Soundgarden’s ‘Superunknown’ at 25: All the Songs Ranked Worst to Best


The Seattle band’s career-defining fourth album lastly launched them to worldwide success.

Any actual fan of the Seattle sound of the 1990s is aware of that Soundgarden are The Truth—the shining Holy Grail of what was really being practiced musically within the Emerald City. It wasn’t Nirvana or Pearl Jam—the 2 teams that first discovered mega stardom, then shunned it—and even their head-banging brethren Alice In Chains. It was these 4 flannel-wearing locals who embodied the aim-for-the-mountain tops sound that so many tons of, if not hundreds, of different teams later imitated. This was the grunge sound everybody was speaking about. 

On their fourth album, Superunknown, a profession spent within the shadows of their neighbors paid off artistically and commercially. It was definitely worth the wait. The album debuted at No. 1 and produced 5 hit singles, together with “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman,” which might win Grammys and propel the LP to gross sales of three.9 million within the U.S., per Nielsen.

Even although Soundgarden was the primary — the primary to kind (in 1984), the primary to signal to native label Sub Pop (1989), the primary to ink with a significant label (A&M Records in 1989) — they have been the final to make it massive. They have been quintessentially Seattle: Singer Chris Cornell was a hometown boy and even named his band for a wind sculpture in Magnuson Park. And they by no means compromised to attain breakout success—their fourth album’s sound is a pure development from long-haired, unfocused heavy metallic experimentation to a swirling, darkish psychedelia all their very own (and Cornell, as soon as a shirtless misfit, was now sheared and sporting a horny grown-up look, full with a soul patch). And that voice. 

It’s a close to excellent alt-rock report—maybe nearer to the divine than any of their contemporaries would ever come. To have fun its 25th birthday (it got here out March eight, 1994 on A&M), we rank its 15 tracks—a near-impossible activity, however one value doing. R.I.P. Chris Cornell. 

15. “Half”

To name this the LP’s worst tune is an insult—as a substitute, maybe, it’s its sorest thumb. Written by bassist Ben Shepherd, it options heavy sitar-style riffing and a vocal impact stretching Cornell’s voice out just like the Ganges. It’s a bizarre, heady journey of a tune, impressed by the Beatles, that by no means actually takes off. It’s a temper piece, however, frankly, this isn’t fairly the vibe. But… 

14. “Limo Wreck”

…that is nearer. It’s possibly a bit of overbearing, however we’re getting hotter. Guitarist Kim Thayil goes for guitar god standing, layering on cascading riffs and scaled faucets on this moody and darkish slow-burner. It’s maybe essentially the most cliché “grunge” tune on the LP, nodding to their earlier heavier days, however nonetheless, Cornell lets ‘er rip: “I'm the wreck of you / I'm the loss of life of you all / I'm the wreck of you / I'm the break and the autumn.”

13. “Mailman”

It’s Seattle sludge-pop cranked to 11. It’s a easy, duh-nuh-nuh riff with Cornell taking his vocals for a Sunday drive. The melodic pre-chorus is tremendous catchy—“I do know I’m headed the underside”—then comes the wailing frontman we’ve come to know: “I’m driving you all the best way!!!” That’s extra prefer it.

12. “Fresh Tendrils”

Here the collision of basic rock, laborious rock, punk and experimental psychedelia begins to take form. Thayil’s guitar soars over a musical rhythm from bassist Ben Shepherd—the band’s second bassist, who joined in 1990, bringing a brand new model and artistic spark—and drummer Matt Cameron. It builds and builds to Cornell’s plateau: “Shame disgrace / Throw your self away / Give me little bits of greater than I can take / If it sits upon your tongue or bare in your eyes.” It’s heavy, however with a poppy, memorable melody—Soundgarden’s candy spot.

11. “Head Down”

Shepherd’s obsession with the Beatles sticks stronger on this heavy, poppier jam. Another slinky, India-inspired riff opens the observe, earlier than increasing with Thayil’s electrical guitar and Cameron’s tribal drumming. “I see that smile / I see that smile in your face,” Cornell sings with water results flowing over him. “Head excessive / You’ve bought to smile / I see you attempt, I see you fail / Some issues won’t ever change.” It brings a darker, rainier (Seattleier) vibe to the Beatles’ India interval. 

10. “Superunknown”

It’s heavy, it’s easy, it’s poppy: “If you don't need to be seen / Well you don't have to cover / And in case you don't need to consider / Well you don't should attempt to really feel alive, yea.” The mid-section has Cornell chanting—"Alive within the superunknown / Alive within the superunknown / Alive within the superunknown” – earlier than the band breaks it down over a 1-2-Three punch. In a way, right here Soundgarden captures the basic rock model of what Nirvana did with punk rock on Nevermind. It turns into one thing bigger than the sum of its primary elements.

9. “4th of July”

This sludgy dirge is, at first hear, a complete bore; a grunge toss off. But give it an opportunity—the head-banging stoner riffs shade considered one of Cornell’s most visceral vocal performances: “Pale within the flare mild/ The scared mild cracks and disappears / And leads the scorched ones right here.” Out within the Pacific Northwest the Fourth of July is an enormous deal—you should buy unlawful arsenals from many a reservation—so you’ll be able to think about Cornell watching the fireworks mild up the sky. “And I nonetheless bear in mind your candy every little thing / Light a roman candle / And maintain it in your hand / I noticed it within the wind / I noticed it within the sky / I noticed it ultimately.”

eight. “Kickstand”

Soundgarden flip up the aggression on this straight-for-the-jugular punk rocker. It’s 1:34 of straight head beats and fuzz-toned riffage. Cornell will get literal: “I bought the urge to journey your trike… Come stand me up come stand me up come stand me up.” And… finished.

7. “Spoonman”

About a dude in Seattle who actually performs the spoons as an instrument, the tune was initially written in 1992 for the movie Singles, during which Cornell acts as a member of the fictional band Citizen Dick—an acoustic model of the tune may be heard within the film, written and directed by Cameron Crowe and starring Matt Dillon. Cornell determined they need to report an electrical model, too. Smart choice—it grew to become the album’s first single and launched the band to mainstream success, reaching No. Three on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and No. 9 on the Alternative Songs chart.

6. “My Wave”

This is Soundgarden at their most Soundgarden, channeling their influences (specifically the Beatles and Led Zeppelin) right into a sound all their very own. Written by Cornell and Thayil, and launched because the LP’s fourth single, it finds Cornell singing in a loop-de-loop, call-and-response vocal model that’s an immediate ear-worm. “Break, in case you just like the sound / If it will get you up / If it brings you down,” he spits. “Share, if it makes you sleep / If it units you free / If it helps to breath.” The kaleidoscopic mid-section is the place the band begins to redefine grunge. It would hit No. 11 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. 

5. “Let Me Drown”

A heavy guitar intro widens with Cornell’s vocal—for all his prowess wailing, the man would tie a couplet that by no means misplaced the shopper’s consideration. “Stretch the marks over my eyes/ Burn the candles deep inside / Yeah you recognize the place I'm coming from.” Then the band hits the fuel on its psychedelic but laborious rockin’ edge: “So let it go, let it go, let it go, received't you let it / Drown me in you, drown me in you, drown me in you.” It’s Cornell’s just-vague-enough abstractions—about despair, drug use, loss of life, every little thing—which might be eternally attractive.

four. “Black Hole Sun”

It’s the band’s best-known observe, having topped the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for seven weeks, and it was written in 15 minutes on a whim whereas Cornell drove again dwelling from a studio outdoors Seattle. Compared to most of the different sludgy, heavy tracks, that is straight up Beatles-style pop—a twinkling opening riff welcomes Cornell’s vocals, impressed by a newscaster on the radio speaking concerning the Seattle climate (a “black gap solar” sounds about proper for the forecast in moist, dreary Washington State winters). “Black gap solar received’t you come and wash away the rain,” he sings. Musically, it was a drastic departure, a brilliant, virtually nursery-like sound. But its video introduced the vibe again to the place Cornell needed it, with the solar swallowing up a suburban neighborhood, apocalypse model.

Three. “Like Suicide”

This tribal jam finds Cornell letting unfastened alongside Thayil in considered one of their greatest joint performances on Superunknown. The seven-minute-long jam builds and builds, with Thayil going full basic rock hero, layering on the nimble riffs. Considering how Cornell died in a Detroit resort room, it’s laborious to take heed to the lyrics of fragility and vulnerability, however his voice is just too tempting: “Safe outdoors my gilded cage / With an oz. of ache / I wield a ton of rage / Just like suicide / With eyes of blood / And bitter blue / How I really feel for you / I really feel for you.”

2. “The Day I Tried to Live”

It’s a powerful contender for No. 1 slot. Its opening, sliding guitar traces drop right into a drum-and-bass combo that hit you want a punching bag, earlier than dropping to permit Cornell’s tuneful vocal house: “I woke the identical as every other day / Except a voice was in my head / It mentioned seize the day, pull the set off, drop the blade / And watch the rolling heads.” The pre-chorus is pure hook—“yet another time round / yet another time round”—earlier than he goes for glory: “The day I attempted to liveeeeeeeeee.” It’s moments like these that make the person a legend.

1. “Fell on Black Days”

Like “Black Hole Sun,” it’s a hyper-melodic, clear pop outlier on the album—a straight drum beat and easy riff finds Cornell mourning a sudden change in temper simply “when each day appeared to greet him with a smile.” It’s a glance into the psyche of the frontman, somebody whose demeanor was threatened by the upcoming arrival of darkish clouds in lots of a kind. “Whomsoever I've cured, I've sickened now / And whomsoever I've cradled, I've put you down / I'm a search mild soul they are saying / But I can't see it within the night time,” he sang. And, lastly: “How would I do know / That this could possibly be my destiny?” But he delivers it with a ardour and a howl that sends it hovering boundless into these skies above.