Reprinted without permission from Metal Hammer, December 1997
These things happen in rock 'n' roll. A band splits up - in this case, regrettably, Soundgarden - yet they still owe their record company the albums on their contract. Hurriedly, the label will cobble together a collection of the band's material and shove it out there under some variation of a 'Best Of' title. In some cases, as with Sepultura, they will do this again and again, in strict accordance with the laws of diminishing returns. A&M have done it with Soundgarden and called the album 'A-Sides'. As in, singles lifted from releases that are, the deleted 'Screaming Life' EP aside, already available. It's not worth buying.
This shouldn't be read as a downer on the band in question. Soundgarden were one of the finest heavy metal bands - you read that right - to emerge in the last ten years. Powered, controlled, smart and cool, they were everything you wouldn't normally expect from a genre so often mired in stupidity and the insincerity of cartoon excess. They had a reluctance that was deeply appealing and every time they released an album, it was unarguably excellent.
Apart from this one. 'A-Sides', despite not fielding a single weak song, is hardly the 'Best Of Soundgarden'. And how could it be? What might be the best songs for me - and the fact that 'Slaves And Bulldozers' wasn't a single, to this reviewer, is still no reason for its exclusion - will probably not be the best songs for you. Better surely to listen to all the songs in the albums and just skip any ones you don't like, if indeed there are any you don't like. Doing things this way also means that you will have the added benefit of context - where the band were creatively when they recorded the songs.
Basically, 'A-Sides' is an album for the transient or part-time listener. This would be fine if anyone seriously thought for a minute that Soundgarden had any transient or part-time listeners. They don't. Leave the rip-off shit to the Spice Girls, why don't you? (5/10)