For Soundgarden, much like their comrades in Pearl Jam, there’s just a vibe and a sonic landscape that is what it is. Maybe it’s the distinctive voice of the lead singer—and that applies to both Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder. Or, maybe it’s the blistering guitar sound. More likely, it’s the combination that makes the whole of both Soundgarden and Pearl Jam (and so many other bands) greater than the sum of their parts.
There’s a chemistry that takes over in a great band. That chemistry bleeds into the records, the performances, and the fans. And it’s intoxicating when it’s really right. It’s why many bands just aren’t the same once the original line-up disperses even a little. Would anyone argue that R.E.M. post-Bill Berry’s departure stood up to the pre-Bill Berry era? Even better — Guns ‘n Roses without Slash and Duff is just Axl Rose on an ego trip. (Not that Axl was ever not on an ego trip!)
But, back to Soundgarden. With King Animal as their first studio set in 16 years, the Seattle rockers are like Stella — they got their groove back, although it’s not entirely clear that it was ever gone. Perhaps it was more just resting while various band members pursued other projects.
By all accounts, though, King Animal is pure Soundgarden, through and through. They didn’t attempt any grand reinventions or updates of their sound. For better or worse, they just did what they do: rock. Now, Soundgarden’s particular brand of rocking was fairly cutting-edge back in the early and mid-1990s. All these years on, not everyone will want to revisit that sound. Many will, though, because, as the Washington Post noted, “This isn’t merely the year’s least-embarrassing reunion disc — it’s the best Soundgarden album of 1999.”
The grunge era that spawned Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and the rest of that milieu woke something up in a lot of people. It shook us, collectively, out of the big hair and new wave that was the ’80s, all the while injecting an urgency and gravitas into the airwaves that had been dormant for most of that previous decade.
So, when one of the leaders of that revolution comes back around for a second pass, it might well be worth paying attention. If so, King Animal is there for the taking and, of course, the band will hit the road to support the effort. To that end, Soundgarden hits Los Angeles on November 27 at the Fonda Theatre’s Music Box and then again on February 15, 16, and 17 at the Wiltern Theatre.
To get the 2013 party started, Soundgarden hits Washington, DC at the DAR Constitution Hall on January 18. The whole run lasts a month and hits Upper Darby, Pennsylvania; Boston, Massachusetts; New York, New York; Toronto, Ontario; Detroit, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Just prior to the February 15-17 close out in Los Angeles, Soundgarden rocks Oakland on February 12 and 13.
Bust out your flannel, dust off your Doc Marten’s, and get thee to a Soundgarden show.