Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I Awake

"Woke up depressed..." These words describe the way I feel at least once a week. Waking up already profoundly depressed makes my daily battle with depression that much harder. It's not a fair fight. Waaaaaah! How do you beat back an enemy that hits so hard before you've opened your eyes? You just keep on fighting.

Enough of my whining, let's talk music. I first saw Soundgarden January 21, 1990 on what I remember as the "Blizzard of Sound" tour (although I can't find any reference to a tour by that name via the Google nor can I easily place my hands on my scrapbook). "Astronomy Domine"-period Voivod (Note to all bands: if you feel absolutely compelled to cover the dread Pink Floyd please make it a Syd song) and the Mike Patton-led Faith No More rounded out the bill.

Having religiously listened to my Louder Than Love advance CD (picture disc. Natch.) for six months, I had high hopes for the 'Garden. A chance run-in with guitarist extraordinaire Kim Thayill at dinner whetted my appetite. A wickedly funny guy, Kim showed no compunction in telling an unbelievably off-color joke in the company of someone he had only just met. I liked him immediately.

With two other "co-headliners on the bill, Soundgarden wasted no time getting down to business. "Flower", the churning first track from their debut album, kicked off the set. They segued neatly into Chris Cornell's Adhan-like wailing intro to "Hands All Over."

As the band's first truly great song, "HAO" is ostensibly about the damage we do to Mother Earth (hence the widely misunderstood "kill your mother" chorus). But it digs deeper than that. Given a listen nearly twenty years later Cornell's lyrics are downright prescient:

Hands all over the eastern border
You know what? I think we’re falling
From composure
Hands all over western culture
Ruffling feathers and turning eagles into vultures
"Gun", my least fave Soundgarden tune to that point, came next. They quickly got back on track with the towering "Loud Love", the jackhammer-subtle-but-all-the-better-
'cuz-of-it "Get On The Snake" and the hysterically funny "Full On Kevin's Mom" (think Robert Plant fronting Black Flag). Then came a transcendent "I Awake" followed by the "Big Bottom"/"Earache My Eye" medley. (If they were going to go all ironic and silly on me, I would have greatly preferred hearing the far better "Big Dumb Sex"). The Sabbath-cum-Zeppelin stylings of "Beyond The Wheel" was the closer.

I saw Soundgarden a few times after that night. While later on they had better songs and musicians, sometimes your first time seeing a band is the best time. This was one of those times.


PS Jason Everman was Soundgarden's bassist for this tour replacing founding member Hiro Yamamoto. Everman has the dubious unfortunate distinction of having quit(!?!) Nirvana and being fired from Soundgarden. He exited both bands immediately prior to the recording of breakthrough albums Nevermind and Badmotorfinger.

Now that's something to be depressed about.