The Joup Friday Album: Soundgarden – Superunknown

soundgardenTimes are…well…they’re strange right now to say the very least. Everything is uncertain. There seems to be an overhanging fear above us all, ominous horizons, and no end to the darkness gradually spreading out like spilled ink before us. Instinctually, many of us recoil at this impending doom, losing ourselves in comfortable things and memories, a coping mechanism of sorts to shield our hearts, minds, and souls from this bleak world. We wade in nostalgia and bask in the warm glow of old things. We try to remember happiness. And we forget ourselves. At least for a while.

Of course it’s not productive at all, and there is much to mobilize and to combat and to do, but sometimes it’s nice to wrap ourselves in that protective bubble, even if only for a fleeting moment before we get back to work.

For me, it has been and always will be music.

So today, I wrap myself in one of my old favorites, the raw crunch and grind of Superunknown, Soundgarden’s 1994 sprawling, wailing, epic masterpiece. That it is an ominous and bleak work in its own right seems only fitting.

Somehow Soundgarden always managed to seem so much larger than many of their pacific northwest grunge peers, incorporating elements of grunge as well as punk, psych rock, prog, and heavy metal into their sound. Superunknown found them at the top of their game, spawning critical and popular praise and cementing the band into the cultural zeitgeist of the era. The album was heavy and moody, with splashes of 1990’s irony, but earnest and honest enough not to succumb to its own weight. Death and devastation is all over the thing, from the funereal “Fell on Black Days” to the coming Armageddon of “Black Hole Sun” to the apocalyptic cacophony of “4th of July.” Doom and gloom prevails, the album’s somber downers raining over us like storm clouds muddying up a dying forest, as on album highlight “Head Down.” Abandoning much of the anger and depression that so much of the sound of the grunge scene in the 90’s was steeped in, the songs on Superunknown take on a more resigned attitude, a kind of acceptance of the inevitable end. Even the more aggressive songs lack any real anger, instead focusing on a painful and deadening detachment. “Limo Wreck” embodies this fatalism, suggesting that we are responsible for what we have created, for what we have wrought, and we should suffer accordingly. It’s ugly and it’s dire. And it’s music to our bleeding ears.

It just feels right these days. Listen below and then buy the album if you don’t have it already.

 

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Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

2 Responses to The Joup Friday Album: Soundgarden – Superunknown
  1. Shawn C. Baker Reply

    I have to say more about this one. As I sat listening to this last night for the first time in some time and was once again floored. Grunge is a funny thing. I used to hate the term because it seemed an obvious corporate moniker – an attempt at giving new audiences something to latch onto. Then a few years ago I read “Everybody Loves Our Town – An Oral History of Grunge and it occurred to me: when you remove the bad corporate buzz word angle, the term is actually a fairly decent moniker for the distinctly blue collar hybrid that fused two (or more) disparate sounds probably best represented by Black Sabbath and Black Flagg. Many of those bands leaned more on the Sabbath side, but they were never ‘metal’. There was more; there was a Zeppelin-esque attempt at making the songs and albums literate tableaus. Soundgarden was one of the best and most unique of these (I posit Alice in Chains was up there too).

  2. Shawn C. Baker Reply

    One of the greatest of that era. Well played sir.

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