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Getting there but not quite. - 66%

wallernotweller, December 16th, 2012

In late 1989, Soundgarden entered London Bridge Studios in Seattle to record their second album for their new label, the massive major A&M Records. Although by no means a commercial record, the band smoothed out the rough edges that ran throughout Ultramega. OK, but they still hadn’t reached their potential to my ears and would have to wait until 1991’s Badmotorfinger for that.

The first thing that you notice is just how many heavy metal tricks the band use. The likes of Power Trip and album opener Ugly Truth hark back fifteen years to the days when Black Sabbath were kings of the scene with their slow, brooding, down-tuned and stomping thick riffs. Not that this is all together a bad thing, but it is obvious that the group were still finding their feet, although there are hints of the future throughout. Hands All Over is the second single taken from the album which lays down the grunge template in full in its six minute running time. In fact, I would go as far to say that Pearl Jam stole major parts of this epic track when composing their own Even Flow. Would it be safer to say borrowed? Nah, call it as I see it.

Bassist and sometime songwriter Hiro Yamamoto left the band shortly after the album was completed and went back to college, some say he felt pushed and others that he left on his own accord. What is clear is that Chris Cornell had pretty much taken over the majority of the songwriting duties, leaving Yamamoto with just three songwriting credits on the album; Power Trip, No Wrong No Right and the stunning I Awake that leads off with some great use of harmonic playing from Kim Thayil. In the long run this didn’t affect the band at all but on a local level, fans thought this was the beginning of a downward spiral for the guys. How wrong they were.

A prime example of how good Soundgarden could be at this time is the track Gun. Here Cornell yelps out some awful Yeah’s and pens some ridiculous words “I got an idea of something we can do with a gun, sink load and fire ‘till the empire reaps what they’ve sown.” It's childish mucho posturing from a then twenty-five year old that we know now could do a whole lot better, but that doesn’t affect the enjoyment of the song in any way. The dumbness adds to its greatness. The riffs are massive and the groove is so powerful that it’s difficult to believe the band didn’t break through based on this track alone. I love it.

The reception was lukewarm upon Louder Than Love’s release, a fact that I put down to the clichéd lyrics and the inclusion of Big Dumb Sex. Whilst as a band ‘in joke’, I am sure it created hours of giggles within their ranks, but this dig at the hair metal scene just doesn’t cut it in anyway and comes across as petty, making Soundgarden come across as no better than the bands they are trying to lampoon. This aside, Louder Than Love was the first crack of lightning before the ferocious Badmotorfinger storm.