Review Summary: Soundgarden's Louder than Love album has sweet tracks for any 90's rock or heavy alternative listener and essential tracks for any Soundgarden disciple.
Forming in 1984, Soundgarden was a potentially brilliant band born from Seattle music scene that became known as Grunge. 1988 marked the release of Soundgarden’s debut album Ultramega OK. Shortly after in 1989 Soundgarden switched labels over to A&M Records and released Louder Than Love. It ran into some retail and distribution problems due to some of the album’s lyrics.
Having listened to all of Soundgarden’s work thoroughly, I consider Louder Than Love Soundgarden’s first serious album. Serious, in that it has no “joke tracks” and it’s more cohesive than any Soundgarden’s previous work. Louder Than Love is at that uncommon stage where the sound quality is smooth enough and yet the material is still distinctly raw. Still I would direct new listeners of Soundgarden to Badmotorfinger or Superunknown albums first, unless you are already versed in the 90’s Seattle Rock.
Louder Than Love starts off with Ugly Truth, one of the album’s weaker tracks. Partly due to the repetitive line of “If you were mine to give; I might throw it away” and the fact that the opener is also relatively long doesn’t help the cause. The track has some highlights though, including the distinctive riff Thayil plays at 3:09. It complements the slowness of the song well and is followed up with a repeated note, which follows the mood of the song. The lyrics seem to point towards politics, covering up corruption’s ugly truths. Chris’ line “But money can’t give what the truth takes away”, sung at 4:27 proves early on that his voice has progressed since Soundgarden’s debut album. Average- 5/10
Opening with some Zeppelin-like action is arguably Louder Than Love’s best track, Hands All Over. It is undoubtedly the best song written here as it makes well use of literary elements. The chorus is often misunderstood as a message to kill one’s mom, where in fact referring to ‘Mother Nature’, Chris is telling the younger generation, his baby brother(s), to “Put your hands away. You’re gonna kill your mother”. The lyrics go on to address water pollution and deforestation, using simile to describe the war between mankind and the trees. The stand-out lyric in the song must be, “Hands all over Western culture, ruffling feathers and turning eagles into vultures”. Symbolically, Chris reveals our culture as the driving force of greed (vultures), which in turn is killing our “mother”.
Balancing the vocals the bass has a nice slide to it, wherein a free state your head will naturally bob to the rhythm. The guitar complements the bass well with a shifting high-noted riff. Thayil really shines though at the beginning of each chorus with a neat riff. Only thing missing sadly is a solo, not that it needed one. Classic Soundgarden- 10/10
Not letting up, Soundgarden carries on to Gun. With a sludgy opening reminiscent of other Seattle bands The Melvins and Tad, Gun’s strings are an automatic stand out. The guitars are further intoxicating because the song continuously switches up its speed. It finally enters into its crescendo when Chris yells “F*** IT UP!” leading us into a fittingly chaotic solo. If I helped produce Louder Than Love, I would have made this the opening track. Chris’ vocals and lyrics push the listening audience in a satirical manner, telling us to “Shoot, shoot” people like outlaws and to “Sink load and fire till the empire reaps what they’ve sown”. Amusingly, the lyrics push to rev us up just as the shifting speed of the song does. Excellent song. Classic Soundgarden- 10/10
Starting with a chilling scream, accompanied with a sharp guitar intro, is our next track Power Trip. Poking fun of the American Dream, Chris continuously sings “I wanna be King” and speaks of wanting to be “a cowboy star upon the screen”. The stand out here is Cameron’s drum playing. The song can be slightly repetitious. The riffs are also nothing to write home about, which prevents it from becoming a potentially better song. Average- 5/10
Next up, Get on the Snake continues Soundgarden’s satiric session. The track has an anthem feel to it, calling all-aboard to get on the snake. But wait, hold-up, what does getting on the snake mean" More than likely Chris is singing about jumping on the polluting freeway. Where in America, Chris says the roads are filled with consumer’s that are “hungry and mean”. Has a ring to it, don’t it" Not only does this song have a catchy riff, it’s surprisingly fun to sing along to. “Get on the snake with a suicide machine!” AHHHH! Yep first thing I’ll do once I get out from school, no really though. This song is different because it has no definite chorus, it’s more or less a verse filled song. Great- 7/10
The following stooge-ish track, Full On Kevin’s Mom took time but eventually grew on me. While Yamamoto sets the mood, Thayil has a distinct quirkiness sound on this track. With a neat riff behind it, Thayil shows off a rave guitar solo that promises more to come in later albums. Cameron’s on-point fast-paced drumming technique really fits in the track nice. Generally, I think this song and its lyrics are very foolish, and yet that Soundgarden pulled it off makes it equally impressive. Superb- 9/10
Despite having a higher pitched intro, I always seem to anticipate Pearl Jam’s Better Man when Track 7: Loud Love begins to play. This track is a low-point in the album. Chris’ vocals don’t shine in this track and the lyrics are too ambiguous (though still interesting). Thayil’s riffs are alright and he even has a great solo but it doesn’t change the fate of the song. Average- 5/10
I Awake’s lyrics are based on a note Yamamoto’s previous girlfriend left behind for him as she left for work. I Awake is a grungy and haunting track. Chris and Yamamoto are the standouts here. Chris wails at the start a follows up with the lyrics “Remember I love you, love you”. Yamamoto’s intro opens the track nicely and continues to jam throughout. Thayil adds a sabbathy-riff at 2:39 that helps close out the song, with Yamamoto carrying out that riff and Cameron adding neat drum fills. When I’m in a mellow mood this song sounds just right. Good- 6/10
This next track No Wrong No Right is the underrated track on Louder Than Love. Cameron and Yamamoto give the track an ominous opening. The verses and lyrics really make the song what it is. Yamamoto verses are his best work on Louder Than Love as the dark riffs really completes the haunt factor of Chris’ chilling lyric delivery. It shouldn’t come as a shock that the lyrics are about death as Chris warns people of vipers and widow spiders. Specifically the lyrics tell us there is no fairness in death’s eyes, no wrong no right. Whether or not one chooses to live in fear of death is the listener’s choice, either way “it’s all in the same in the end”. Excellent- 8/10
Uncovered is heavy song and Thayil’s riffs are fairly catchy. Chris vocals hold up in this song well. However its repetitiveness and the slowness combination hurt the song. Also by now Chris’s “heys” are slightly overused if listening to the album track-by-track. In short, this is not one of Louder Than Love’s strong points and you’ll want listen to the next track. Average- 5/10
Rounding out Louder Than Love’s tracks is Big Dumb Sex. This song wins the “sweetest riff” award for the album. Thayil really lets loose on this track with a heavy punk riff that can leave a nun banging their head to “I’m gonna f*** f*** f*** you!” Chris’ high/low dubbed voices just add to the awesomeness of the song. Soundgarden brings back the theme of satire to the album. Making light of the butt rock Thayil said, “We thought we'll ditch all the euphemisms and say what all the disco dance bands had been trying to say for a decade [80’s, late 70’s].” Classic Soundgarden- 10/10
Closing the album is a reprise track, Full On (Reprise) for the previous track Full On Kevin’s Mom.
- Each track is distinct
-Parody/Satire themed songs and experimental approach makes Louder Than Love unique
- Heaviest and darkest Soundgarden album
- Good songwriting shows promise for future albums
-At times Chris vocals aren’t his best
-The few “meh” tracks
-For new listeners the production might hurt the experience a tad
By and large Louder than Love is a great album. It has sweet tracks for any 90’s rock or heavy alternative listener and essential tracks for any Soundgarden disciple.
Chris Cornell… Vocals/Guitar
Kim Thayil… Lead Guitar
Hiro Yamamoto… Bass
Matt Cameron… Drums