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.

Foo Fighters “The Colour and the Shape”


(20 May 1997, Capitol)

I’m not a baseball fan, so pardon me if I screw up this analogy.

Foo Fighters’ debut was at least a triple play. It could be almost be said it was a home run, but I don’t think it quite made it over the fence. It was good. Hell, it was great. But there was something missing. It wasn’t quite a perfect album.

But as the old saying goes, you have as long as you need to write your first album. Dave Grohl had years to compile the songs on that album. The band had a considerably shorter time period to write the follow-up. Could they deliver? What were they going to do in their next at bat?

I’d have to say The Colour and the Shape is a grand slam. This was the album that catapulted Foo Fighters into the stratosphere. Before this album, you could expect to hear one Foos song on the radio for every ten Nirvana plays. Now you’re lucky to hear one Nirvana track for every twenty from the Foo Fighters.

They’re no longer “that band with the drummer from Nirvana.” Foo Fighters are now “the biggest fucking rock band in the world.” I’m not saying that every song on The Colour and the Shape is great, but they all flow together so well that even the throwaway tunes work in the context of the album to make it great.

“Monkey Wrench” was the perfect lead single. That hummable, descending guitar line and poppy melodies mix perfectly. It’s just heavy enough to appeal to metalheads, but light enough to bounce around to. “My Hero” is one of those songs where I like the video more than the actual song, but it’s still a great one. Those goofy guitar turnarounds at the end of the chorus make it all worth it for me. How do you listen to it and not play air guitar to those licks?

And how do you follow up something like “Big Me,” which is as close to a perfect love song as I’ve ever heard and puts a smile on my face nearly every time I hear it? With a song that the rest of the human population feels that way about! I can’t help but wonder how many children were born because of the song “Everlong.”

If you take the time to look past the singles there’s still great stuff. I’m not a fan of some of the lighter fare. “Doll” and “Walking After You” are a little too light for me. They remind me of a bag of potato chips – mostly air.  Stuff like “See You” and “New Way Home” are a lot better. Fun, simple rockers that get the feet tapping, but it’s the raunchy rockers that get my blood pumping.

I love “Hey, Johnny Park.” The main riff is just pure brilliance. I’m not sure if I heard this many years ago and it stuck in my head. It sounded familiar when I got my copy recently, but maybe it’s just one of those riffs that is so catchy I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t in my head.

“The Colour and the Shape” might be my favorite Foo Fighters song. When you hear the tunes “Times Like These” and “Best of You” it’s easy to forget that Dave Grohl cut his teeth playing in punk bands. When you hear the screams and noise of the title track it’s front and center.

The best thing about The Colour and the Shape is that it sounds like a group effort. Grohl already proved he could write and record an album on his own with Foo Fighters and the Late! cassette he released while still with Nirvana, but he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who needs absolute control like Trent Reznor or Prince.

Utilizing the whole band turned out to be a good decision. This was the album that led to sold out arenas and a quarter billion dollar net worth. Sometimes all it takes is four guys in a room jamming to come up with a masterpiece.

 

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

Roll or Hit?


I love how the line ‘Let’s roll another joint’ is changed to ‘Let’s hit another joint’ in the radio edit of Tom Petty’s ‘You Don’t Know How It Feels.’

That totally changes it into something I can sing with my grandmother.

 

 

Why I’m Proud to be an American


 

At a time when it would be easy to feel shame and embarrassment about the state of my country, I’m actually feeling quite optimistic.

Sure, our President is a giant sack of shit who has somehow managed to appear semi-sentient and he and his team have somehow found time in their busy schedule coordinating policy with the Russians to convince 38 percent of Americans that he’s doing a good job.

And the Speaker of the House isn’t any better.

It’s easy to find doomsayers and Chicken Littles on the internet. It’s easy to predict a dystopian future. It’s easy to sit back and bemoan how things are only getting worse.

Do you wanna know what I say?

 

 

 

 

FUCK THAT!

I’ve always found adversity to be the strongest motivator. And the challenges we face are just other names for goals we already wanted to accomplish, but now have the burning desire to see through.

“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if (we) last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour.”

Will it be hard? Yes. Will there be suffering? Yes. Will we persevere? Most definitely.

But millions of Americans have already proven they’re up to the challenge, and that is what makes me proud.

 

“Why stand on a silent platform? Fight the war, fuck the norm.”

Helmet “Aftertaste”


(18 March 1997, Interscope)

Helmet are one of those deceptively brilliant bands. A cursory listen will leave one thinking this is a simple, caveman rock band with no depth and a modicum of talent. And the caveman description would be somewhat appropriate. They called their third album Betty and opened it with the track “Wilma’s Rainbow.” I can only assume these were references to the most well-known cave women in pre-history.

Most of the songs on Aftertaste are pretty formulaic. Simple, syncopated riff+angry vocals=Helmet. The strange thing is Page Hamilton’s ability to sing in a tone so close to yelling, but still so melodic. It’s the perfect balance of rage and tunefulness. I haven’t heard anyone else combine these elements and produce such a satisfying product.

Opener “Pure” relies on one chugged chord for the main riff and a strummed octave chorus, but it creates a beautiful wall of sound. This is a band that uses negative space better than any other band in existence. The brilliance is not just in the notes they play or don’t play, but in the spaces between those notes.

The most well known cavewomen in pre-history

It’s easy to let an album like this fade into the background. To be honest, most of the songs sound so similar it’s difficult to tell them apart. But every now and again you hear something like the guitar solo of “Driving Nowhere” or the superb noise of “Broadcast Emotion” and it’s like catching a glimpse some mythical beast rising from the murky depths. The bass heavy intro of “Renovation” is hard to ignore as it hearkens back to “Milktoast” from Betty.

After a few listens light finds its way through the cracks in the stone to illuminate cave drawings I missed on the first pass. I’ve been jamming to Betty in my car for the past few days thinking it’s a superior product to this one, but then I hear “Like I Care” for the second time and I’m amazed that I listened to it with anything other than… amazement.

 

I could go on and on about this album, but mostly I just want to- wait, what the hell? Did you catch that? There’s a string of like four songs that clock in at about 2.5 minutes and sound like they’re cut off in the middle. Is that a problem with my Spotify account? Or is is supposed to be like that?

I’m not even sure how to classify Helmet. Hard rock seems most appropriate. They’re a bit too heavy to call alternative, but not quite heavy enough for metal. And even though Hamilton is an accomplished Jazz player with chops to spare I don’t think prog or fusion fits. Wikipedia calls them post-metal, but I’m strongly opposed to defining any type of music by saying it came after some other type.

I imagine if Goldilocks were to find this in the three bears’ record collection she would describe Aftertaste as just right.

Marcy Playground – Self Titled


marcy_playground_-_marcy_playground_album_cover-1(25 February 1997, Capitol)

I was driving in the car with my girlfriend the other day when the Seven Mary Three song “Cumbersome” came on the radio. She told me she was really into Seven Mary Three when she was younger and listened to their album all the time. That blew my mind. It never even crossed my mind that Seven Mary Three would have an album and fans. To me they were just something that was always there. Like a DirecTV satellite dish that you mow around because you don’t want to take the time to pull it out of the ground. That’s how I thought of Seven Mary Three.

It wasn’t until today that I realized other people must think of Marcy Playground in the same way.

“Sex and Candy” is just as prevalent than “Cumbersome.” I hear it on the radio. I hear it at the gym. I hear it at Walmart. It’s all over the place; just like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” or “Possum Kingdom.” But I actually own the album.

It’s not a bad album. It’s Folksy, Post-Grunge AOR. There are songs that I really enjoy and a few that I can’t tell from one another. Opener “Poppy’s” is held down by quirky guitar riff. Songs like “Gone Crazy,” “One More Suicide” and “Vampires of New York” are simple folk tunes made interesting by the wry vocals.

It’s something I enjoy, but when I listen to it and find it difficult to write more than 300 words about it I understand why they were a one-hit wonder.