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Soundgarden - Telephantasm

Soundgarden, Telephantasm

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

SOUNDGARDEN are one of the great acts in American music history. Chris Cornell, Kim Thayil, Ben Shepherd and Matt Cameron collectively redefined rock music for a whole generation and had a revolutionary impact on the course of musical history.

As one of the first bands to release music on the venerated Sub Pop label, and the first band to come out of the 90’s Seattle music scene to later sign to a major label, they have cemented a place in the record books as one of the biggest rock acts of all time.

Their greatest hit, arguably, remains Black Hole Sun, a seminal offering that actually marks a departure from their more trademark sound… but also a highlight in a career that saw them emerge from underground renegades to kings of the K-ROQ radio waves.

Throughout their history, whether preaching dirty sex or teen rebellion, they fitted into scenes: whether surfing, grunge rock, the sound of the American summer…. you name it. It’s pretty safe to assume that whether you call yourself a fan or not, one of their songs has touched you in some way, or been part of your record collection.

Telephantasm is an all consuming career retrospective that, in its own way, makes further history for the band. For, in addition to releasing the LP in conventional formats (ie, record shops and download sites), the band has also announced that they will be partnering with innovative gaming publisher Activision Publishing, Inc. to release the album simultaneously inside 1 million copies of the new videogame Guitar Hero®: Warriors of Rock.

It’s a shrewd move that should guarantee they reach out to a whole new army of fans.

For the purposes of this review, however, we’re content to mull over their achievements thus far… and pick out the best bits of what is, unquestionably, a great, multi-label spanning career retrospective.

Admittedly, the band’s earliest stuff veers more towards the Guns ‘N’ Roses heavy rock sound than the Seattle scene that would become their trademark. But even then, there were moments to savour, with Fopp, Beyond The Wheel, Hands All Over and Big Dumb Sex standing out on the first CD (of 2).

A previously unreleased BBC Session version of Flower also rates as a real buzz cut for Soundgarden fans coveting something new to listen to, while a single version of Room A Thousand Years Wide and a live rendition of Get On The Snake are two more picks from the previously unheard material.

CD2 is where the band really come into their own, however, with Black Hole Sun standing head and shoulders above them all as the go to track for all-time classic status. It’s as fresh, vibrant and, yes, sing-along today as it was way back when…

But My Wave is a great surfing culture track, Spoonman reverberates with some absolutely corking guitar riffs, the video version of Fell On Black Days a downbeat grunge classic and Dusty a punchy mix of stop-start riffing and anthemic choruses.

Then comes three moments to savour for the patient fans among you: two previously unreleased live versions of Pretty Noose and Blow Up The Outside World and a thrilling never-before-heard track, Black Rain, which mixes thrilling, grunge guitar riffs with a set of vocals that really scream with stadium filling fury.

If we’re being ultra honest, Soundgarden are most definitely a band whose sound is rooted in American values and their latter material far outshines their early work (circa Black Hole Sun onwards), but this is still a great compilation package that does full justice to the legacy of one of America’s greatest and most influential rock acts. You gets your money’s worth!

Download picks: My Wave, Black Hole Sun, Black Rain, Dusty, Spoonman, Blow Up The Outside World Live, Flower (BBC Session), Hands All Over, Big Dumb Sex, Fopp

Track listing:
CD – Disc One #All Your Lies

  1. Hunted Down
  2. Fopp
  3. Beyond The Wheel
  4. Flower (BBC Session)+
  5. Hands All Over
  6. Big Dumb Sex
  7. Get On The Snake (Live)
  8. Room A Thousand Years Wide (Single Version)+
  9. Rusty Cage
  10. Outshined
  11. Slaves & Bulldozers

CD – Disc Two

  1. Jesus Christ Pose (Live)
  2. Birth Ritual
  3. My Wave
  4. Superunknown
  5. Spoonman
  6. Black Hole Sun
  7. Fell On Black Days (Video Version)
  8. Burden In My Hand
  9. Dusty
  10. Pretty Noose (Live on SNL)+
  11. Blow Up The Outside World (MTV Live ‘N’ Loud)+
  12. Black Rain+

+ previously unreleased