Reprinted without permission from Maui Beat, February
SOUNDGARDEN: PIONEER SEATTLE ROCKERS TURN UP THE POWER AT THE CENTER
You can probably count on Soundgarden'S sonic assault to light up Central Maui when they play the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Saturday afternoon. One of Seattle's finest rock groups, Soundgarden in concert create a raw, powerful sound.
Reviewing a recent show, the San Francisco examiner raved, "from the opening riffs of 'Spoonman' to the sweat-drenched encores, Soundgarden proved that after 10 years in the biz they are at the top of their game - possibly even deserving the lofty title Details magazine recently gave them - the Greatest Hard Rock Band in the World."
Along with Nirvana and Green River, Soundgarden was one of the prime creators of the grunge rock sound. Formed in 1986, they were the first group from Seattle's grunge underground to be signed to a major label. Initially dismissed by some as mere metalheads, the group's melding of heavy metal and punk caused some confusion. "We never fitted," vocalist/guitarist Chris Cornell told a reporter. "to the punk kids we were heavy metal and the heavy metal kids thought we were too punk rock."
Featuring Cornell, Kim Thayil on guitar, Ben Shepherd on bass and Matt Cameron on drums, Soundgarden released their first records on the local Sub Pop label. Their dark, moody sound was basically inspired by heavy metal with influences ranging from Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath to The Stooges and the MC5; although they completely avoided the theatrical excesses and pomposity of ther metal forbearers.
Breaking out of the local Seattle market with their 1991 album Badmotorfinger (which sold a million copies), the group toured with Neil Young and Guns N' Roses but failed to emulate the huge level of success enjoyed at the time by Pearl Jam and Nirvana.
Then came 1994's dazzling Superunknown. Their most experimental work, Superunknown's dynamic fusion of metal, punk and psychedelia debuted at the top of Billboard's album chart, sold over 5 million copies and won two Grammy Awards.
Their latest album Down on the Upside reflects the rawer, sledgehammer rock sound of their earlier works. "Part of the goal was to strip it down and make it more spontaneous sounding," guitarist Kim Tayli told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Lurching from punk ferocity to metal intensity the album also relfects some unusual influences with the Pink Floyd-ish "Boot Camp" and Beatles' psychedelia on "Blow Up the Outside World."
"Imagine the Beatles in plaid flannel and nose rings and you get some sense of what the latest, and finest, Soundgarden disc sounds like," praised People magazine. "The Seattle-based grunge band takes trenchant pop melodies that would have sounded right at home on The White Album and turns them loose in the mosh pit."
"Less fanciful and experimental then Superunknown, Upside compensates with sucker-punch immediacy and sonic verite that strips the music to its garage-level essence," raved USA Today. "Fueled by Chris Cornell's trademark depression and fury, the 16 songs pulsate with pessimism, tone and tempo shifting abruptly from darkly introspective to darkly explosive."
Following the release of Down On the Upside in May of '96, Soundgarden made one of their first ever appearances on television on a "Saturday Night Live" hosted by Jim Carrey.
"We always said we were against TV," Thayil told a reporter. "We've been asked to do Letterman, we always say no. We've said no to the Grammy's. They wanted us to play 'Black Hole Sun.' We'd like to run around and play 'Spoonman' or something."
Willing to change and experiment, Soundgarden has become one of the most influential bands of the '90s without compromising their integrity.
"I dont think we're the kind of band that was just in the right place at the right time and was catapulted to some sort of success as though it were a gift from society," Cornell told Next magazine. "We're close-minded to the idea of not progressing and not trying new things, because that's death. We concentrate on avoiding stagnation."