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

Damn the Years!


bargain_binI’m not the only person who tends to browse through CD bargain bins at gas stations and dollar stores, right? Even if I go in for a 12 pack of pop and a few rolls of toilet paper I still usually end up in front of a rack of CDs for the low, low price of $6 a piece.

It’s kind of a silly thing to do when you think about it. It’s not like I’m going to find some lost gem lurking among Joe Walsh’s But Seriously, Folks… or the Best of Linda Ronstadt. It’s just something I’ve always done. I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything from any of them aside from maybe a Bob Marley cassette. That was years and years ago. You can tell from the fact that I bought a Bob Marley cassette.

But a few months ago I was in a Dollar General and I noticed something really strange. Sure, there was still Fleetwood Mac, Black Sabbath Vol. 4 and numerous unofficial greatest hits releases, but there was also Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger, Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine and Stone Temple Pilots’ Tiny Music… 

That just didn’t make sense to me. These bins are for the music of old people. Poison, BTO and Neil Diamond. Young people music doesn’t belong in these bins. When did they change that rule? Wait… did they change that rule? I’ve been denying this for years as I heard Nirvana and Weezer in Walmart and Pearl Jam started playing on the muzak at the gas station, but I think I listen to old people music now.

Soon they’ll start calling it classic rock and I’ll have to start browsing a different section at the record store. Damn. You live long enough and just more and more bad stuff starts happening.

I always hoped I’d die before I got old…

Soundgarden “Down On The Upside”


Soundgarden-DownOnTheUpside21 May 1996, A&M Records

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.

soundgarden-conan

 

The Best Singers


live-sound-microphone

I really enjoy “Best of…” lists. And I never shy away from the chance to do one for my blog.

My “Best Guitarist’s” post from last week managed to stir the pot and spark a bit of conversation. I’m hoping this post will do the same.

Of course, the problem with a “Best Singers” list is similar the problem with a “Best Guitarists” list: What am I judging them on? Do they get points for creativity? Lyrics? Emotion? I try to weigh several factors and think I came out with a list that should have something for everyone.

But I’m sure I missed a few

 

Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr Bungle, Tomahawk, Fantomas, About 12 billion others) – I like Mike Patton. He’s a phenomenal singer with a very impressive range. He should be higher on this list but I hate is that he has the same effect on grown men as the Jonas Brother’s have on 13-year-old girls.

GG Allin covered in his own shit and still singing.

GG Allin covered in his own shit and still singing.

GG Allin – To this day he’s the only man I’ve ever seen take a shit on stage and not miss a note. Not that that’s a good thing, but it is really impressive.

Simon & Garfunkel – These two were way more than the sum of their parts. Paul Simon always wrote great songs, but they never shined as bright without him harmonizing with Art Garfunkel.

Tom Waits – Anyone who can have such a long and prolific career while sounding like they’re gargling gravel and broken glass is OK in my book.

Layne Staley (Alice in Chains, Mad Season, Class of ’99) – The thing that always impressed me most about Staley was how he could take songs like “Rooster” and “Would?” that were written by Jerry Cantrell and pump so much emotion into them.

Meat Loaf – I’ve heard a few people say that they don’t enjoy the way Meat Load mixes opera singing with hard rock. That usually ends the conversation for me.

Adele – I love that deep, smoky, soulful voice. She sings like a black girl. Which makes me think I must be racist because I didn’t put Tina Turner or Gladys Knight on here.

Elton John – I want to make a gay joke here, but I’m not that crude. So I’ll just let Tenacious D do it.

 

Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, Audioslave, Solo) – Not only does he have the most impressive set of pipes this side of 1988, he also writes some of the craziest lyrics this side of Dax Riggs.

Leonard Cohen – In ‘Tower of Song’ he sings: “I was born like this I had no choice, I was born with the gift of a golden voice.” But I’ve heard some of his older stuff and I don’t think he really started to shine until the mid-Eighties.

 

For more of these lists check out:

The Best Bassists

The Best Drummers

 

Book Review- Alice in Chains: The Untold Story by David de Sola


Alice in Chains: The Untold StoryWhen I was 15 I took a vacation to stay with my Uncle and his family. They lived about 30 minutes south of Seattle. Because I didn’t know my uncle, aunt or cousin very well (and because I’m a rather bookish fellow anyway) I spent most of the first in their vast library getting to know John Steinbeck. I remember that very well because Of Mice and Men is still the only book to ever bring tears to my eyes.

That’s not to say David de Sola’s biography of Alice in Chains didn’t come really damn close.

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this book. I knew it would probably be a downer. It’s like the movie Titanic, you know how it’s going to end. It’s not like I thought it would be a laugh-a-minute page turner like Paul Beatty’s The Sellout or a thought provoking satire a la Chuck Pahalniuk, but sometimes you’re just not prepared. Hats off to Mr. de Sola, somebody had to write this book and I’m glad it wasn’t me. I guess I was hoping more of that joyful humor that characterized their interviews and TV appearances would be at the forefront. It’s definitely present, but not enough to offset the darkness.

I don’t think calling it “The Untold Story” is accurate. It is the story that everyone knows, only it goes a little deeper and features credible sources. I was really interested in reading about time spent in the studio and what they did to get their sound. It’s amazing that “Angry Chair” has something like 19 different vocal tracks. I was also surprised to read that Layne didn’t start heroin until after Facelift. I always assumed “Real Thing” was about trying to kick that habit.

I did find it surprising that Mike Starr and Mike Inez usually wrote their own bass lines. I always assumed Jerry Cantrell had a big hand in that because of the similarities between “Rooster” and “No Excuses.” I was also surprised to read that Jerry and Sean Kinney claim to have never taken heroin. I always thought they were guilty by association. The book does talk about Kinney’s alcoholism and Cantrell’s addictions, though it never mentions a drug of choice for him.

Demri Parrott and Layne Staley

Demri Parrott and Layne Staley

My biggest bitch with the book is that it’s more of a biography of Layne Staley than of AIC. I suppose this makes sense because he was the face of the band and the one who put the whole thing together, but I would have liked to learn more about Jerry, Sean and the Mikes. There was a lot more detail on Layne’s longtime girlfriend Demri Parrott (pronounced Pear-o) and Mad Season bassist John Baker Saunders than of his AIC band mates. I understand that the deaths of these people affected Staley in a profound way, and thus affected AIC in a profound way, but I would have liked more info about what the band was doing.

I’m sure this is a must-read for any die hard Alice in Chains fans. And it is worth the time and money as it is greatly researched and nicely written. Casual fans may enjoy it too, but you might want to get a library copy.

#top15onthe15th


I love a great list post. They’re easy to do and usually get a respectable number of views. So when I read about the Top 15 for September 2015 over at 1001albumsin10years I was ready to go. I immediately began compiling the list of my favorite albums of all time (at this particular moment). This was a massive undertaking that took me about the same amount of time as any other post.

And don’t try to argue with me about the order and/or inclusion/exclusion of any particular album. I used the highly scientific method of my own personal preferences so you can’t argue with me! The only condition I set was that I wouldn’t include two albums by the same band. Looking back, I wish I’d set a limit on years (It’s almost exclusively 1994 and 1996).

But enough preface – Let’s Go!

 

the offspring smash cover15 The Offspring Smash (1994) The crown jewel in the early 90’s punk revival.

14 Acid Bath Paegan Terrorism Tactics (1996) The crown jewel in southern-sludge-doom metal.

13 Pink Floyd The Wall  (1979) This was one of my favorite albums in high school. Does everyone go through a time in their lives when this album describes everything you feel about the world? It sure seems to touch on some pretty universal themes.

12 Queens of the Stone Age Songs For The Deaf (2002) Oddly enough, I’ve never been able to get into any QOTSA albums aside from this one. It’s just so great that all of their other work pales in comparison. It’s definitely one of those ‘lightning in a bottle’ albums.

11 Pantera The Great Southern Trendkill (1996) You know the big 4 of 80’s thrash metal? Fuck ’em. Pantera could chew them all up and spit them out. Trendkill makes this list because I find it to be the most cohesive of their albums and it contains Dimebag’s best solo, “Floods.”

 

10 Soundgarden Superunknown (1994)

9 Pearl Jam Ten (1991) – I can still remember the first time I heard this album. I’d already heard a lot of hullabaloo about Pearl Jam and after listening I just though ‘So that’s what all the fuss is about.’

8 Weezer S/T (The Blue Album) (1994)

Electric Larryland7 The Butthole Surfers Electric Larryland (1996) This album is the greatest mixture of noise rock and pop punk ever recorded. I did have Nirvana in this slot, but I think I like the Butthole Surfers better.

6 The Beatles S/T (The White Album) (1968) The Beatles should appear on every best of list. The trouble is that it’s extremely difficult to pick just one Beatles album to put on a best of list. I cheated by choosing the double album.

5 Elton John Tumbleweed Connection (1970) I find it extremely difficult to choose between this, Madman Across the Water and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. I could have easily put them all on this list, but I didn’t want it to just be a list of my favorite Elton John albums. This one wins because there are no songs on it that I don’t love. I don’t love “Indian Sunset” or “Gray Seal.”

4 Nine Inch Nails The Downward Spiral (1994) I was a really depressed teenager. This album helped me to make it through those dark years by letting me know I wasn’t alone in feeling the way I did.

Ramones_-_Ramones_cover3 The Ramones S/T (1976) The prototype for the greatest American rock and roll band… and for the thousands who would imitate them.

2 Alice in Chains Jar of Flies (1994) This album makes it onto this list for the same reason as The Downward Spiral, but appealed to a different part of depression.

 

1 Temple of the Dog S/T (1991) May not be the #1 album ever, but it’s definitely the best album from the 90’s. And probably the 80’s too.

 

So there’s my list. What do you think? I love this event and I’d be down to doing it every few years. Mainly just to see how these lists change. And the best part is that now I have a pretty cool list of albums to review in the near future.

Make sure you stop by Lebrain’s site as he did the heavy lifting and linked to all the sites of people participating in this event.