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Soundgarden – Superunknown (1994)

December 22, 2014

[Album 361/1001]220px-Superunknown

Some may have unfairly, if understandably, lumped this under the ‘teen spirit-y’ or ‘grunge’ umbrella.  Yes, Soundgarden hails from Seattle; I’d argue they may be the most interesting group from that particular geographic region.

Acting as exhibits A & B, there are the fantastic, tap-along 6/4 and 7/4 time signatures on Fell on Black Days and Spoonman respectively.  Chorus pedal sales in ’94 likely went through the roof thanks to the verses of Black Hole Sun.  While the guitar sounds often get the spotlight, Matt Cameron, currently drummer for both Soundgarden & Pearl Jam (not a bad business card), is solid throughout.

For years I thought Superunknown was too long.  I’ve since changed my tune.

Like the 5th Harry Potter book, I once believed this record would benefit from trimming the equivalent of about 100 pages.

I still maintain the running time remains the core issue of Superunknown.  I now fear however that it’s approximately 100 pages too short!

I’ll attempt to explain.

I practically insist on listening to records in their entirety: at 70+ minutes, it’s tough to block out the requisite time for an uninterrupted Soundgarden session.

However, if the album had sprawled into a double LP, blocking out 40-minute sessions for each disc would somehow be more manageable.

This 70+ minute/1 sitting dilemma reminds me of high school classes, where attention spans aren’t easily maintained for 75 consecutive minutes in one place.  But bump it up to 80-90 minutes of instruction and divide it into 2 periods, it would be interesting to see the difference.

Speaking of teenagers, the other difference between this and the 5th Harry Potter?  Considerably less teen angst!

So my retroactive (and completely actionable) advice to Chris Cornell & friends: add a couple more tunes of the same calibre, convert it to a double LP, make this your Physical Graffiti.  Close disc one with Black Hole Sun & open disc two with Spoonman, dust off your hands and call it a day.

You’re welcome guys.

From → 1990s

  1. jprobichaud permalink

    Admittedly, I prefer the subject of your last post over this one but this definitely brings back a lot of memories. Great spoons solo also!

    • Thanks JP, the question is: is the spoons solo enough to bump them into the top 50 of ’94?

      • jprobichaud permalink

        Hmmm… I guess time will tell…

  2. I think you’re right, I listened to the CD re-issue just the other day and thought the album was longer than I remembered. But, alas I originally owned Superunknown on cassestte, so two sides are far more manageable!

    • haha, that’s where I got the idea for the separate listens – I dug out my cassette and thought that spoonman worked really well as an opener as opposed to a mid-album track!
      I might have to invest in that re-issue, thanks for reading & commenting

      • Wow, your cassette still worked? The last tape I listened to of mine was warbling like a Spoonman possessed! I should have kept it under perfect temperature conditions, but who’s got time for that?

  3. John Sturm permalink

    ‘Black Hole Sun’ is one of a handful of songs that transport me back to my youth. It was huge in my school, I couldn’t move for hearing it every 30 seconds. Great song. Great album!

    • It was always a funny choice at school dances – not quite slow enough for a slow song, not quite fast enough either. But the enjoying the dancing was secondary to enjoying the song!

      • John Sturm permalink

        Heh! Totally. A lot of pissed of females in my school. Soon as this song came on, it was like some sort of male siren. All of us in a circle swaying then the tiniest bit of joshing when the heavy parts kicked in.

  4. I ignored this band until last year, big mistake. I had no idea how interesting they were… now I’m converted 🙂

    • Not to worry Jimmy, I’m sure you weren’t alone, the packaging of things as ‘grunge’ I bet scared a lot of people away.
      Glad you joined the party eventually!

  5. Coulda been a double album if they included all the B-sides they recorded.

    But then, it wouldn’t be what it is: a METAL (yes METAL) classic. A stunning one at that.

    • I’d agree with that classification – likely has more in common with Sabbath than STP!

      • Totally agreed. I would rank this among the top 5 records of Seattle.

      • Well that’s tantalizingly unfair – now I need to know what else made the Top 5!

      • Dirt and Ten are in there for sure!

      • No complaints with either of those here!
        Though after listening to Dirt, I immediately need to hear something more cheerful – need some lightness after some of those lyrics!

      • Oh, fully agreed. And even moreso after the self-titled “dog” album. That one always brings me way, way down! I need to play some Poison or something after it.

  6. Probably the only Soundgarden album I still care for and definitely the most consistent.

    • It’s the only one I own, I liked a couple tunes from the follow-up but from what I gather it’s like you said, not as even, not as consistent

  7. I really enjoyed your write-up but I’ve never liked this LP very much, always a bit of a let down compared to its’ predecessor, for my money.

    • And I have yet to hear badmotorfinger in its entirety, I like the handful of tracks I know though. Thanks 1537, a happy Christmas eve to you!

  8. nicksalbumreviews permalink

    Pretty much agree with everything you’ve put in here.

  9. Underrated band, IMO, in the context of the 90s. Too bad people lump them in with grunge. They have a lot more than being on-trend to offer, though they likely benefitted from it. Great album. Too often overlooked now that we’re 20+ years out from it.

    • Well said – unfair/inaccurate to lump them in, but they did benefit from the association too. In a way I’m glad as I might not have gotten in to them otherwise – and that would have been a shame!

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