (2015) This is one I picked up after reading a best of list for last year and it’s remained in constant rotation. This is my favorite track off the album. I was more disappointed that they didn’t play this when I saw them open for Helmet than I was by the omission of “Bound for the Floor.”

 

Leonard Cohen You Want it Darker – I’m not going to lie, when I listened to Popular Problems in 2014 I wasn’t thrilled. I’m not sure why, but something about it didn’t resonate with me. That’s definitely not the case with this album. This would still be in the top spot even if he hadn’t died this year. But it’s as great a swan song as anyone can imagine.

 

Don’t Dwell On What Is Passed Away…


Leonard Cohen "The Future"When I first got my copy of Leonard Cohen’s album “The Future” I remember thinking that the cover image would make a really cool tattoo. Hearing the song “Anthem” reinforced the idea. “Bought and sold and bought again, the dove is never free.” I think that’s one of the most beautiful lines ever written.

But like a lot of ideas I filed it away somewhere in my mind and didn’t think about it for two decades.

Then a few things happened this year that brought it up again. Of course, the death of Leonard Cohen had me thinking about “Anthem” more than any other song. The line “Don’t dwell on what is passed away, or what is yet to be” is one that can be appropriate when anyone dies. I think I’m going to update my will to include that track along with Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” and AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” as tunes I’d like played at my funeral.

But more than that, I’ve suffered from a really severe and long lasting depression for the last quarter of this year and that line is one that I really feel is good to latch on to. I mean, I’m depressed because I’m dwelling on what has passed away and what is yet to be. I suppose that’s probably what makes most people depressed.

Anthem TattooSo with that perfect storm in mind I walked into a tattoo shop last week and had someone mark me up. It was done more to help me get over the depression (which it seems to be helping) than as a way to commemorate Leonard Cohen, but I think it’s the best tattoo I have.

I think it’ll help me to live in the moment, and if I ever forget I just need to find a mirror.

 

 

 

 

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)


 

leonard-cohenI feel really bad about the death of Leonard Cohen. Not just because we’ve lost one of the most original artists to ever grace popular music or because his style, words or voice will never be duplicated, but because I had the idea to write this post a few days before his death. It may have been because I recently watched the 30 Rock episode where Alec Baldwin gets the idea to prerecord a celebrity studded special honoring the victims of a yet-to-have-happened tragedy. Or it may have something to do with a preoccupation with the morbid.

Either way, my bad. I really feel like I jinxed us with this one.

I’m 98.537% sure that the first time I heard the name Leonard Cohen was in the Nirvana song “Pennyroyal Tea.” But it didn’t really interest me a whole helluva lot. It didn’t have the same interesting backstory as “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” or the violent torture in Mayberry of “Floyd the Barber.” So really it was just a name in a Nirvana song. Nothing any more special than Alvin Tostig or Levon.

But then I read a Guitar World interview with Lou Reed. I can’t remember the exact context of what they were talking about, but Reed said something along the lines of “Leonard Cohen had one of the greatest opening lines ever: ‘Give me crack and anal sex.'” The interviewer corrected him in saying that’s actually the beginning of the second verse to “The Future” and then Reed pointed out that a line like that will really get your attention.

Well, it sure managed to get mine. But this was in the late nineties, long before Spotify, YouTube or the Play Store. I knew that there was this song with a really fucked up line in it, but I had no idea where to find it. Would they carry something like that at the library in Amish country? I didn’t think so.

So that brings us back to me being a rather morbid individual. In high school I didn’t participate in many after school activities. Like any clinically depressed teenager I would get off the bus, smoke some pot, watch a movie a movie and usually fall asleep. One day something went wrong and I managed to stay awake until the end credits of one of my favorite flicks, Natural Born Killers. (I’m surprised that movie isn’t a cult classic along the lines of Fight Club or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. You’d think for a society that relishes vilifying the media as much as ours it would be a modern classic.) Anyway, the movie ended and the credits started to roll. I hear a nice organ riff and some clean guitar under a gravelly voice. And then I hear the line “Give me crack and anal sex.”

So my discovery of Leonard Cohen was more of a result of Lou Reed and Oliver Stone than Kurt Cobain, but I made it there eventually. I remember it worried the shit out of my mom when I bought a copy of The Future. I suppose it would worry any parent if their child took as much interest as I did in the movie Natural Born Killers, but give me a break; it’s a great flick.

leonard cohenOf course, I didn’t hear his biggest hit until a few years later. I want to say it was 2007 and I was seeing a girl who took me down to the Baptist Church on the South Side of town. I usually prefer organ music during a worship service, but this church had a contemporary band and something about that song really stood out. Maybe it was the fact that it just doesn’t seem like a song you’d hear in church. Sure, the chorus has a great melody of “Hallelujah,” but if you look at the verses… is it really a christian song.

And maybe that’s the most beautiful thing about Leonard Cohen. His songs are filled with beautiful instrumentation and some of the most poetic lyrics I’ve ever heard, but most of the time I have no idea what exactly he was trying to say.