An album I recall very well from its time of release is “Superunknown”, the next release from Soundgarden. Building on their momentum from “Bad Motorfinger”, “Superunknown” was their most commercially successful album, with several songs that dominated rock radio at the time. It is rated as the #4 grunge rock album of all time on loudwire.com.
Chris Cornell was truly a brilliant musician, and I resonated with this album for multiple reasons. The first is that it is very riff-based, guitar rock that pairs up perfectly with his insanely powerful voice. It doesn’t surprise me that Cornell ultimately became close professionally and personally with Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin, as there is plenty of overlap in this sound. My favorite “new” track on this record is “My Wave”. It has such a crunchy, fantastic riff that carries most of the song, and I would possibly rate it now as my second favorite on the album. It tends to drift a little towards the end, and I wish they would have kept the song a little more compact on the basic riff and chorus, but nonetheless, it is a phenomenal song.
Another great song on the album is “Spoonman”, which I learned today was originally suggested as a potential band name by Jeff Ament from Pearl Jam, and was based on a California street musician named Artis the Spoonman who actually plays on the song. I love that extra context to the song, but even without it, the bass line and riff on this song is another killer product, and Cornell elevates it like all of these songs with his vocals.
“Black Hole Sun” is another top-notch track that most all rock fans will instantly recognize. The meaning of this song is a bit more oblique, and it is more of a slow hammer, but I love it just like the others. It just feels slightly off-balance all the way through, which I love, and Cornell shines once again. This entire record is truly a tribute to his greatness.
For all of those great songs, to me, the centerpiece and most impactful song of this record is “Fell On Black Days”. I don’t believe that I have ever personally had to cope with clinical depression, and I have been blessed to lead a mostly happy and healthy life. That said, we all have our moments when life isn’t very positive, pleasant or enjoyable. I was definitely in one of those places in life when this song came out, and I felt it in a very personal way. Sadness, just like this song, comes and goes out of our lives as we all see change, and it serves as a reminder that things can suck for a while, but all is not lost. Aside from extremely powerful lyrics, this song also packs an amazing wallop with the chords that open the track. It is just a really good, hard-hitting, emotionally relevant guitar rock song that I loved then and now.
Unlike me, and hopefully most of us, Chris Cornell did deal with severe bouts of depression throughout his life. Sadly, just hours after a show in Detroit in 2017, potentially impaired by some added medication he had taken, he chose to take his life. For someone who had lived for so long and through so much, one would have hoped that maybe he had learned to function and cope with his demons more successfully than some of his peers, but for reasons none of us will ever know, that night was the night. I love his music, and it is clear he was loved by all across the music world, especially the family of bands that made up the Seattle music scene in the early 1990s.
“Whatsoever I’ve feared has come to life, and whatsoever I’ve fought off became my life”
“Just when everyday seemed to greet me with a smile, Sunspots have faded, now I’m doing time”
“Cause I fell on black days, I fell on black days.”