90’s Score – 8.3/10
2020 Score – 9.7/10
Taking a trip down memory lane is what these adorable rearviewmirror pieces are all about. Being the absolute fucking grouch that I am however, I’m going to give you guys a very different history lesson before I go splooging over one of the 90’s greatest compilation of pure fucking art. I remember one of the most unpleasant and ignorant conversations I ever had on the topic of music with the person I despise most in this world when attempting to discuss art. I had just bought tickets to the twenty year anniversary tour of Superunknown, of which I was attending with the two most die hard Soundgarden fans I know (I’m honored to call both my closest friends in the world). Said unpleasant conversation partner balked at the purchase, claiming that said band were not worth it, were only good for one song, and that somehow one of the greatest singers to ever grace the face of the earth was only capable of one monotonous “low” note. If I could have contracted Ebola from a conversation, this would have been it. Every part of me wants to believe that this is an isolated incident, but it isn’t. Some people only know Soundgarden for “Black Hole Sun” and have the tumor inducing idea that the incomparable Chris Cornell (may his awkward and tormented soul rest) WASN’T in fact a fucking siren capable of hair raising feats with his vocal chords alone.
It’s easy to brush yourself up on the actual history behind this record, it’s inception, and its intense accolades. The issue is eradicating ignorance enforcing an image of monotony towards a band with such depth and colour that is, for the most part, completely indescribable. The hilarious part about said mission is that if you’re asking me, Superunknown, the very birthplace of said ignorant image, is a fucking spectacular starting point for any departure into the thick cornucopia that is the creativity of these four Seattle, WA legends. This record sits staunchly in the midst of the Soundgarden creative whirlpool, coming post Badmotorfinger, and saw the band taking a significantly more radio friendly yet infinitely more ambient approach for this product, while still slinging mighty riffages and fuckin big brain compositions, thus walking away with something digestible and yet earth shattering. Few hardcore fans (of which I’m still not admittedly) would see Superunknown as a masterpiece, which is where I like to go more the route of introducing this effort as a gateway drug into the void.
She’s got everything from the range of feelings one hopes to gather from a record. Songs like “My Wave,” “Fell On Black Days,” and “The Day I Tried To Live” lend to the digestibility with easy listening rock vibes, big choruses, and catchy hooks. Ambient and skin deep emotion creep and crawl their way inside you with tunes like “Mailman,” closing track “Like Suicide,” and the ever transcendant “Black Hole Sun.” The underrated shit kicker that is “Spoonman,” and title track “Superunknown” rip through you like twenty dollars worth of Taco Bell with magnificent riff work courtesy of both guitarist Kim Thayil and of course Cornell himself, and the thunderous bellows of my personal go to, “4th Of July,” could quite factually shake the change out of your asshole as if Chewbacca was hanging you from your short and curlies during a brisk lunch hour in grade school. I haven’t even remotely scraped the surface of the capabilities this record has and I’ve loosely described you to nine out of fifteen tracks on this powerhouse.
I haven’t touched on the blues elements, I haven’t touched on the latent notes of thrash and late stage 80’s heavy metal, I haven’t really touched on the ethereal and rapturous vocal compositions, or the sheer acid trip of songs like “Half,” and I sure as hell couldn’t begin to make reference to the impeccable recording quality as I’m far from qualified to even try.
This record takes you places and is not even the tip of the proverbial iceberg in this ensemble’s discography, but could make use of being a stellar starting point as it did for me. I walked into my Soundgarden journey like some of you, merely a few years ago, only knowing “Black Hole Sun” from the fuckin radio, blind to what an intense universe it would take me to, guided by people I love with all my little booze soaked heart. That very concert I spoke of earlier is still to this day one of the most impressive displays of god given talent I’ve ever witnessed, and was prefaced with still one of the most close minded conversations about a band I’ve ever had (which fucking says something coming from me). This is all while remembering that I only embarked on this journey through “history” not so long ago that memory still serves. “A few years ago”, this record came out in the fuckin 90’s, which whether we like it or not, was two decades ago. Open your mind, close your asshole, and take your trip through time and space kids. That or just keep reading our rearviews, I’m not particularly fucking picky about it.
Written by Jason Greenberg
*Edited by Dominic Abate