Friday, October 21, 2011

2011 Voodoo Experience Band Showcase: Soundgarden

Rock The Body Electric will be covering this years Voodoo Experience.  Leading up to the event we will be showcasing some of the acts who are playing the event, today the spotlight shines on: Soundgarden.

The band Plays Friday October 28th, Set Time: 9:00pm on Le Ritual Stage
The summer of 2010 saw the return of one of the 1990's most revered musical acts, Seattle's own Soundgarden.  They reunited to play the quintessential 90's concert Lollapalooza in Chicago and this summer saw them touring in a limited around the United States.  Headlining this years Voodoo Experience was welcomed news for fans of the band, giving them another destination escape to catch the foursome in a headlining format.

It is impossible to think of Soundgarden and not call back the days when Grunge ruled the airwaves.  When Nevermind changed the landscape of popular music in 1991 it brought along a few other bands in its wake, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden where the biggest.  Out of that group Soundgarden always seemed the most metal, primarily due to Kim Thayil's cutting guitar leads.
The group had a bit of a cleaner sound then some of their grunge piers that gave them that slightly metal feel, and Chris Cornell's soaring front-man pipes added to that feel even more.  Matt Cameron is such a perfect fit in Pearl Jam these days that it is odd to remember him as Soundgarden's thumping force, proving he is one of the best rock and roll drummers playing today.  The group had a distinct edge and were the first of the "grunge" bands to sign a major label deal.

My first exposure to them was the combined EP of Screaming Life/Fopp.  I enjoyed their sound and particularly liked the bass thumping of Hiro Yamamoto, and was disappointed to learn that he quickly left the band after these EP's.  "Hand of God" was the tune that stuck with me for the rock bottom sound:

The group hit the big time with1991's Badmotorfinger taking over MTV and propelling them to great heights. "Rusty Cage" "Outshine" and "Jesus Christ Pose" are all burners in that metallic vein.

However, it was their next album that really blew up, 1994's Superunknown.  A massive album in size and scope the group blew it out with some incredibly memorable tunes.  "Black Hole Sun" sounds like a distorted Beatles track that just found the light of day in the mid-90's, "Spoonman" is a fun romp and "Like Suicide" is a powerful closer.

The release always felt like a double album to me, and one that could be a bit overwhelming at times, but the high points were certainly there.  For me the two best tracks were the powerfuly bleak "The Day I Tried To Live"

and the riff fest of "My Wave"
The follow up was titled Down on the Upside and was successful but not as critically vaunted as the previous albums and the band parted ways not too long after citing "creative differences".   
Cornell went on to mega success with Audioslave and his solo career and this reunion has been waited for with baited breath by fans of the band, it is good to see them putting aside differences and playing to large crowds again.   

Personal take:
Soundgarden's talent is undeniable and their sound is heavy, yet cleaner then most of their peers, but what always kept me at bay were Cornell's lyrics.  He is a great frontman, and can wail with any of the all-time greats, but his lyrics seem to wallow in despair and not have particularity much to say about things.  At the peak of their fame too he always came off pompous in interviews, not that it matters much, but I could never really identify with what he was getting at.  Among the grunge groups they were only my 4th or 5th favorite at the time and I haven't returned to their catalog in sometime.  Here's hoping their Voodoo Experience set gets me to dust off their old CD's in my collection.       

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