Album review: Soundgarden, King Animal

Posted: November 16, 2012 in Album Reviews
Tags: ,

Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted on the trusty old blog, but what better time to break my silence then now, with the release of Soundgarden’s first album in 16 years.
King Animal arrived in stores Tuesday, and let me tell you, it didn’t disappoint me in any way, shape or form.
Many comeback albums have the feel of a thrown-together cash grab, a usually crappy facsimile of glory days, easily discarded and forgotten about.
Not with these alt-rock godfathers, who sound as fresh now as they did when they disbanded in 1997. And boy, how I’ve missed them.
In this current musical landscape of MP3s, silly mindless teenybopper pop and lackluster hip hop, it’s nice to hear a mighty guitar sound again.
The procedings get off to a smashing start with a clear statement of purpose. “Been Away Too Long” is about as apt a leadoff track/single for a band that has indeed been away too long. It’s a fast-paced re-introduction to the band, and the next 12 tracks give you what you love about the band – amazing, sludgy, heavy guitars (courtesy of the vastly underrated Kim Thayil), bizarre time signatures, the always reliable wail of singer Chris Cornell, the kick-ass drumming of Matt Cameron, and the relentless bass playing of Ben Shepherd.
While I enjoyed much of Cornell’s work with Audioslave and some of his solo outings, he truly works best in this band. Because all four members have songwriting chops and exhilarating musical ideas, a Soundgarden album is never dull.
From the full-guitar assault of “Non-State Actor” to the Eastern-flavored “Thousand Days Before” to the hauntingly gorgeous “Bones of Birds,” there is everything here that make Soundgarden a great band.
And while there is killer material throughout, I believe they saved the most interesting work at the end. The final three-song block of “Worse Dreams,” “Eyelid’s Mouth” and “Rowing” leave you desperately wanting more.
“Rowing” is one of the more unique songs in the band’s catalogue, as the drums have an almost Dust Brothers or Beck-like feel in the production value. It’s a slow-burning number with heartfelt vocals and an awesome bass line from Shepherd. It builds in intensity to a full-guitar swirl and as it fades, you’re ready to play the album again front to back.
It’s also a group of songs that get better every listen, as you hear some things you didn’t quite get the first time you listen to it.
It’s so good to hear from these guys again, and I hope it’s the beginning of a late-career renaissance for the band. The music world certainly needs Soundgarden. Thanks for returning boys.

Sod rating: **** 1/2


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