Posts Tagged ‘Grunge’


Soundgarden – King Animal

Monday, November 19, 2012
King Animal (2012)

King Animal (2012)

We live in a time where it’s rare to see a straight up “rock” album recorded. We live in the era of space rock, indie rock, folk rock, electro-rock, etc…

That’s what King Animal is: a straight-up, no frills rock album – guitar, bass, drums, and heavy, heavy riffage. In a way, it’s refreshing in simplicity…but in another way, I kind of wish Soundgarden had pushed the envelope.

I was nervous about this for good reason. Soundgarden’s first album in 15-16 years. I had no idea what to expect, and artists are notorious for going to seed in old age. I could see King Animal going one of two ways: Soundgarden sticking to their signature sound of grungy, doomy riffage, or completely surprising everyone with something off the wall.

They decided to go the safe route. This album is a time capsule. Any of these songs could have fit on any of Soundgarden’s other albums. It’s good, it rocks, don’t get me wrong…clearly Kim Thayil hasn’t lost his touch (even if Cornell’s voice is noticeably weaker). But King Animal doesn’t stand out from the rest of their discography. I was really, really interested to see if any more modern music influenced their sound. From the few listens I’ve had, I would say no.

After all, these guys have had sixteen years to learn, grow, and listen to new stuff that might have influenced their current sound. But then again, perhaps the homage they paid to their old sound was a conscious decision. I read somewhere that there was a lot of disappointment with the release Down on the Upside because of a departure from their signature riffage.

Which would be an understandable decision. If fans have been demanding a new Soundgarden album, how cheated would many have felt if they got something un-Soundgarden-esque?

King Animal is a decent album. I just get this inkling that it could have been so much more. Then again, maybe I should just let Soundgarden be Soundgarden, and enjoy what they have offered up – a great rock album and a fitting tribute to their legacy.

Highlights: “Been Away Too Long”, “Blood on the Valley Floor”, “Black Saturday”, “Rowing”


Nirvana – Nevermind

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Nevermind (1991)

This is the most redundant review ever. But whatever.

I never really got into Nirvana. Of the Seattle Four (Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam), they probably rank third, after Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. But they are an interesting group, if only for the drama itself.

Only being 22, I don’t have the memories of the Grunge Age like people a decade older than me.  So I could never understand this band fully, or the influence and obsession associated with them.

But what I do understand are the melodies.

Not since the Beatles have I heard so many melodies on one album kept so simple yet so unique. That was one of the Beatles’ strength, and this was definitely Nirvana’s strength. The music is instantly recognizable and enjoyable, and, like the Beatles, will be listened to twenty or thirty years from now. It only takes one listen to understand emotionally somewhere where we’ve all been, even if we can’t understand it in our minds.

Because at one time we were all young. Most of us had that undirected anger and angst. At least, I did. I think Nirvana exemplified that understanding, singing feelings we couldn’t put into words.

Maybe I’m just trying to encourage the cliche of connecting Nevermind to teenage angst in a review. After all, no review of this album would be complete without it.

So that’s what this album is to me. It’s angry, it’s sorrowful, and instantly relatable. I don’t know what it taps into that gives it such a following, but perhaps it’s these feelings. I’m no psychologist, so I’ll stop trying to be one. I guess for me, it will always be the melodies of Nevermind that I’ll remember.

I’ll remember that famous opening riff of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I’ll remember the mocking tone of “In Bloom.” I’ll remember the bounce of “Come As You Are,” the reckless abandon of “Territorial Pissings,” the haunting sorrow of “Something in the Way,” among others.

This is apparently the album of Generation X. But to me, it’s not really that, because I wasn’t there. To me, it’s just music with a catchy melody that just so happened to change the world.


Alice in Chains – Jar of Flies

Thursday, February 19, 2009
Jar of Flies (1994)

Jar of Flies (1994)

To me, Jar of Flies marks the apex of Alice in Chains’s career, though excellent cases can be made for all three of their studio albums.

Only Jar of Flies is an EP. Released a couple years after the band’s most successful CD, Dirt, AiC’s Jar of Flies paints the same themetic picture, only is softer ones. Though Dirt was loud and angry, it still had some measure of hope. Jar of Flies is the surrender, the junkie’s dying whisper. Layne seems to know here that his addiction has bested him.

Though writing about drugs is somewhat cliche in the music world, Layne has a way of turning that cliche on its head. First, AiC’s music is about the despair drugs cause. You need go no farther than “Nutshell,” track two on Jar of Flies, to know what I’m talking about: “And yet I find / yet I find repeating in my head / If I can’t be my own / I’d feel better dead.”

Instead of glorifying drugs, Jar of Flies and Alice in Chains’s music condemn them by the harsh realities they depict. If you’ve listened to Alice in Chains as much as I have (mostly when I was  younger), then you know that as you listen to each album progressively, it’s tells a story, from the band’s rise to fame with Facelift in 1990 to their legendary MTV Unplugged peformance in 1996, where Staley looked almost like an emaciated scarecrow. You knew then, if you had any doubts before, how he’d meet his end (which he did in 2002).

Despite the sad story, the music is important. Not only is Jar of Flies beautiful and heartfelt, it serves as a warning to anyone willing to listen closely. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I would say this message is a great part of Layne’s legacy.

This EP is such an experience. It flows like no other – from “Rotten Apple” to “Don’t Follow”… wow. It is something (though I’m not a fan of the closer). Still, Jar of Flies is the greatest EP of the nineties.


Soundgarden – Superunknown

Sunday, January 25, 2009
Superunknown (1994)

Superunknown (1994)

I like Soundgarden. I’m not as much into them today as I once was (try a year ago), but of the Seattle Four I’d give them second place (after Alice in Chains).

I guess the main connection I have with Soundgarden was my roommate from last year liked them as well, so we listened to them quite a bit.  We pretty much decided “Head Down” and “Fourth of July” were the best tracks ever, in the whole world.

I really like Soundgarden’s indulgence in the experiemental with “Head Down’s” alternate tunings. I remember I tried playing along with it, and broke my top string because it was tuned up a whole step. Back when I was a noob…

This band had so much amazing talent. Chris Cornell’s vocals are just out of this world. Before you roll your eyes at the mention of “Chris Cornell,” forget everything’s he’s ever done after 1994. Now imagine back to the grunge era, to the glory days as I like to call them.

Now that we’ve set the scene,  listen to “Slaves and Bulldozers” on YouTube, off their album Badmotorfinger, released in 1991. Epic. Absolutely epic. Chris Cornell’s crowning achivement.

Well, looks like I set out to talk about Superunkown and ended up on Badmotorfinger. Oh well. Two birds, one review.