March 8, 1994
For decades Soundgarden has been a mainstay in my CD player. I haven’t heard a record from them I didn’t like. My favorite album is Louder Than Love, but I am here to tell you about the album that put them over the top commercially. (Badmotorfinger was a huge success, but) Superunknown had more “radio” hits and had a darker reality to it. In light of the untimely death of Chris Cornell I wish to open up to you my thoughts about the place where there is no time or space – a place where every pain is brought to life and every dark corner has no light; a universe known as the Superunknown.
The record opens up powerfully and with almost every nuance that Soundgarden is known for. “Let Me Drown” is a heavy duty number on the ears musically, and weighs heavy on the heart. If you thrash about too much, you’ll miss the deeper meaning of this song.
“My Wave” is another punk-ish ditty about people trying to push their ideology on you. The lyrics are simply explained, “Do what you want if it makes you who you are, but don’t tell me I need to be you. Surf on, just keep it off my wave.”
To mellow things out, “Fell On Black Days” is a trip through Cornell’s deepest fears and a search for a way out. This adagio does get heavy towards the end, adding emphasis and passion to what’s being sung. The next song makes no mention of the title in the song. “Mailman” is a slow groove that gives you the feeling of driving down a highway with your hand out the window, making waves to the wind.
“Superunknown” always reminds me of “Magic Bus” (The Who) and The Magical Mystery Tour (The Beatles). It has an ultra 60’s feel in the rhythms and the chorus is like a mock pop vibe. It’s like being stuck on a runaway ferris wheel. The content is like the battle of depression. He wants out, but can’t find the exit.
The mid tempo, modern psychedelia tune, “Head Down” features a rare, soft falsetto in the vocals. Kim Thayil lays on the East Indian chord progressions, but this one always saddens me when I hear it. The lyrics are all about saving face. Smile when you’re down; keep your head up when you’re sad: a game that is perfected in depression.
“Black Hole Sun” is a tune that needs no introduction. I would just copy and paste the lyrics right here; another mellow song with a heavy hand on the drums. Matt Cameron really drives this song home with his jazzy/hard rock style. Another radio favorite,”Spoonman”, is a heavy alternative song written about a dude who was (or still is) a street performer out somewhere in Seattle. The tribal atmosphere of the song is like a war dance, but only in a circular format. Aside from an outrageous guitar solo, they bring in the “Spoon man” (if you will) to shred on a spoons solo. Steal the rhythm while you can!
“Limo Wreck” is one of those songs, where you say, “You know, I’m just gonna’ sit here and watch you destroy yourself.” Too many times society is told to go right, but they want to go left. No one heeds warnings anymore, so you know what, when your world comes crashing down, don’t come crying to me!” Some days you just wish you never got out of bed. “The Day I Tried To Live” is a song about just that. Waking up to find you’re just like those snobs stealing from the poor to feed the pockets of the rich. The lyrics make it out to be a bad dream, but it’s so easy to make it a reality.
Kicking things into overdrive, “Kickstand” is 90 seconds of pure punk with metal overtones. This was always a favorite of mine. Back in the day I had an old school P.A. that sat in the middle of my bandmate’s studio. Whenever we’d relax after recording or writing, we’d prop our feet atop the P.A. One night while having many beers, listening to this record, playing dominos, “Kickstand” played. We both looked at each other and surnamed that P.A., “Kickstand”.
“Fresh Tendrils” is a somber tune that’s easy to get lost in. The beat is smooth, the guitars jangle, the bass locks in with the kick drum, and the vocals go from low to high, to higher, until glass breaks around you. The next song, “4th Of July” defines what “Grunge” is all about. From start to finish, intro to outro, beat and tone, style and feel, emotionless and numb. “Half” is a tune filled with that East Indian style riff, like a sitar on acid. Going back to a more “normal” sound is, “Like Suicide” – this one is heavy. The record ends with “She Likes Surprises”. It opens with a rich Beatles sound in the intro and verses, then slams down the grunge factor with vigor in the chorus.
As far as the releases before Superunknown, they had a much more raw edge to them. This one slows things down for the most part. The few rocking tunes really get the blood flowing, but the melancholy melodies and helpless lyrics of some of the others leave you thinking, “What the hell is he talking about?!”
Some know all too well what Chris Cornell is talking about, and hopefully as they relate to his lyrics, they can find peace and escape. I am not rating this record, I encourage you to play this on your own and come to your own conclusion.