So this’ll be my album of 1992.
Relistened to it the other day, and it’s fucking marvellous. I recall Morat at the time saying how Soundgarden should be running scared, and with good reason. This was everything they were at the time, just a lot more of it.
It’s about as cool as music gets for me. Production good enough to hear all the instruments, but bad enough to maintain that ‘don’t give a fuck’ edge. Guitars that boom and shred at the same time. Sabbathy and punky, and – most of all – Hommey. Vocals that snarl and scream, but all the while utterly melodic. John Garcia is the best rock vocalist at that point in time. And the bass – that massive, enveloping bass. That’s what truly set this band apart from their relatively tinny peers. Mudhoney through to Earth, via dub. Heck yeah.
The songs rule it. Utter rock excellence, played in a really punky way. Each one different enough from the last. Perfect balance between direct musical message and trippiness.
‘Thumb’ is an ideal opener, crashing as it does into your consciousness. Riffs, hooks and menace. ‘Freedom Run’ freaks out the unwary psychoactive traveller with loops, echoes and eventually a rock song breaking through the hidden messages. My favourite, though, is ’50 Million Year Trip (Downside Up)’.
It starts off quite normally, and the listener rocks out. However, something happens which I cannot quite explain. It mellows out, certainly. Homme strikes up a gorgeous melody, while all else slows and the bass rhythm becomes a focal point. The guitars are all shimmery, the vocals all echoey, and it feels so right.
Slow soloing ensues, while the bassline lollops along and the singing drops away. More shimmery guitars join the cocktail. Then it all drops off, save for a lone guitar thread, as if playing on a distant hilltop. Slowly, it all fades back, giving such a euphoric rush that it just has to be experienced. On headphones.
The album is notable also for pretty much the first QOTSA and Mondo Generator songs, as Josh and Nick take the vocals respectively. The former is a melodic tune, with harmonised chorus and shy singing. The latter is a noise-drenched rockout with no discernable direction.
Not much has changed there, then…