Soundgarden, they were one of the biggest and most influential rock bands of the past decade, and one of the bands that were credited with bringing the 'grunge' scene from Washington to the mainstream. They released five studio albums and a couple of EPs in their day spanning from 1987-1996, and are regarded as being a very important band today. In the spring of 1997, Soundgarden, just after wrapping up their Lollapalooza Tour, called it quits. It is often sited that the band were having tensions among themselves, and also to note, the grunge era was beginning to fade away. A few months later, in the fall of '97, this compilation was released, and as the title would indicate, A-Sides consists of seventeen of their biggest hits and most well-known songs as well as an unreleased track Bleed Together
, to make a general summary or overview of the band. Seventeen tracks is a respectable amount, considering the album wasn't very expensive. A-Sides is a rather good compilation from the band, and contains the majority of the essential songs to get someone into Soundgarden or for someone who is a big fan of the band and wants this for their collection.
follows a chronological order, which is good in the sense that it allows to see how the bands progressed with time. Over the years, Soundgarden have covered a variety of styles or genres such as their obvious influences of metal and hard rock, as well as hints of punk which were shown on tracks such as Ty Cobb, from the 1996 album Down On The Upside. But perhaps all these elements make up the grunge genre it self. The compilation begins with a song from the very early days of Soundgarden. Nothing To Say
is a track that won't be found on any other record, as it was first released on their Hunted Down EP
, released in 1987 on the very important Sub Pop record label. Nothing To Say is a slower, burning track made up of their signature heavy guitar riffs from guitarist Kim Thayil. While it may not be the most accessible of the band"s work, it is a good enough introduction of the band"s heavy side. Flower
marks the entrance of the full length albums. It was the opening track on their debut album, 1988's Ultramega OK
. Ultramega OK is their only record on the SST label, to which the signed to, after leaving Sub Pop. Flower follows along the same lines as the previous one, but with a faster, and heavier riff. Cornell's vocals sound as if their being echoed, most likely due to poor recording quality. A downside is that Flower was the only song taken from their debut, perhaps not showing enough of their earliest days.
The bands follow up and sophomore album, 1989's Louder Than Love
, marked the bands entrance on a major label, after abandoning SST, they joined A&M, where they would remain for the rest of their career. Three tracks were taken from there, Loud Love
, Hands All Over
, and Get On The Snake
. The semi-title track is a good representation of the whole album and a good choice to represent it on A-Sides. Filled with heavy distortion, chugging guitar riffs, and Cornell's signature voice, it shows many aspects of their early work. Hands All Over
is a whopping six minutes long and shows the first real impression of Cornell's talented singing voice. His voice highlights this one, and is not over shadowed by the heavy and distorted instruments. Get On The Snake
is the fastest paced of the three from Louder Than Love, and shows the real raw energy of Soundgarden.
was the Soundgarden's semi- breakthrough album, and spawned their biggest hits of their first three albums. However, the album was not given its full recognition at the time, seeing how it was released around the same time as so-called grunge classics like Nirvana's Nevermind
and Pearl Jam's Ten
. This portion of A-sides is where their sound took a slightly cleaner sound and more accessible one. The big three singles were chosen from Badmotorfinger were Jesus Christ Pose
, and Rusty Cage
, and all three are arguably the best from that album. The first of the three, Jesus Christ Pose
is a definitive song for the band, with a very dark feel to it, driven by Ben Sheppard's fast bass line, and Cornell"s noticeably higher pitched voice. The song, coming in at almost six minutes, is a song full of energy, and shows the band at their best. Rusty Cage
was the opening song as well as the biggest hit from Badmotorfinger, and deservingly so. It was similar fast bass lines to its predecessor, but Matt Cameron's gives one of his best performances on the album. Again, Sheppard's bass shines through here, and it shows Chris trying different tones with his voice. Outshined
is the one if not, the most metal-type songs here instrumentally. It has one of Soundgarden's heaviest riffs ever; something that Kim was very good at doing and did lots. Kim also delivers a very good solo here, making the song even better.
The band took three years before its following album, 1994's Superunknown
. Superunknown, the bands fourth studio album, is often regarded as the bands masterpiece, magnum opus, etcetera, and it really is, at least in my opinion. It showed them branching out and really trying something different while still maintaining their signature heavy sound. Spoonman
, the first rack to represent the album, showcases a very upbeat guitar riff and effective backing vocals too. It also shows the band using other instruments, like the spoons, showing the bands increasing diversity. The Day I Tried To Live
has a much softer feel to it, contrary to the previous song. It has a great deal of melody, and the band gives an overall solid performance, especially Cornell during the chorus. Again this song is another highlight, like the entire Superunknown portion. The lead single included here, Black Hole Sun
was Soundgarden's biggest hit and sounds like nothing the band did before. It shows a Beatle influence (like much of the album), with its clean singing in the verses, just over Ben's dreary bass line, and the overall mellow feel to it. It also had a very weird video to go along with it. Fell On Black Days
is the fourth and final track from Superunkown here, and this is the calmest of the four, but not any less of a song. Kim's simple but efficient riff carries this one throughout, complimented by Cornells voice of changing tempos from high to low at which he does very well. The Superunkown is in my opinion the best section of A-Sides, but one could argue that some other songs should have included here such as My Wave
and Let Me Drown
, but for what"s here is just fine.
The last section of A-Sides derives from Soundgarden's fifth and final studio album, Down On The Upside
, released in 1996. Despite being somewhat of a let down, commercially, Down On The Upside did have an impressive set of singles, all included here. This album very different and one that stands out in the bands discography, mainly because the album had a less heavy feel to it, and basically just sounded very different. But that's not to say that there are no heavy songs here. Ty Cobb
, named after the infamous baseball player, is a fast full of punk rock fury. After a misleading weird intro, a super fast guitar riff kicks in along with Chris's offensive, yet humorous lyrics. The song has no change of pace, just a quick energy throughout. Pretty Noose
is the opener of Down on the Upside as well as the first track here. It is a mid-tempo rocker, with a very catchy chorus, and backing vocals. Burden In My Hand
is another popular Soundgarden song, and shows traces of middle-eastern style music, something that was first experimented with the previous album. It does not have the signature heavy trademark, but a more mid-tempo feel it, similar to Pretty Noose. Blow Up The Outside World
is the last single here, and another one that seems almost lopsided in terms of volume. The verses are very quite and doesn't even sound like Cornell, but the chorus is a vast change of pace, with Cornell yelling out the lyrics. The final track on A-Sides is the unreleased one, something that is not too unfamiliar with bands releasing best-of albums. Bleed Together
is actually a pleasant addition to the collection. It has an almost happy feel to it, dissimilar to what the title might indicate. It is a solid rock song, with all of Soundgarden's trademarks incorporated.
is a solid compilation from a very good band. While some diehard fans that have all albums may consider this useless, it could be looked at something to complete the bands catalogue or offer some of the bands best songs all one disc. On another note, A-Sides could be good for one just getting into Soundgarden as it offers a number of songs from each of their albums. Yes, some will argue and say which songs should and shouldn't have been included, but for what it is, it is excellent.