. . .
Superunknown is the record that changed everything for me when it came to Soundgarden.
Before it, I’d heard only a few songs on the radio or videos on MTV. Afterwards, I knew that I needed to explore their catalog to see what else I’d missed. But you know what? Let’s let 1994 Jim set the scene, here’s the opening paragraph of the review I published in Kade Magazine in July, 1994, just seconds after I moved away from Fresno.
Because I’m old enough to have screamed “alright!” for Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath the first time around, I dismissed most of the early grunge I heard with a casual “I’ve been there, I know the way.” What was the point?–after all, I could whet my hard rock jones with any number of punk-derived bands. Besides, I was sick of the “latest scenes” forever being shoved down my throat: from Athens to Manchester, they usually consisted of one or two great bands, a handful of memorable singles and a shitload of dross, well-intentioned or otherwise.
So a little confession: unlike a lot of people obviously smarter than me, I doubt I’ve heard or even wanted to hear ten songs combined by Alice in Chains, Mudhoney, TAD and the band with the great name: Soundgarden. Until now.
Cos Superunknown is a monumental, colossal, hard-rock gem from start to finish. For me, it ranks with such mainstream masterpieces like Rocks or Use Your Illusion II. It combines headbanging power with a sense of songwriting that probably comes only with, um, er, maturity.
For what it’s worth, I recently listened to Superunknown start to finish and if anything, it sounds even better; even the weakest songs kick ass. And the strongest songs? As great as metal ever got, full stop. Starting with “My Wave,” which follows the opener “Let Me Drown” like an answer as to where, kicking off with big power chords from Chris Cornell and Kim Thayil over an even bigger beat from Matt Cameron. Probably a good solid 8 out of 10 Zeppelins.
Cry, if you want to cry, if it helps you see
If it clears your eyes
Hate, if you want to hate, if it keeps you safe
If it makes you brave
Pray, if you want to pray, if you like to kneel
If you like to lay
It also helps that “My Wave” is one of their most open-hearted and cold-hearted songs at the same time. On the verses, Cornell is basically saying, “hey, whatever gets you through your life is fine by me,” but that’s just as long as you do one thing: don’t bug him with your shit.
Don’t come over here, piss on my gate
Save it, just keep it off my wave
At this point, the more straightforward verses are beginning to show some signs of stresses, as Cornell & Thayil play their big chords in slightly different places, all of which leads to the chorus.
Keep it off my wave
Keep it off my wave, my wave
Keep it off my wave, keep it off my wave
Keep it off my wave, my wave
My wave, my wave, my wave, my wave, my wave
Cornell has said that he got this from “My Beach” by the Surf Punks, which is an awesomely hilarious detail. An awesomely awesome detail is the guitars on this chorus which switch from the big-ass power chords to shimmering psychedelic buzzing that spins in and around Cornell’s vocals. It’s kind of disorienting, but they like it so much that after the last verse, it takes over the song, as Thayil starts layering more and more guitars, including some cool backwards guitars, making the last minute of “My Wave” a gorgeous psychedelic shimmer.
I think it was at this point — the second song — back in ’94 when I realized I was going to at least enjoy Superunknown, maybe even like it.
“My Wave” was the song they choose to be the next single after “Black Hole Sun,” and it didn’t do nearly as well on the radio as “Black Hole Sun” did, but then again, neither did any of their other songs. But we’ll talk about that when we get there in a couple of days.
“My Wave” Official Music Video
“My Wave” Live in Austin, 2014
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