Soundgarden – Telephantism

Release Date 27/09/2010 (A&M/Universal Music Group)

By Mark Massey

Reunions, reunions, reunions. Everyone’s getting back together. There was Rage Against the Machine, Alice in Chains, and now, after 13 years of slumber, the great beast that was Soundgarden has begun to stir again, having recovered from its defeat at the claws of that other great beast, ‘musical differences’.

Telephantasm, is a bit of a previously-on-Dawson’s-Creekesque recap of Soundgarden’s career before each member left exasperated through their respective doors, slamming them shut in 1996.  Now they’re releasing a retrospective to stoke the warm glowing embers of nostalgia, and hopefully pick up some new fans, as they agree to give it another try.

The new collection touches on EPs: Deep Six, Screaming Life, and Fopp; pays a visit to albums: Ultramega OK, and Louder Than Love; slaps Badmotorfinger on the back, then gazes lovingly at the more commercially successful Superunknown, and Down on the Upside. There’s even a bonus track, ‘Black Rain’, taken from the Badmotorfinger recording sessions to try and entice you.

It gives an overview of the Seattle quartet’s development from the sludgier; Black Sabbath influenced early material, to the Zep-like sounds of Badmotorfinger.  Their success from there on, with Superunknown and Down on the Upside, was probably thanks in no small way to the grunge scene that exploded in a shower of anguished cries and dirty laundry from their home city at the same time.

There are tracks here that you would think anyone born more than a decade ago would never need to hear again in their lives, such as ‘Blackhole Sun’, and ‘Spoonman’, which are now permanently embedded in the grey matter thanks to excessive airplay. But then again, there’s also ‘Big Dumb Sex’ that is so brazenly cock-rock that, while chuckling, you can’t help but love.

Oddly enough, Telephantasm is being released in one disc and two disc editions simultaneously, the first of which being the poorer sibling by twelve whole tracks, including five that have so far been unreleased.  The latter even comes with a DVD.  Consequently, the one-discer provides a bit of a whistle-stop tour of the band’s career in comparison with the two-disc edition, which is more in depth and about the right size given the body of work it’s taken from.

Overall, it’s a good beginner’s guide to the Garden, but there’s not much for the fans, try as it might with alternative versions of some favourites. There is a decent live version of ‘Jesus Christ Pose’, which ends with some lengthy, grungy feedback – obviously a set-closer. And the unreleased ‘Black Rain’ is typical Badmotorfinger era fare, though, obviously, it didn’t make the album.  It is, however, due to be released as their comeback single.

So will Soundgarden rise like the proverbial phoenix? Incorruptible like the dead at the final judgement? Or stumble from the grave slightly smelly and tired with bits falling off?  The new series is coming soon.  You be the judge.

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