For most of my life, I was a casual Soundgarden fan. I loved a few songs, had a few albums, and had even seen them live. It was only in the last few years that I became a really big fan of the band. Got all the records, listened to them all, and finally dug my feet into how incredible this band actually was. Being a part of the Seattle grunge scene was good and bad for them I think. Often times I hear them listed last in talent among the “big four” of the scene ( Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains being the others), but they might actually be my number 2 among that group. The chords are heavy and layered, and Cornell's howl has amazing depth and range. Today I present to you my top ten songs from the Seattle noisemakers, Soundgarden.
10. Pretty Noose, Down on the Up Side
I remember when I got this album. This song was huge, and I was concerned about purchasing it because it has the “Parental Advisory” sticker on it. Even though my father had purchased it, I was terrified mother would be livid. All things considered, it's pretty funny how things change. The song itself is a pretty straight ahead jammer. Cornell's voice is clear and rough in only the way his voice can be, and the guitar work courtesy of Kim Thayil is, as expected, superb. This song doesn't get mentioned enough when considering some of the bands best work, but maybe it should.
9. Spoonman, Superunknown
One of the best, and most consistent songs from the breakthrough album “Superunknown,” “Spoonman” finds us at number nine on the list. Do I know what a “Spoonman” is? Not even slightly, but the song is pretty much bad ass. I mean, seriously, the groove in this track is grade A, and the breakdown towards the end has a really unique interesting tribal quality to it. Overall, it's one of their better known songs, and one of the reasons that “Superunknown” was as big of a hit as it was. It's easy to forget how popular this album was upon release, but judging by the reception the songs from the records received when I saw them with Nine Inch Nails in August, people still love their “Superunknown.”
8. Like Suicide, Superunknown
An underrated track in my opinion, “Like Suicide” is another example of how exquisite and exacting these dudes are at making a really even and gradually layered track. For me it's always been a song about trying to make the wrongs and rights, but it's also strangely dark and poignant. It's even more refreshing and emotional given the way in which certain counterparts of the early Seattle scene departed the earth. It's not an in your face type track, but that's one of the things I like so much about it. It barely even get's going at all, but at the end, there is a slight surge of energy, propelled mostly by Matt Cameron's precise drumming and the range and scope that only Chris Cornell is capable of.
7. Rusty Cage, Badmotorfinger
Ok, so the shredding on this track in un-fucking-believeable. For real, dat guitar though. Even for a song that might as well be about escaping the clutches of a sadistic murderer, it's very well crafted and then once again, the guitar work is flawless. Soundgarden has always been known for Cornell's voice mostly, but the work by the remainder of the band is excellent throughout all of their catalog. Seeing it live is as heavy and sonic as you might imagine, and it was one of the better parts of the show. I'm not really sure what to say to make this point any more obvious, but “Rusty Cage” is a rocker, and one of the early and best examples of how heavy this band would end up being.
6. Jesus Christ Pose, Badmotorfinger
Another heavy ass track, and this time the subject matter is pretty dark. “Jesus Christ Pose” is one of the better instances in this band where the musical aspect of the song is as ominous and menacing as the lyrical section. For anyone who's religious, you clearly get the message, and it's not terribly uplifting at all. The guitar almost howls in the night sky while Cornell wails about being hoisted up, bled out, and taken for granted, much in the same way that “Jesus Christ” might have been. Hearing the song now makes me wonder what kind of religious background the group has( if any), but just listening to the track, you have to assume that whatever views they have, they probably aren't optimistic.
5. Burden in my Hand, Down on the Upside
One of the best starting points I've heard this band deliver. From the first second, we are met by the raspy voice of Cornell. The imagery set up here is also really purposeful and great. The story being told is classic Soundgarden, and it's one of the things they do well. Everything works here. During this album the band found themselves going even further away from the grunge roots of their early releases, but this was always going to be a band that evolved. In the early albums you wouldn't have ever heard an acoustic guitar and piano, but time and age add depth, and the band accepted and embraced it, Yeah, this song is a fairly well known track, but it delivers well on everything it's trying to do and makes you want more.
4. Searching with My Good Eye Closed, Badmotorfinger
Easily in my top five best openings in a song ever, The monologue is enticing and evil, and the soaring drums and power of the guitar are simply flawless. Seeing this as the show opener in August was very powerful and a great way to dive into a nice mid-evening set. There's simply nothing about the song I don't like. The distant sounding vocals easily knock it out of the park into another territory, and overall, it's just a bad ass song.
3. My Wave, Superunknown
For some reason I had forgotten that this song was actually a Soundgarden song, and that in fact, I loved it. Again, to the point of redundancy, the guitars are epic and loud, and overall, the song is just so so solid. The lyrics are defiant and deliberate in the way that some of their other tunes simply aren't. Also, the title of the song always makes me think of a horrible video of the 90's that would see Chris Cornell surfing a wave and singing at the same time. Thank god they didn't opt for that treatment. Either way, it's a full throttle song and it's built without effort from the ground up. Really a gem.
2. Blow Up the Outside World, Down on the Upside
The quiet opening of the song and the gentle nature of the vocals make you think this might not end up being another heavy ass song, but by the second verse, drums are progressing nicely and you can hear the water start to boil over. Then the chorus hits and Cornell's voice does some of the best work he's ever done in my opinion. For me, the song is also a declaration of power, and how the character in the song has his mind set on making things work out for him. Whether or not he actually succeeds is anyone's guess, but the song is amazing and one that simply won't leave my body, even though I've heard it countless times.
1. The Day I Tried to Live, Superunknown
And finally, we come to number one. Literally since the day I heard this song, it became one of my favorite all time songs. This is Soundgarden at their ultimate best. We haven't really mentioned bassist Ben Shepard yet, but the bass work this time goes so well with the overall song it deserves to be acknowledged. Also, I'm not in tune with musical instruments, but it's always great when you can hear one full sound instead of hearing only certain elements. That's what makes a great band. Especially here they meld and create something so tightly woven that even if one part was missing, the whole song wouldn't be nearly as good. All of it works, which is why it's my all time favorite Soundgarden song. I hope you enjoyed, Thanks for reading
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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