Monday, July 18, 2011

A Different Perspective, and a Rocking 90s Band

Some may have noticed a title change at the top of this page and a few more things shuffling around lately. To make a long story short, I simply decided that since I have way more interests than just the day-to-day tussle of American politics, why should I have a blog that's so limited in its subject matter? When I launched this space I did it from the perspective of a regular blowhard with an opinion. Commenting on sports, music, cars and whatever else fits nicely into that, and quite frankly sometimes a person needs to not focus on politics for a while or they will surely go insane.

That is not to say this blog will not get political at times. It will, believe me. There are a few social causes that I believe are worthy of mentioning also, so those will get their day in the sun at some point. But right now, an upcoming event this Friday makes me want to go back into music history a bit, and discuss the band Soundgarden.

I started getting into music slowly starting around the age of 9 or 10. Before that I definitely had interests, tapes I liked to listen to and the like, but aside from a few favorites I didn't know any artists or band names, I did not follow music careers of anyone and really my musical taste consisted solely of things my parents listened to, simply because at that young an age I had no ability or inclination to dig any further.

From the time I was 9 to when I turned 10, two really significant albums came out of the Seattle grunge scene. The most remembered and culturally significant of these of course was Nirvana's Nevermind. But a month or two later, Soundgarden released Badmotorfinger. It was, in many ways, unlike any album they had released before. It was labeled "grunge" simply because of geography, but it was unlike a lot of its contemporaries. While Nirvana was still very much rooted in shorter songs with simpler lyrics and a typical punk-like song structure, Badmotorfinger pushed ahead with a grinding intensity that included longer songs, deeper lyrics, Kim Thayil's experimental guitar shredding, Matt Cameron's jazz-inspired drumming, and Chris Cornell's urgent banshee-like screaming over the whole thing. It was a powerful musical statement, and it put the band on the map. They never looked back.

The band's creative high point, obviously, was 1994's Superunknown. I was 12 years old by then, just entering middle school. For me, this album resonated in a way few albums have with me, either before or since. It was a very formative thing. To this day I hear songs like Spoonman, Let Me Drown, Fell On Black Days, and of course Black Hole Sun with its nightmare-inducing music video, and it always takes me back to how I felt when I heard each of these songs the very first time. It expanded my musical horizons and really set off a love of collecting, listening to, and eventually playing music, that lives on to this day.

In 1996, Soundgarden released the self-produced Down On The Upside, which spun off the classic songs Burden In My Hand, Pretty Noose and Blow Up The Outside World. It was not as tight or focused as their previous album but I didn't care. I devoured it voraciously then and I still enjoy many of those songs today. I was beginning high school by then, and after a year or so of enjoying this newest album, I wondered if I could ever manage to get my parents to buy me tickets and let me see the band live in concert.

But then the announcement came over the airwaves: Soundgarden was breaking up. Apparently tensions had been building during the recording of Down On The Upside and culminated during the subsequent tour but I had no way of knowing that. My favorite band was calling it quits. The era was over. For my generation that was like The Police breaking up at the height of their popularity nearly two decades before. I figured I'd never actually see them play the songs I loved so much live, and that was that.

In 2007 I saw Chris Cornell perform with a solo band he put together, and it satisfied the urge somewhat. He had put together a decent enough band, and they played a random collection of his various solo stuff alongside songs from both Soundgarden and Audioslave. Each show was a really fun experience and it was really something to hear him scream out those vocals live on stage.  I saw him on three separate occasions and each was an event to remember.

But it wasn't Soundgarden. That drummer wasn't Matt Cameron. That guitarist wasn't Kim Thayil, and that bassist wasn't Ben Shepherd. Maybe it's splitting hairs but for me it was like seeing Roger Waters performing Pink Floyd tunes. Sure it was the same songs but the rest of the band wasn't there. Something was missing.

A full year and a half of rumors finally resulted in the reunion tour we all knew was coming one of these days, and this coming Friday, July 22, I have GA floor tickets to see my favorite band from my youth perform at the LA Forum. They have done a few slots on this and that late night talk show, so I know for a fact the guys still have it. I guess you could say my expectations are a bit on the high side for this, and you would be right. I'm going to go wild at this show, I mean really let go and go crazy and just enjoy every second. Seeing the songs you listened to hundreds of times be performed live and with amazing skill by the guys who made them famous in the first place, it really can be a transcendent experience.

Now all I need to do is talk myself out of driving out to Vegas on the 23rd and see them all over again!

Keep rocking.


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