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Instant Expert: Soundgarden

Soundgarden
Roger Kisby, Getty Images

You’ve seen them at parties, lurking in the corner, waiting to engage in battle disguised as conversation. They’re indie rock know-it-alls, and no matter what band or musician you mention, they’ve got an opinion — strong and almost certainly negative — ready to ram down your throat. With Instant Expert, we offer preparation for these very situations. Each Thursday, in advance of your weekend carousing, we pick an artist and provide a quickie career overview, highlighting both prevailing critical opinions and the inevitable contrarian counterarguments. Even if you’re completely unfamiliar with the music, you’ll be able to bluff your way through and defend your indie cred. This week: Soundgarden.


Lyle A. Waisman, Getty Images
Lyle A. Waisman, Getty Images

The Gist

 
 

Soundgarden were defining Seattle's alt-rock scene before anyone knew there was anything going on there. Their Zeppelin-meets-Sabbath thundercrack, played with punk-like fury and a sludgy undercurrent, became a cornerstone of the grunge movement. After one well-received indie album, they signed with a major record company, long before any of their peers were scooped up in a mad rush to sign anyone from Seattle. The deal paid off in 1994, when modern rock was all over Top 40 radio and the band released 'Superunknown,' their only No. 1. They broke up in 1997 but reunited a couple of years ago and released 2012's 'King Animal,' their sixth album and first in 16 years.

 
Soundgarden Superunknown

Critical Consensus

 
 

The band's fourth album, 'Superunknown,' was released in early 1994, just when alternative rock was taking over the mainstream. By shrewdly stockpiling their usual grunge-metal arsenal with psychedelic ballads, ambitious pop and aurally adventurous indie rock, Soundgarden made a '90s classic.

 
Soundgarden Badmotorfinger

Contrarian Counterargument

 
 

'Badmotorfinger,' the band's third album, is where it all comes together -- the heavy metal thunder, the grungy crunch, singer Chris Cornell's banshee wails. If 'Outshined' doesn't get your head nodding, then you might as well say "I hate rock 'n' roll."

 
Soundgarden Ultramega OK

Counter-counterargument

 
 

The major label tamed Soundgarden. Their 1988 debut album 'Ultramega OK' is a maelstrom of metal, grunge, psych-rock and garage. In other words, it's effin' loud.

 
Tasos Katopodis, Getty Images
Tasos Katopodis, Getty Images

Whatever You Do, Don’t Say This

 
 

That album Chris Cornell made with hip-hop producer Timbaland isn't that bad.

 

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