Soundgarden stays grunge after 16-year hiatus


The Seattle alternative rock group, Soundgarden, has released their first album “King Animal” since the band broke up 15 years ago. The album is a good continuation of the very sound they became famous for (Photo Courtesy of Michael Lavine). 

Ricky Stein

Artist: Soundgarden
Album: King Animal

Label: Seven Four
Songs to Download: “Been Away Too Long,” “Bones of Birds”

Barrelling in with the appropriately-titled retro-grunge-rocker “Been Away Too Long,” King Animal boldly announces Soundgarden’s return to the spotlight with the band’s first orginal album in 16 years.

Sixteen years is a lifetime in the world of popular music, especially in the age of YouTube, Tumblr and the instantaneous reactions of Twitter and Facebook. The last time Soundgarden released an album, none of this existed.

So it comes as a relief that the band has not modernized its sound following the indie rock boom, instead relying on the same heavy riffs and idiosyncratic time signatures that made it one of the most popular bands of the early ‘90s.

Lead singer Chris Cornell ‘s voice sounds as sharp and distinctive as ever, screeching out lines such as “I’m a soldier for hire / Killing all you admire.”

Kim Thayil shreds away on lead guitar as if it’s still 1996, while drummer Matt Cameron and bassist Ben Shepherd make 14/4 time signatures sound perfectly natural, as on the seventh song, “Taree.”

Another standout track is the low-end heavy “Blood on the Valley Floor.” The band’s signature metal-meets-grunge sound is matched with morose lyrics, similar to that of their 1994 landmark album Superunknown.

The following track, “Bones of Birds,” finds them incorporating a cryptic minor-chord key change over an equally cryptic set of lyrics: “Tried to build on bones of birds / Singing in the cold, fall to earth.”

The second half of the album mellows out with several acoustic-guitar-based songs, like “Black Saturday” and “Halfway There,” bringing to mind some of Led Zeppelin’s better acoustic ballads.

The album closes with two of the band’s oddest songs to date — the funk-grunge  “Eyelid’s Mouth” and the reflective, brooding “Rowing.” “Life is a hammer waiting to drop / Drift into shadows and the rowing won’t stop,” Cornell sings over a highly-compressed drum beat, a looping bassline and interlocking spaced-out guitar lines.

Overall, the album displays a fluid continuation of the band’s sound, despite the long break.

Artist: The Rolling Stones
Album: GRRR!

Label: ABKCO
Songs to Download: “Doom and Gloom,” “One More Shot”

The Rolling Stones release yet another compilation album, with all their usual hits, such as “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” this one celebrating their 50th anniversary. The collection is available in several different formats and features two new songs: “Doom and Gloom” and “One More Shot.”

Artist: The Weeknd
Album: Trilogy

Label: Universal Republic
Songs to Download: “Wicked Games,” “The Zone”

Indie soul sensation Abel Tesfaye, A.K.A. The Weeknd, releases his major label debut, a collection of his three independent releases packaged with some new material on a three-disc set. Highlights include the lead single “Wicked Games,” Drake collaboration “The Zone” and a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana.”

Artist: Amy Winehouse
Album: At the BBC

Label: Island
Songs to Download: “You Know I’m No Good,” “Love Is a Losing Game”

This compilation showcases a career-spanning series of live recordings made by the late British soul singer for the British Broadcasting Corporation. Featuring recordings from 2004 through 2009, the collection also includes a DVD with a short film about the singer’s life.

Printed on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 as: Band stays grunge after 16-year hiatus