Reprinted with permission from Ben Timberlake

by Ben Timberlake

[tgif is The Daily Northwestern's Arts and Entertainment magazine]

Soundgarden's "Down On The Upside," released Tuesday, May 21, is a guaranteed classic.

The 16-song, 66-minute album grabs you by the neck with "Pretty Noose" (already being overplayed on radio) and doesn't let go until it chops off with "Boot Camp."

Soundgarden showcases its influences on "Upside," but takes them to a new level. It's hard to imagine a hard-rock album with echoes of the Beatles and Pink Floyd.

But guess what? You don't have to imagine anymore.

"Blow Up The Outside World"'s echoing lyrics "Someone tried to tell me something/ Don't let the world bring you down" hint at later Beatles in mood, sound and meaning.

As on the Seattle band's four previous albums, singer Chris Cornell does the most music writing and virtually all lyric writing.

But on this album, bassist Ben Shepherd has stepped forward to provide the music for some of the album's best tracks including "Zero Chance," "Dusty" and "Switch Opens."

Drummer Matt Cameron and guitarist Kim Thayil also lend a writing hand with "Rhinosaur," for which Cameron wrote the music and "Never The Machine Forever," for which Thayil wrote both music and lyrics.

The self-produced album, a first for Soundgarden, was rumored to be a dirtier, more noisy sound than the multi-platinum Superunknown. But apart from studio sound and less mixing, which give the album a more live sound, "Down On The Upside" is as smooth as butter.

Cornell lays down more tracks than the Pennsylvania Railroad for his trademark silky vocal effect.

"Zero Chance" captures the acoustic, ballad beauty of Led Zeppelin's "Over The Hills And Far Away" and fashions a song just as good, if not better. Somehow, the album still manages to hit hard on tunes like "Ty Cobb," "No Attention" and "An Unkind."

The band has been pigeonholed as Heavy Metal, Butt Rock, a Led Zeppelin knock-off, and too mainstream.

"Down On The Upside" kicks those labels off with a steel toe and proves Soundgarden has defined its own genre.