A & M Records, 1994

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Amazing as this may sound, but back when I first bought and listened to Superunknown, Soundgarden's third major label release, I was disappointed by it. To my ears, gone was a lot of the rawness and unbridled energy that made their major label debut Louder Than Love a favorite of mine when I discovered alternative rock. I got tired of hearing songs like "Spoonman" and "Fell On Black Days" on the radio.

But that was 1994, and this is today. After digging it out of the Pierce Archives, I made a startling discovery: I was totally wrong about Superunknown. The album might have more of a bend towards rock radio, but the energy is still there, if not the rawness. This album truly deserved the greatness it earned.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The first single off Superunknown, "Black Hole Sun," brought a lot of Led Zeppelin comparisons to Chris Cornell and crew. The song's layers, building from soft melody to a crunching chorus, is a thing of beauty, demonstrating that the success this band had earned to this point was no fluke. The riffs might have been Zeppelin-influenced, but don't you dare call them copies or rip-offs.

The energy level rarely lets up on this album. From the opening cut "Let Me Drown" to the brief furiousness of "Kickstand" to the melodic adrenalin rush of the title track, Soundgarden pull out all the stops on this release, and challenge the listener to hang on for dear life.

There are only two songs I really don't like on Superunknown - and ironically, they were both singles. "Spoonman" is an okay track, but doesn't rank in my book among the best work that Soundgarden has ever done. (I also don't think this song was worthy of a Grammy for Best Metal Performance; the song, to my ears, doesn't fit the bill of heavy metal in the least, and spoons don't count as metal in this case.) The only other stumbling block, "The Day I Tried To Live," is an experiment gone wrong with a power ballad. Oh, Soundgarden would get it right on "Blow Up The Outside World" one album later, but this song is just a boat anchor.

Still, two minor flubs don't really distract from the power of Superunknown. "My Wave" is a song that will challenge any musician to keep up with the rhythms, and "Mailman" and "Head Down" will please and excite you. The second side weakens just a little bit, but cuts like "Limo Wreck" and "Like Suicide" help pull everything together.

Superunknown is undoubtedly the album that broke Soundgarden into superstar status, and for good reason. Many of the songs on this album will eventually become true staples of the rock era, especially when someone decides to do the eventual compilation album of this era, Soundgarden will probably be one of the first bands featured.

Rating: A-

User Rating: B+



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of A & M Records, and is used for informational purposes only.