Chris Cornell has been involved in various things through the years, and before this point the only one of his projects I’d listened to was Audioslave. Admittedly, Audioslave is a fantastic one if any to start on; but based on how good Superunknown is I think it’s got some competition.
The album starts very strongly with Let Me Drown, which is probably the song on the album which sounds most like Audioslave. It’s powerful, catchy, fast-paced and enjoyable to listen to; as the power chords drive the song along with a great riff or two, and Cornell doesn’t disappoint. I liked the song at first, but now I love it. Fantastic first song.
Next is My Wave, which continues in a similar fashion with the riffage and prominence of the power chords. Nonetheless, it’s not as heavy and it’s more about the melodies, as it’s even more catchy.
Fell on Black Days, the next track, takes a different style. With less power chords, a slower tempo and not a lot of belting going on, it’s not as rocking – as I like to put it. Certainly not as good a song, but still a good listen — pretty catchy at least. Mailman, the next song, also takes a unique turn. Much darker, bassier, and with that same slower tempo, but as well as the heaviness of the first two tracks. It’s chunky, I guess. Quite like Audioslave actually. The melodies aren’t quite as strong as in the first three tracks, but it remains a good song as a result of the musicality on display.
Then, out of nowhere, comes Superunknown. Now, before this track I was enjoying the album. After this track, I was left wondering how the hell the same band that wrote the first four tracks could write a song so out of this world as Superunknown. This song is surely where Soundgarden got all of its praise. Immense varied guitar work, a brilliantly fast tempo, perfectly performed vocals and variation in every section of the song, along with a build up in volume and an incredible last two minutes make Superunknown one of the best rock songs of all time. It’s also got about 5 guitar tracks going through it, and it feels a lot like a psychedelic trip to boot. It’s incredible in every department.
Nevertheless, the rest of the album doesn’t come near to that song’s quality, other than some that scratch its surface, like Let Me Drown and The Day I Tried to Live. Especially not Black Hole Sun, anyway. The most famous Soundgarden song, and a grammy winner, it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A lack of musical backbone, power or a particularly great melody makes it the worst song on the album. There’s also a couple of other songs that bring down the album a little, like Half and Kickstand, which I conclude to be a bit odd, as songs go — Head Down is pretty good, in instrumental terms, though.
Inconsistency is this album’s issue. One of the songs is one of my favourite songs ever. 4 or 5 of the other songs are fantastic. A few of them are good. And then there’s three that I don’t quite understand. Even so, there isn’t a bad song on the record, and the immense guitar work and vocals along with the handful of amazing songs — and, oh yeah, one of my favourite songs ever — more than makes up for the issues the album has.
Superunknown is a cauldron of ideas, some result in utter brilliance, some don’t get so good results. For the most part, though, I can see why this album got so much praise as it got. The guitar work is some of the best I’ve ever heard, the vocals are the same, and the drumming and bass is also damn impressive. Also, Superunknown (the song) has to be heard to be believed. Even so, don’t expect a masterpiece, because inconsistency is an issue.
HERE’S REUBEN FROM 2017 SPEAKING AND VOICING HIS OPINION FROM THE WEEK AFTER THIS REVIEW AND ONWARDS, I MEAN, IT WAS A FAIR REVIEW AND I UNDERSTAND HOW I FELT AT THE TIME, BUT STILL, I NEED TO RECTIFY IT:
It’s pretty much perfect. It’s one of the best rock albums of all time, and my joint favourite grunge album with Pearl Jam’s Ten. It’s filled to the brim with Chris Cornell’s immense vocals and lyricism, Kim Thayil’s winding and awe-inspiring guitar work, pounding bass from Ben Shepard and Matt Cameron’s ever-solid drumbeats. It’s poignant in its somber moments like in Like Suicide and 4th of July, infectiously energetic in awesomeness like the title track and Spoonman, powerful and goose-bump wielding in mixtures like Fresh Tendrils and The Day I Tried To Live, catchy and listenable in tracks like Fell on Black Days and Black Hole Sun, and interesting and musically impressive in the odder cuts such as Head Down and Half. Superunknown is Soundgarden’s magnum opus and it is one of the essential albums of our times.
(Original score was 87)