Reprinted without permission from KERRANG!, November 1, 1997
MINISTRY OF SOUND
Soundgarden / A-Sides
It might sound crazy, but somehow it felt right when Soundgarden split up. They had become everything they ever set out to be, achieved everything quietly and without fuss, evolving into one of the biggest and best bands on the planet, and towards the end they were playing like gods. The split stopped them spoiling that, and ended it all on a high note. That is, of course, purely a selfish view, but no more selfish than those who would have liked them to stay together, even though it wasn't right anymore.
Whatever, Soundgarden have gone and it's unlikely that they'll ever be back. It's what they left behind that counts now - and that legacy, as 'A-Sides' proves beyond doubt, is immense.
Y'see, despite the pointless grunge tag, Soundgarden wrote timeless music. The kind of music that gets better and better the more you listen to it, like one of those tunes that you didn't really like or understand the first time you heard it, yet it becomes your favourite. Soundgarden had a habit of doing that.
As such, 'A-Sides' - the tracklisting of which was picked by the band - is entirely representative of Seattle's finest (and, yes, I know exactly where Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains were/are from). Sure, there are tracks missing - notably 'Mind Riot' and 'Face Pollution' from 'Badmotorfinger', or 'Big Dumb Sex' from 'Louder Than Love' - but it's the overall feel that counts here. And besides, if the album contained everyone's favourite songs, wouldn't it have to be a five-CD box set?
Instead, we get everything from the early Sub Pop single 'Nothing To Say' through the likes of 'Flower', 'Hands All Over' and 'Loud Love' right up to 'Jesus Christ Pose', 'Fell On Black Days' and 'Ty Cobb'. And then there's 'Bleed Together', a track that only saw the light of day as a B-side. All of it shows how their genius evolved, both lyrically and musically.
Of course, their own influences shine through occasionally - Killing Joke, Black Sabbath and The Beatles all being part of the equation - but the end result was something totally unique. Somehow, after hearing all that, mourning their loss really doesn't seem appropriate, just like 'Blow Up The Outside World' wasn't a sad song. It's all their to make you stronger.
You might be wondering about the title, too - calling the last testament to an awesome band 'A-Sides' , when it's obviously not. But look in a dictionary: Asides - " to be at one side away from the main part of the group. Words spoken so that only certain people will hear."
In a word, Soundgarden.