Album: King Animal
. . .
I remember being kind of sad and surprised when Soundgarden broke up in 1997. With the exception of Pearl Jam, they seemed to be the Seattle band with the fewest amount of internal problems: solid lineup, no overt drug issues, still making great music.
But bands are delicate balancing acts in the best of times, and at some point Soundgarden got unbalanced enough that — after a disastrous final straw gig in Honolulu — they broke up in April, 1997, each member going in a different direction. Chris Cornell started a solo career as well as teamed up with the Rage Against the Machine guys to form Audioslave, which I liked way more on paper than in actuality; Ben Shepherd & Kim Thayil did studio work for various people and Matt Cameron became Pearl Jam’s first drummer to not die of spontaneous combustion, bizarre gardening accidents or choking on someone else’s vomit.
And so it was for over a dozen years, until Chris Cornell announced their inevitable reunion over Twitter, as you do. And in 2012, they released their pretty good reunion album, King Animal. As far as early 2010’s reunion albums go, King Animal was definitely better than Aerosmith, Van Halen & Smashing Pumpkins, but not nearly as good as Superchunk or even The Bangles.
And of course, King Animal showed off nearly all their charms: fast riffy songs, tricksy arrangements, big slabs of sludgy metal and a fantastic psychedelic song, “A Thousand Days Before,” which starts with swirling Kim Thayil guitar wrapping itself over a circular Matt Cameron beat.
Life, a thousand days ago
Hours sinking in a hole
Try to melt into the walls
Now I am here inside the bowl
On one hand, you could dismiss the importance of “a thousand days ago” by pointing out that it’s not even three full years that he’s talking about. On the other hand, as I type these words, we haven’t even had a thousand days of the pandemic, and things are now so different.
Here in the cold
Where no one stayed behind me
I’ll be on my own side
You know where to find me
You know where to find me
After that, Kim Thayil takes a droning, overdubbed solo — that he likens to the Velvets on “What Goes On” — and takes “A Thousand Days Before” to an even weirder place that it was already at, before Cornell comes back in to finish things off.
Apparently, “A Thousand Days Before” had its roots in the Down on The Upside sessions — an album to which Thayil only contributed a single song — and having a completed version of this song on that record would have absolutely made it better. That said, them being able to resurrect it and finish it off so successfully means something, as well.
King Animal did pretty well, making it to #5 on the Billboard album charts, not surprising for a legacy act who made a solid comeback album, and Soundgarden was a full-blown band again, touring off and on until Chris Cornell’s untimely death in 2017, which effectively broke up Soundgarden once and for all, though apparently there are tracks they were working on prior to his death which are all tied up in legal battles. So we shall see.
“A Thousand Days Before”
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