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.

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

The Best (Or Worst) Description of a Band Ever


Life of AgonyAs a writer I’m interested in the written word. I’ve been an avid reader since I was young. I read Stephen King’s The Stand while I was still in grammar school. I remember wanting to be an archaeologist at one point, but that dream fell by the wayside pretty quickly and I started writing. I’ve been writing most of my life, whether in a journal, a short story or this blog. Even if I never make any money from it, I’m not lying when I say I’m a writer.

I’m hypersensitive to the way words go together as well as punctuation. One of my biggest pet peeves is using punctuation correctly. If you use an exclamation point in a text with me I assume you’re excited. If you end the message with an ellipsis I assume you have more to say. I don’t mean to be a Grammar Nazi, but I feel it’s essential to use the tools you have to communicate effectively, especially when using a medium where you cannot use voice inflection and body language. So that’s why IT’S VERY important to CORRectly Use punctuation and GRAMMAR to convey intentions!!!!

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard is “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” So whenever I come upon a really great way of describing something it gives me the greatest feeling in the world. I’ve noticed a few people like the “Smoke on the Water Principle (SWP).” I’m sure I wasn’t the first person to notice that, but I managed to give it a simple, clever name that’s memorable (much like the main riff to “Smoke on the Water”).

I’ve also coined terms that haven’t really stuck like “Mask Metal” (the sub-genre of heavy metal where the masks are more important than the music (Slipknot, Mushroomhead, Lordi)). I was also really proud of the term “slut pop,” but I managed to piss at least one person off with that. That describes music like Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus where a girl’s figure and risque behavior is more important than the music. I can’t remember if I didn’t consider that the term would be offensive or if I considered it and just didn’t care.

Type O NegativeIt’s always fun to try to perfectly describe a band’s sound. It’s a challenge I engage in on a near weekly basis. I remember a long time ago I was having a few beers and listening to some tunes with a friend and we put on Life of Agony. Have you ever listened to Life of Agony? Wikipedia describes them as an alternative metal band. I’ve also heard them described as New York hardcore, but neither of these descriptions really hits the nail on the head.

We were trying to come up with a great description for Life of Agony. I wanted to compare them to Soundgarden. This probably has something to do with the video for “This Time” and the singer’s haircut. Yes, both bands were popular in the early-to-mid nineties, but the similarities end there. LoA has more of a stripped down punk vibe while Soundgarden were a Zepplinesque riff machine.

We kept brainstorming, but nothing was quite right. Then we got it. I can’t remember which one of us said it, but we found the perfect sentence to describe this band.

“Life of Agony sounds like Type O Negative would if they didn’t suck.”

That sent both of us into laughing fits and hysterics. Not only does it perfectly sum up the sound of the band, but it’s also hilarious. It’s important to note that both of us are fans of Type O Negative. I really enjoy Type O Negative. But lets face it they are a little goofy. However, if you take away the goth, the keyboards, the enormous penis, the song about hair dye and insert the original drummer: you get Life of Agony.

 

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 Band?


supergroups!

Now that I’ve completed my “Best Drummers/Bassists/Guitarists/Singers” project let me tell you why I dislike the “pick 4 musicians to form your dream super group” game.

If I take the top spots from all of the lists I’ve come up with over the past month what you’d have is a band with Dave Grohl on drums, No bass player, Dave Gilmore on Guitar and Leonard Cohen singing.

The point I wanted to make there is that just because a musician is great in a certain band doesn’t mean they will be great in any band.

I gave Grohl props for being versatile and playing with many different groups, but could you imagine him jamming with Dave Gilmore? I’m not sure that heavy punk hitting would mesh well with the classic rock stylings of Pink Floyd. And then to throw Cohen in there… well now we’re just talking about a disaster. (Although I do have to admit it sounds interesting).

diamond Dave and Sammy HagarIt’s strange the how different bands can sound with the inclusion/exclusion of just one member. Would Nevermind have been such a hit if Nirvana hadn’t replaced Chad Channing with Dave Grohl? Van Halen and Van Hagar are literally two completely different bands despite being 3/4 the same. So are Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave.

And what the hell happened to Korn? They were a pretty rocking heavy metal group and then they lost their guitarist and drummer and all of the sudden they’re like a techno thing.

While most musicians do pretty well in most groups it’s still pretty interesting to think of how they’d interact. the question isn’t “which 4 musicians would be the best,” so much as it’s “what would these 4 musician sound like together?”

I wish there was an antonym for the term supergroup. I know it’s meant to convey anytime a few musicians who are already successful get together, but there should be a term that we use when they get together and it’s really awful. Like chickenfootgroup.

 

More Stupid Lists:

The Best Singers

The Best Guitarists

The Best Bassists

The Best Drummers

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