Original Release Date: March 8, 1994
Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums: #336
Chris Cornell: Vocals/Guitar (One of the most amazing voices ever)
Kim Thayil: Lead Guitar (Distorted and Drop-D solos are awesome)
Matt Cameron: Drums (Normal drumming, but some cool fills)
Ben Shepard: Bass (Creaky, chugging bass riffs like Paul D'Amour [ex-Tool])
Soundgarden's "Superunknown" is an album that catapulted the band into "known" status after getting some attention with 1990's "Badmotorfinger." This is an essential early-90s album, often grouped with Nirvana's "Nevermind" and Pearl Jam's "Ten." But Soundgarden was far beyond the general feelings and talents of the "grunge" scene; their sound was darker, spookier, and more complex. And unlike the beloved Kurt Cobain, this band had great singing AND guitar work. The theme of this album is along the lines of a band's journey into stardom and the perils, decisions, and prices to be paid for the high cost of fame.
The album title has a hard-to-describe meaning, much like the band itself. "Superunknown" seems to refer to the sort of status a band has where it's on the tips of the mainstream media's tongue, but it hasn't quite proven its marketability yet other than the fact that it's really good music. Modern examples are Wilco, Flaming Lips, or The Mars Volta. They have a certain buzz around them that has all the music magazines talking, but either their image is too "different" to be marketed toward the pop music markets, or the band simply doesn't make videos for MTV and/or VH1. Either way, Soundgarden soon overcame that status and became part of the popular music world we know today. This album even made the Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
list, at a respectable number 336.
Here are some of the most memorable tracks of the album, and I say that because I don't have the album on hand, but these are the tracks that made the most lasting impression after I was done listening to it:
Let Me Drown
: This is the opening track. It's one of my favorites because the great, unholy singing of Chris Cornell first implants itself into your psyche when he tells you "Let it go-oh-uh-ohhhh!" There's also a lot of rumbling bass in the beginning of the song, I think. The important thing is: this track rocks. It should have been a single, but I guess almost any song they would have chose could make this album a phenomenon.
This is probably the most upbeat song on the album, because Soundgarden knows not the word "upbeat." The guitar in the verse is very present, and the chorus is not your typical Cornell chorus because he's not shouting at the top of his lungs for once. A very good song.
Fell On Black Days:
One of Soundgarden's singles. You've probably heard it before, and it's not as loud as most of their songs. It's more subdued, and I don't think it's very special for a song they put on the airwaves. Then again, they could have just been trying to blend in...
The title track of this album is by far my favorite track on the whole album. The guitar work is a series of diddies in the verse, and the verse itself is structured so that the end of every line has Cornell screaming in the way he does better than almost anyone I've ever heard. ("...it doesn't mean you're BLIIIIIIIIND" "...it doesn't mean you've DIIIIIIIIED"). If you don't have the album, download this track to tide yourself over. You can't wait for him to finish the chorus the second time through with "SOOOOOUUUUUUULLLLLLLL... unh."
Black Hole Sun:
This is Soundgarden's most famous song, thanks to a creepy video I remember seeing as a younger version of myself (kid). The chorus singing does NOT showcase Cornell's vocals to his best ability, but it did provide music journalists with a reason to classify them as "grunge." Not their best song, but the slow guitar riffs in the verse are nice.
Another famous single, and one of my favorites on the album. Not only is this song also upbeat and strong in the guitar department, but it's got good Cornell vocals too! Check out the different ways he's able to sing "Spoonman!" and you'll understand but a small fraction of his vocal majesty. Also featuring spoons, an underrated instrument.
The Day I Tried To Live:
I don't recall this being a single, but apparently it's a notable track. Probably because it's got a slower, "Black Hole Sun" feeling to it that MTV-lovers can relate to, but it's better than "BHS" because of the chorus, in my opinion. It's got great vocals too.
This minute-long track is more of a garage rock song, but it's a nice breath of fresh air if you're tired of all the gloom by this point in the album.
...And that's about all the review I can do. This album gets a 5/5; nobody can doubt it's essential quality. Thank you for reading.