Soundgarden: 8 of The Best

Soundgarden: 8 of The Best

Posted 19 Jul 2021
soundgarden, 1989
Soundgarden, 1989. Photo by Krasner/Trebitz/Redferns.

When it comes to high impact rock, Soundgarden was a veritable force of nature. Devastatingly heavy riffs, cerebral lyrics and the incomparable vocal power of the band’s late frontman, Chris Cornell made them early – and almost unsurpassable – contenders of the Seattle music scene in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Bridging the gap between the hooky riffs of Led Zeppelin and the danger of Black Sabbath with their own electrifying raw energy, the band surged up the charts sounding louder, harder and more mind-bending than almost anything that came before them.

Here are eight of the best from Soundgarden’s colossal catalogue of monster riffs.

"Outshined"

The second single from 1991’s Bad Motorfinger, "Outshined" comes busting out the gate with an unswerving tenacity, breaks down into a vulnerable, melodic pre-chorus and turns around with anthemic resolve. With all of Soundgarden’s strengths peaking, this track was the band’s first to find its way onto U.S mainstream rock charts and radio stations. What an entrance.

"Loud Love"

Here we get a perfect snapshot of the wholly unique creature Chris Cornell, and indeed Soundgarden as a band, really was. Sounding like Zeppelin on steroids, "Loud Love" from 1989’s Louder Than Love, proved the band were ready for the world stage from the get-go, announcing the imminent alt-rock revolution like a battle cry. 

"Fell On Black Days"

This super-ballad from 1994’s Superunknown puts a spotlight on the prodigal guitar work of Kim Thayil, which masterfully transforms the band’s softer side into a psychedelic trip of its very own. 

"Hunted Down"

An ominous guitar riff sets a menacing pace before Cornell’s harrowing vocal comes crashing, the combination makes "Hunted Down" sound like a scene belonging in a horror movie. But the confident chaos of this track from 1990’s Screaming Life/ Fopp, is a dead give-away of the stadium-sized hits set to follow. Appropriately, the song doesn’t end so much as fall apart in a series of shrieks and screams that in no way reassures you that the danger has passed.

"Nothing to Say"

"Nothing to Say," also from Screaming Life/Fopp must be mentioned, because, for someone with "nothing to say," Cornell unleashes one of the most stunning vocal deliveries ever committed to tape. Both awe-inspiring and wonderfully ironic. 

"Jesus Christ Pose"

This riff-driven monolith from Badmotorfinger arrived with one of the most iconic music videos of the decade. Fast cuts of provocative imagery and burning crosses nearly saw the clip banned from MTV, but that only added to its infamy when the song went on to become one of alt-rock’s biggest anthems. 

Legend has it that in 1989, photographer Chris Cuffaro shot a shirtless image of Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell in bed with his arms extended slightly in a pose Cuffaro described as "just like Jesus" for Exposure magazine. Cuffaro mailed copies of the photo to friend, which included Soundgarden manager Susan Silver. Silver, in turn, showed the picture to Cornell, and the phrase "Jesus Christ Pose" was born.

"Spoonman"

This is where Soundgarden landed in serious hit territory. “Spoonman” peaked at number 3 on the U.S charts and even won the band a Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 1995. The song’s emotive ambiguity personifies the indie rock scene of the Seattle streets it came from, but Cornell’s soaring vocal made it a global smash. 

Speaking of…

"Black Hole Sun"

This surrealist masterpiece was Soundgarden’s biggest hit and spent a total of seven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. Producer, Michael Beinhorn recalled feeling like he’d "been hit by a bus" the first time he heard the song. "There’s usually a point with music where your attention span wanders," he said. "But this was like my head was in a vice. It was one of the most incredible pieces of music I’d ever heard. I played it 15 times in a row. I told Chris he was a genius."

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