Reprinted without permission from SPIN, October
PLATTER DU JOUR: BADMOTORFINGER (A&M)
Can you say crunchy? I know you can -- and say it loud like you mean it, because upon listening to this fine 12-song sophomore major-label effort by Seattle sons Soundgarden, it's a word that comes in mighty handy. The band (Chris Cornell, alternately singing from under the floorboards and screaming for dear life, guitarist Kim Thayil, bassist Ben Cromer, and drummer Matt Cameron) stomps all over these tunes until they end up just shards of matter in your head. Soundgarden throws you to the bottom of a very deep well and leaves you there to make your own way up; forget about calling for help, 'cause no one will hear you.
Since Soundgarden first swam into the rock ecosystem, the band has been cultivating a lush and humid world all its own, and many credit the band with what has now come to be known as the Seattle sound. Whatever. There's a lot of damned good music coming out of the Northwest, but contrary to what some critics may have you believe, Badmotorfinger will move you in a completely different way. For those of us who were jonesin' for a dip into some Soundgarden between 1989's Louder Than Love and this landscape, there was the Cornell-Cameron-Pearl Jam project Temple of the Dog. And although Temple was awesome and rocked like a word I can't use here, the virgin release by Pearl Jam and Badmotorfinger come from different places altogether.
Lyrical themes of oppression and dysfunctional religion run rampant throughout Badmotorfinger. Cornell once told me, "I grew up in a repressive situation and that causes people to malfunction -- so if I'm angry and want to express it, I write a song." It's easy then to see why lyrically and vocally he seems on the verge of an explosion. "Slaves & Bulldozers" threatens to slam you into a wall one too many times. Perhaps an indictment against record-biz fakery, it contains some vintage Cornell vocals as he screams, "What's in it for me?" On "Holy Water," he claims, "Holy waters rusted me." There's even some spastic horns on "Room 1000 Years Wide," which was previously released as a Sub Pop single, and an even more prominent horn section for "Drawing Flies."
Buried within this stretch of fertile earth there are some choice '70s musical comparisons begging to be drawn, and I know my colleague Bob Mack would like to throw Budgie and Jethro Tull into the mix, but suffice it to say that whatever awesome heavy rock experience you might have grown up with, you can probably find traces in these tunes. And that is certainly NOT a bad thing, because the songs aren't derivative. There are many layers from which to choose: "Jesus Christ Pose," which is the first single and makes an appearance in Cameron Crowe's new flick Singles, starts with a kind of free-jazz throwdown and moves quickly into the realm of rockdom. Visions of the band's early SST "Flower/Head Injury" days dance in your head during "Face Pollution," and there are some weirdly tweaked intro barnyard descriptions leading into "Searchin' With My Good Eye Closed," until the song kicks into a psychedelic swirling mass of sounds.
So at the end of the day, Badmotorfinger is waiting to be used and abused, shredded and spindled, and just generally rocked to. Tend to this garden of sound and I guarantee a fruitful crop will rise up and take over the world.