Yes, I am obsessed with Soundgarden…Chris Cornell*, Ben Shepherd, Kim Thayil and Matt Cameron.
I have been for more than twenty years and there’s a certain dignity to being able to say that – or maybe I’m just old and don’t know the difference. Regardless, I’ve grown up with Soundgarden. The first time I saw them live was 1992 and for 20+ years they’ve been the one band that has a place, all it’s own, in my heart. But don’t think I didn’t buy their new album, King Animal (their first in 16-years), without skepticism, I had my doubts Soundgarden would have an album as powerful as they did in the 90s. I did see a reunited Soundgarden perform live in 2010 though (read my review of the show), and that show stayed with me for DAYS afterward so I knew they could rock their old stuff, but still, I went into their new album with caution – only because I was afraid of a letdown.
I was anything BUT.
I’ve listened to King Animal for about a week now, and have given it time to resonate with me to see how I truly feel about it. My first advice to you, is
if when you purchase it on iTunes that you splurge on the Deluxe Version. I think it cost $5 more, but you get 4 more tracks, all demos, and a digital King Animal booklet with photos and lyrics. Worth it.
The only song I’d heard from Soundgarden’s new album before buying it was “Been Away Too Long” (below), which I didn’t love right away. I took me about four listens to really get into it, and to make sense of its chaotic twists. I think it’s a great song, and definitely a strong single, but there are even better tracks on the album.
Non State Actor: The driving riff that Soundgarden made famous can be found in this song. Ooooh, this one is good. Of all the songs on King Animal, I think this one is most reminscent of early Soundgarden. It’s hard hitting, with lots of fancy bass lines by Shepherd and Cameron is banging the shit out of those drums. Listen for yourself, powerful.
Black Saturday: Possibly my favorite song on King Animal, Cornell’s vocals are impeccable. It starts lightly with bongos, acoustic guitar and Chris’ soothing vocals then gradually builds to a witchy, haunting, in-your-face track. Classic Soundgarden. From soft – to f***ing louder than love, baby.
Worse Dreams: Do I detect a hint of jazz? Creepy, dark, jazz, nonetheless (thanks to the bass line), but the opening is kinda snazzy jazzy. It turns loud and raging, then back to creepy crawly smooth jazz. This song starts clean and crisp and then explodes with Cameron’s insane drums and Cornell’s powerful scream.
Rowing: A slow grinding, catchy song, it drudges along like an unfailing industrial machine. It’s moody, somewhat dark, and you’ll find yourself singing along. Oh, and Kim Thayil has an outstanding guitar solo about 3/4 of the way through. Listen to Ben Shepherd talking about how the the song came about below:
I could sit here and write about each track individually, but I’m just going to say flat out, this album FAR exceeded my expectations and is unrelenting from beginning to end. It’s rare you find that nowadays, but Soundgarden has always delivered consistently amazing albums that are never, ever carried by just one or two strong songs. They continue on with that tradition on King Animal.
Congratulations, guys, it’s like you never left.
Soundgarden King Animal tracklist:
1. Been Away Too Long
2. Non-State Actor
3. By Crooked Steps
4. A Thousand Days Before
5. Blood On The Valley Floor
6. Bones of Birds
9. Black Saturday
10. Halfway There
11. Worse Dreams
12. Eyelid’s Mouth
DELUXE Version also includes:
14. Worse Dreams (demo)
15. Black Saturday (demo)
16. Crooked Steps (demo)
17. Halfway There (demo)
*Yes. Chris Cornell is still just as gorgeous as he was 20-years ago. Even more so. Just had to throw that in there.
See you at the Paramount Theatre on 2/7-8 in Seattle. Of course I’ll be reviewing the shows! – Spicy