Review Summary: Great old school grunge.Soundgarden - Screaming Life/Fopp
Soundgarden needs no introduction to most. As one of the most commercially successful rock acts of the 1990s, Badmotorfinger
and Down on The Upside
cemented them a solid niche on top of the alternative rock canon. With success born out of the early 90s Seattle grunge scene alongside fellow brothers in misery Alice in Chains, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam, you could be forgiven for glancing over pre-Badmotorfinger
Soundgarden. Many are surprised to hear some of their recordings date back to 1984. Often described as Seattle's best-kept secret at the time, listening to the bands earlier work reveals a fresh and experimental genre of music emerging.
Screaming Life was the bands first EP, released in 1987. Fopp was their second EP, released in 1988. Screaming Life/Fopp
is a combination of the two, released in 1990
. Not knowing what to expect after several years of being constantly immersed in the bands major label works and afraid to step back in time, on first play Hunted Down
holds up excellently. A simple haunting chorus infected riff leads the chase with Chris Cornell's lyrical delivery providing a moody atmosphere. It certainly demonstrates the origins of the slow as molasses punk/metal vibe of early grunge. Entering
starts off with portentous drums battling with a simple, dark chord pattern, progressing into an energetic punk number interchanging with that soft/loud/soft/loud formula that has become so cliche over the years. Tears To Forget
is a surprise, Chris Cornell screaming death metal style! It's fast and unrelentless, interesting to see the band experimenting with different styles in the early days. Nothing To Say
is perhaps one of the best songs on the album, with bassist Hiro Yamamoto's droning bassline, Cornell's miserable wail and Kim Thayil's guitar comprising murky pain in the best way possible. If i was to suggest an indicator to the fresh and experimental sounds within the formation of grunge inherent in this album, i would probably point to the next track Little Joe
. An underrated and glanced over song, the funk style drums and chorus laden guitars take you back to another time. Hand of God
uses samples from religious speeches to the soundtrack of palm muted distortion and bass, the band jamming out in between. It's another great song that is worth a listen.
To the Fopp
section of the EP, Kingdom of Come
is a fairly unremarkable track. It's a listenable enough rock effort, but weak all the same. Green River cover Swallow My Pride
is one of the most unique Soundgarden songs i have heard, a very upbeat punk song with a seasonal vibe to it that sounds very uplifting indeed. The next track Fopp
, is a quirky experimental punk jam based on a song originally written by the Ohio Players. The next track is a dub remix of Fopp
, essentially a retelling of the same song with some samples thrown in. It's a fun listen but unremarkable.
is a good album length EP on it's own merit. The production is murky and some will find it hard to swallow, for an introduction to 80s Soundgarden i would head for albums Ultramega OK
and Louder Then Love
, which are stellar efforts. Apart from that, if you want a look at the formative states of grunge and Soundgarden before they both exploded into the big time this is an essential listen.