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Five Songs That Show Soundgarden's Versatility

Soundgarden performing at Bayou Music Center in 2013.
Soundgarden performing at Bayou Music Center in 2013.
Photo by Groovehouse

Soundgarden is one of those bands that has been unfortunately pigeonholed by their era and their scene. They emerged in the late '80s as a promising new metal band before they got scooped up in the grunge movement following Nirvana's big break in 1991. No matter what, though, they were always the weirdos of the grunge scene, pulling out stranger and stranger tracks on all their albums that showed they would not be held to one sound or definition.

We're pretty big fans of the band here at Rocks Off, and we're excited to see their massive show with that other weird '90s hitmaker, Nine Inch Nails, at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion tomorrow night. In that spirit of that, I decided to comb through Soundgarden's catalog for proof that this band has never quite existed in the box some people put them in. Here are the five weirdest tracks that show their true versatility.

5. "Beyond the Wheel" This song is so heavy, it's unbelievable. "Beyond the Wheel" was a Chris Cornell composition from Soundgarden's first record, Ultramega OK, and it's one of the most metal tracks the band ever wrote. This is practically doom or stoner metal with its crushing, sludgy riffs and Cornell's wailing, almost King Diamond-esque vocals.

4. "Power Trip" From the band's second album, Louder Than Love, "Power Trip" is interesting for a few reasons. No. 1, it's one of the only Soundgarden tracks written by bassist Hiro Yamamoto, who left the band after that record. Second, it's maybe the most Black Sabbath-indebted Soundgarden track of all time. This is straight-on, sick blues-rock in the Tony Iommi school.

3. "Drawing Flies" This is one of my absolute favorite tracks from Badmotorfinger, but it's not at all what one would expect from Soundgarden. First off, its driving, punk-rock sound is pretty different than Soundgarden's usual blend of grunge and metal. But hear those horns? Who would ever expect a Soundgarden song to employ horns?

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2. "Burden in My Hand" Because it became such a huge hit, "Burden in My Hand" is probably what a lot of people simply associate Soundgarden with sounding like. In fact, it's a lot closer to things Chris Cornell recorded in his solo career, especially his first album after Soundgarden's breakup, Euphoria Morning.

If listened to in the context of Soundgarden's albums, even this song's very strange parent album Down on the Upside, you'll find that its upbeat verses and Cornell pop-blues warbling make it a total outlier. Yet because this is Soundgarden, it still somehow works.

1. "Ty Cobb" This one starts out with a very pretty intro, then turns into straight hardcore punk. Except, wait, is that a mandolin playing throughout the track in the background? Yes, it is. Soundgarden is maybe the only band ballsy enough to write a hardcore punk song with a chorus that says "fuck the world"... which also features a mandolin.

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Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

2005 Lake Robbins Drive
The Woodlands, TX 77380

281-363-3300

www.woodlandscenter.org


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