Another intense grunge rock masterpiece today, with our first look at Soundgarden, fronted by the incredibly powerful voice of Chris Cornell. As I have noted previously, each of these Seattle grunge rock legends came from different origins, and both Cornell and the sound of his band draw more deeply from the depths of heavy metal, both with the explosive vocals and deep and full chords and riffs. “Bad Motorfinger” was their third studio album, and it is rated as the #7 grunge rock album of all time by loudwire.com.
The centerpiece and showcase of this album for me is the second song, which is one of my favorites of all time from this era, “Outshined”. Not only does it have an incredible riff that is rounded out at the bottom by the addition of bass player Ben Shepherd, it also features one of my all-time favorite song lyrics:
“Well I just looked in the mirror, and things aren’t looking so good…
“I’m looking California, and feeling Minnesota…”
To me, that is the perfect encapsulation of somehow pulling it together on the exterior, but feeling miserable on the inside. Like most of his peers here, Cornell spent a lot of time in the dark corners, and I love this imagery, even as it expresses pain and sorrow hidden under a shiny surface.
The rest of this album isn’t quite as consistently strong as some of their subsequent music, but it is a deceptively good album that has grown on me over several new listens. I do specifically recall buying a used version of this CD for “Outshined”. I would divide the record into two categories. Approximately half of the songs are just really good intense rock songs, and the other half go a little too far with too little. There is no other singer from this genre who has the range or sheer strength of voice that Cornell has, but it still has to be embedded in a good song with an appealing hook. Of the songs I like best, I would list “Rusty Cage”, “Slaves & Bulldozers”, “Jesus Christ Pose”, and my second favorite song on the album, “Searching With My Good Eye Closed”. This song is a longer one with an extended buildup, but the primary riff and mix of guitars and bass with Cornell’s hypnotic vocals merges in a really unique building chorus. I can only imagine the ferocity of this song in a live venue.
Cornell did a great job of collaborating with his bandmates here, and there is much more to anticipate as his songwriting and vocal performances continue to evolve.