SOUNDGARDEN — Superunknown (review)

SOUNDGARDEN — Superunknown album cover Album · 1994 · Heavy Alternative Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
As another fallen hero joins the ranks of the many others who checked out far too soon, it’s time to dust off one of my favorite albums from the 90s and revisit to pay homage to the great Chris Cornell who possessed one of the greatest sets of vocal chords in all of rock history much less the alternative 90s where he and SOUNDGARDEN dominated for a few short years before their own demise as a band. As the 80s had reached the tipping point into the 90s the alternative rock and metal worlds were quickly gaining momentum but SOUNDGARDEN had had a head start forming all the way back in 1984, giving them a full decade of honing their chops to become one of the biggest bands of the alternative era and with their fourth album SUPERUNKNOWN they hit payday and not only created one of the most commercially successful artifacts that the 90s had to offer but also created one of most perfected pieces of art all dressed up in grunge and metal that still sounds as stunning today as it did when it hit #1 on the Billboard charts and became certified platinum five times over.

While Chris Cornell and company had been active for a decade, they had slowly built momentum and gained a lot of recognition as a part of the famous Lallpalooza festival started by Jane’s Addiction and by the time they released “Badmotorfinger” they had quite the substantial following, however nothing would prepare them for the success of SUPERUNKNOWN which joins the ranks of Nirvana’s “Nevermind” and Alice In Chains’ “Dirt” as one of the most successful grunge albums of the 90s. However, despite the similarities that SOUNDGARDEN shared with other grunge artists of the era, they were quite a bit different in many ways and were what i deem to be the musician’s grunge band for they had a diversity and sophistication that absolutely no other could match. SUPERUNKNOWN is where all their stars aligned and displays their sound at its pinnacle and as far as i’m concerned the ONLY album of theirs that is perfect from beginning to end without a shred of filler which all their other albums unfortunately suffered from.

The 90s was somewhat polarizing as 80s metal lovers resented the onslaught of the filthy grunge acts slaying their icons into the uncool bin but SOUNDGARDEN was much smarter than the average bear and was one of the few grunge acts who successfully won over both crowds by keeping their core metal values developed in the 80s in tact and fluffing them up with the newest grunge technology. Once again, a testament to their decade run ahead of pack developing their alternative sound and taking the Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath elements to a new level. SOUNDGARDEN gained a huge following solely by the sophistication of the compositions which when compared to the likes of their contemporaries were on an entire different playing field. While sonically disguised as punk laden pop rock songs with one catchy hook after another, the tracks differed significantly from each other and much of this was taken right out of the Beatles playbook by employing alternative tunings for most of the tracks and even adding progressive touches with unthinkable time signatures like 15/8 (“Limo Wreck”), 5/4 (“My Wave”), 7/4 (parts of “Spoonman”) and the touched by God track “Black Hole Sun” which alternated between 4/4 and 9/8, a song so utterly brilliant that i still get shivers when i listen to its perfection (not to mention that cooler than fuck video!) Not to mention other influences like the Middle Eastern vibes on “Half.”

While lyrically the album deals with everything dark and depressive under the moon as it tackles drug abuse, suicide, death and alienation and perhaps could be deemed a lighter fluffier version of the death, black and doom metal emerging at the same time, it never feels like a jump-off-the-cliff-after-slashing-your-wrists-with-a-razor-blad type of album as the musical hooks are just so feel good and the band’s instrumental and experimental formula gels so cohesively, not to mention Chris Cornell’s smooth-tongued vocals suavely polishing every distorted grungy riff they soar around. This is simply one of those albums that i played to death at one time and then like many others, my tastes broadened, my musical tentacles expanded and sampled and digested a gazillion other styles of music but as i revisit this monumental musical experience in my life again in memorial of one of the great vocalists who passed on far too soon, i am once again awestruck with SUPERUNKNOWN and experiencing it like i did for the first time. Not too many times you get to lose your virginity twice in life! Masterpiece of the ages!
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aglasshouse wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Personally I don't think this album's amazing, but good review nonetheless.
siLLy puPPy wrote:
more than 2 years ago
I'm a fan of Down On The Upside. Well the first half at least. I've listened to the first half a million times and still can't remember how the album ends! Review next on that one :)
Unitron wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Oh, and that album cover! It scared the hell out of me as a kid back when I first saw it, but loved it at the same time because of that. It's so ominous, and you really can't guess what could be lurking beyond the cover until you listen to the album.
Unitron wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Great review, I love this one like I do all of Soundgarden's albums minus Down on the Upside. The previous two albums are my favorites, and two of my all time favorite albums, but this one has some my favorite tracks as well. "Mailman", "Let Me Drown", "4th of July", and the title track are especially amazing. I always get such a nostalgia trip when I hear the title track, it takes me right back to playing Road Rash as a kid.


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