On May 18, 2017, we lost the rock legend Chris Cornell. We're approaching the one year anniversary, and it still feels hard to accept that he's gone. For the month of May, we'll be dedicating Throwback Reviews to the late and great Chris Cornell.
The grunge era was all about being raw and visceral. There was no more need for keeping things hidden: artists were free to put their hearts and words on the line and be accepted for them. Soundgarden was one of the key figures in this movement, their music being loud and honest: the perfect combination for grunge to take full effect. Soundgarden's Ultramega OK is one of their rawest efforts, full of rock n' roll angst and a unique anger.
Ultramega OK lives off of its recklessness. There's a certain raucousness that gives the record its charm. With songs like 'All Your Lies' with its purposefully messy delivery, its easy to relate to this beaten down, imperfect type of song; it was certainly a good representation of any grunge fan. There's more chaos in 'Circle Of Power,' the vocals wild and the instrumental even more so. 'Smokestack' takes a more jamming approach to it, its Jimi Hendrix-like bashfulness really giving it that raw vibe.
There are some numbers that seem to cut a bit deeper in Ultramega OK, however. It's not all just wild and chaotic. 'Mood For Trouble' is much more restrained than the rest of the album, taking on a more thoughtful role at the album's core. Chris Cornell croons woefully, "I did not want to fight, I did not want to kill / I wanted to be real, I wanted to believe that I was not the only one alive," expressing some real pain in those words. 'Incessant Mace' is an angrier tune, but is pretty slow compared to the entire record. It has a chaotic guitar solo that channels that rampant energy, but feels powerful amongst the more restrained rhythm behind it. The way opening track 'Flower' introduces the album - peacefully, before big drive and bustling riffs come rushing it - even serves to show that there's something deeper within the crunchy riffs. Thoughtfulness plays just as big a role as anger does in this album.
Soundgarden's Ultramega OK is one of their rawest efforts, their 1988 debut taking full reign over the emerging world of grunge and making it their own. In the chaos of the riffs and drive, there's a lot of real emotion that feels like it would have gone unheard otherwise. It laid the foundations for grunge, and really showed what the genre was capable of expressing.
Favorite Tracks: Mood For Trouble, Incessant Mace, Flower
Least Favorite Track: Circle Of Power
Rating: 78 / 100
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