Reprinted without permission from Melody Maker,
September 28, 1996
GIVE US A CHRIS!
SOUNDGARDEN, APOLLO MANCHESTER reviewed by Neil Kulkarni
Perfect. As only the superficial can be.
I have absolutely no desire to know what Chris Cornell is on about. He's a miserable fucker, a bad poet with a nasty beard. His lyrics are all along the go-nowhere, do-nothing, kill-everything, hate-everyone line that Americans seem to find so much truth in (well, living in the most successful police state in the world must get you down). I suspect him of being an idiot, a narrow-minded killjoy or, failing that, a disingenuous mountebank. Whatever, I don't care about Soundgarden being 'real' or 'significant'; what's glorious about them is just how enormously enjoyable they are as a Two-Dimensional Experience, as The Rock Band perfected, pristine, state-of-the-art and beamed into your home.
Soundgarden take the whole lexicon of big, chundering, blazing, heavy rock, brutally excising all the frills and flatulence to create a seamless run of stacked-up riffs and postures that you just have to drown in. And for me, the thrill is entirely soulless, it's a pure buzz, a sonic hit to rival The Prodigy or Slayer, all flash and chrome and diesel.
Me and my mate don't know the new LP, so when they kick off with Let Me Drown and Searching With My Good Eye Closed we simultaneously look at each other wide-eyed and grinning in one of those sad but magic moments that only happen at gigs. And criminy, they fuckin' ROCK. The sound is fearsome, but what it lacks in finesse it makes up for in sheer juggernaut weight. In fact, the muddiness and the messiness are sublime in reducing Soundgarden to their brute best - a hulking, glowering bodyslam of sound, heavy on the lo-end, splattered and soiled with a trillion riffs.
Rusty Cage soon follows and we're grinding everything but our teeth, the song still saved by that face-out; it's just the greatest piece of see-sawing, hands-on-hips headbutt boogie (taste that word, stick yer tongue in it and and lap it up, it should taste GAMEY) you've ever heard, churned funkily through tonight, unfortunately not with the back'n'forth Quo lunges it so clearly deserves. In the pit we stare up at the balcony at their mute inertia and laugh.
Down here we're flipping wads to Outshined before Chris takes the spotlight for the so-predictable-it's-godlike solo in Black Hole Sun. Spoonman rips through the sky, just the lumpiest, ugliest sound you'll ever love, the thunk-a-funk beats pummelling my intensely drunken head good 'n' painful.
Pretty Noose is so fucking charged, so million-volt razing, so flawlessly constructed that you expect the back curtain to drop and reveal The Young Gods on the mix; then Blow Up The Outside World takes what's left of your grinning soul and presses it up against its own gleaming heat until you're dust. Off, then, before being screamed back for a bizarre encore of Beefheart's Drop Out Boogie, and then they're off again, and you're gagging for more.
I imagine Soundgarden backstage after, unplugging the circuits, plugging themselves in for the night, a team of white-suited experts monitoring their oil levels. Real metal machine music.