Beloved consumer,

Pardon me for my lack of tact. While applauding your estimable, undeniable good taste at having purchased this album, I am troubled by the notion that there will inevitably be a few of you who'll consider this "the best of Soundgarden". As an original diehard 'garden fan I ask you: how can one possibly fit all the coolest stuff on to one album? It simply can't be done. What you have here is something tantamount to a Cliff Noted version of the 'gardens uvre. Admittedly, it's pretty rad. You can't go wrong with the glacial heaviness of "Nothing To Say" or the psychosis-inducing drama of "Jesus Christ Pose". I personally favor the bleak lyricism of "The Day I Tried To Live" . And "Blow Up The Outside World"? It should be declared the new national anthem.

Back in the mid-80's, as a two-bit, off-night booking agent at a beloved swill hole in Seattle, Wa., I had the mind-shredding experience of watching a baby Soundgarden grow up in public. Chris looked like some dusted jock prone to losing his shit and hurting people. Kim stood distractedly, almost meditatively, coaxing violent and hallucinogenic noise from a trashed SG. Original bass player Hiro unfurled the signature 'garden groove with primal authority. It was, in the words of my quotable partner, Bruce Pavitt: "Total fucking godhead-live".

As thrilling and ominously present as they were in those early years, the understated intelligence, confidence and ingenuity that became the 'garden's trademark emerged in nonpareil grace over the course of five studio albums. Driven by Matt and Ben's taut rhythmic interplay, latter-day Soundgarden albums always mixed brawn with brilliance. Chris and Kim, the two remaining original Soundgarden members, became the twin totems of this road-friendly tribe. But even though their releases eventually sold millions the world over, Soundgarden always seemed to be under-recognized; the perennial place in a hype-driven race to oblivion. That they retired with dignity and precious little fanfare is almost quaintly anachronistic - if not downright eccentric - in today's hurly-burly world of pop hysteria.

What's left is the crafted work; expressionistic pop songs that exude wariness, compassion and restlessness. Besides being staple fare of "modern rock" radio and MTV, these hits document the times that we live in...and the lives that we lead.

So here you go, fellow traveler. You get "Outshined", "Spoonman" and "Black Hole Sun" and the other essentials of a Soundgarden "Greatest Hits" package. It's a fitting introduction for the novice and a welcome addition for the ardent fan.

Jonathan Poneman 1997