Deep Album Cuts Vol. 92: Soundgarden

I've long wanted to do a Soundgarden playlist in this series (in fact I'd done one focusing on Ben Shepherd's writing contributions), and with the recent reissue of Ultramega OK, I was excited to finally do it soon with all the band's albums now readily available. But now, as I often find myself doing for this series, I'm doing it to mark a much sadder occasion than I'd planned, with the death of Chris Cornell earlier this week.

Like a lot of kids of my generation, I came around to Soundgarden after first taking notice of their more famous peers. But they quickly came to mean a lot to me, particularly after Christmas 1992, when my brother received Badmotorfinger as a gift and I received Temple Of The Dog. It's hard to think of many people who wrote two albums that good and that different in the same year as Chris Cornell did in 1991, particular when you consider that he made a 3rd album, an acoustic solo record, as a goof in the same timeframe while working on the film Singles (and the movie's soundtrack, as it happens, was reissued this week with some more of those Cornell songs from the batch that begat "Seasons").

But a couple years later, Superunknown really was what made me a rabid fan of the band. I'd still probably single it out as the best giant multiplatinum blockbuster rock album of the '90s, which is a pretty competitive field to say the least. At a time when I was just starting to play drums and understand time signature besides 4/4, Soundgarden was one of the bands that made me excited to decode the rhythms behind the riffs. But they never got bogged down in the complexity of their time signatures and alternate tunings, there was always a beautiful melody and a striking lyric to go with it. I still most love rock records that are loud but also pretty but also strange and surprising, and that's one of the albums that set that standard for me.

Chris Cornell's passing especially saddens me because I always thought of him as the dogged survivor of Seattle rock, the one who lived to pay tribute to Andrew Wood and to mourn Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley. He'd had his own addiction issues and there was an undeniable darkness to his music, but even compared to Eddie Vedder's reluctant dance with fame, Chris Cornell seemed like the well adjusted grunge frontman who openly embraced rock stardom. Out of his peers, he was the guy made the most bombastic, stadium-friendly music, had the most conventionally beautiful singing voice, performed shirtless, and looked so much like a perfect central casting rock star that he probably would've been regarded with suspicion and resentment if he wasn't such an undeniably prolific, inventive songwriter. It just goes to show that we don't know that much, out here looking in on someone's life.

Soundgarden Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Holy Water
2. Superunknown
3. Slaves & Bulldozers
4. No Attention
5. Fresh Tendrils
6. Uncovered
7. Kingdom Of Come
8. Mind Riot
9. 4th Of July
10. Never Named
11. Mood For Trouble
12. Big Dumb Sex
13. Nothing To Say
14. Dusty
15. A Thousand Days Before
16. Head Down
17. Searching With My Good Eye Closed

Track 13 from Screaming Life EP (1987)
Track 7 from Fopp EP (1988)
Track 11 from Ultramega OK (1988)
Tracks 6 and 12 from Louder Than Love (1989)
Tracks 1, 3, 8 and 17 from Badmotorfinger (1991)
Tracks 2, 5, 9 and 16 from Superunknown (1994)
Tracks 4, 10 and 14 from Down On The Upside (1996)
Track 15 from King Animal (2012)

There are really too many great songs that were never singles, on Superunknown and Badmotorfinger in particular, that I really just had to go with my mood this week to make picks. I put Superunknown on in the car on Thursday and screamed along at ridiculous volumes, but that's something I do about once a month anyway, that album never leaves my car.

I snapped up the band's early records after falling in love with Superunknown, and while there are some scattered great songs on there, the Ben Shepherd lineup is really where everything falls into place for me. But it's fun to go back now and hear Chris Cornell's ear for a hook developing early on, even when they were overall a darker and heavier band. And even if Down On The Upside is one of those records that feels like the band had already undeniably reached their pinnacle and couldn't top their last album, it's an incredibly generous and enjoyable record, far more full of textures and ideas and personality than the albums that accompany a sales slump. I saw the band live once, at Lollapalooza 1996, and they were fucking incredible. I'm mad at myself today for not catching one of the band's recent reunion tours, but King Animal was a pretty good record, and I was just so happy to see the band get a few more good years in. Chris Cornell made plenty of good music outside of Soundgarden, but they were absolutely his crowning accomplishment.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
Vol. 54: David Bowie
Vol. 55: The Eagles
Vol. 56: The Beatles
Vol. 57: Beyonce
Vol. 58: Beanie Sigel
Vol. 59: A Tribe Called Quest
Vol. 60: Cheap Trick
Vol. 61: Guns N' Roses
Vol. 62: The Posies
Vol. 63: The Time
Vol. 64: Gucci Mane
Vol. 65: Violent Femmes
Vol. 66: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Vol. 67: Maxwell
Vol. 68: Parliament-Funkadelic
Vol. 69: Chevelle
Vol. 70: Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
Vol. 71: Fantasia
Vol. 72: Heart
Vol. 73: Pitbull
Vol. 74: Nas
Vol. 75: Monica
Vol. 76: The Cars
Vol. 77: 112
Vol. 78: 2Pac
Vol. 79: Nelly
Vol. 80: Meat Loaf
Vol. 81: AC/DC
Vol. 82: Bruce Springsteen
Vol. 83: Pearl Jam
Vol. 84: Green Day
Vol. 85: George Michael and Wham!
Vol. 86: New Edition
Vol. 87: Chuck Berry
Vol. 88: Electric Light Orchestra
Vol. 89: Chic
Vol. 90: Journey
Vol. 91: Yes
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