Hey I Know What To Do, I’m Gonna …

Maybe as part of my ongoing mid-life crisis I am having a full on (Kevin’s mom) grunge revival at the moment and you’re all invited.

Here’s an LP I wish I liked better than I do, Soundgarden Louder Than Love.  Their first LP on a major label and a bit of a transitional record on their way to Rock Valhalla which they reached two years later on 1991’s Badmotorfinger.  In no way is it a bad album, it has got a few great tracks on it, but it isn’t any better than their last indie release Ultramega OK at all.

As a positive sort of chap let’s concentrate on the best bits:

  • Loud Love – My favourite Soundgarden song.  From the Zepped-up intro onwards the band generate a real sense of power and majesty on this beastie, by keeping everything really simple and, umm, loud.
  • Full On Kevin’s Mom – Just the title really, some bands have 35 year careers and don’t coin one as good.  Shame the song is a bit average.
  • Gun – Slinky, low and menacing, this is another powerful track, where the band do some clever sodding about with tempos.
  • Big Dumb Sex – I was never going to be able to resist that chorus, was I? it’s also the one track where the band sound like they’re having fun.
  • Full On (Reprise) – Musically so much better and more interesting than the original.
  • Chris Cornell’s torso on the LP cover*.

Unfortunately most of the rest of Louder Than Love is just a jumble of ideas and tempos without enough cohesiveness in terms of the production (Terry Date) or song writing to see it through.  One of Soundgarden’s biggest strengths, Cornell’s fantastic voice, is just neutered here – whether not recorded right, or whether it is just that he learned how to sing better in the studio later on, I’m not sure; he often sounds like a slightly strangulated Ian Astbury**.  Overall, the production is far too middling – not enough low-end or up-top dynamics to lend the songs a bit of a helping hand, or give them enough distinction.

I wonder if Louder Than Love is the sound of a band being caught between two camps, ‘alternative rock’*^ and metal and being a bit inhibited by it; not having worked out that they could stick to their guns and conquer the world on their own terms.  For me Matt cameron is the standout musical performer, as always on any album he drums on, showing off all his fluidity and groove where he can.

I’ve owned Louder Than Love for about 7 years now, but if I had been hip enough to have cottoned onto it back in 1989 there is no way that I would have predicted what (and how great) Soundgarden were going to become – which is probably exactly why I’m a desk jockey, rather than a disc one.

That’s all, now gimme some more loud love.

786 Down.

PS: For the uninitiated, here’s the chorus of ‘Big Dumb Sex’, a parody of sex-obsessed glam rock.  Turn it up next time you’re cruising in your mum’s car, for maximum teen rebel thrills:

Hey I know what to do
I’m gonna fuck fuck fuck fuck you
Fuck you
Ya I know what to do
I’m gonna fuck fuck fuck fuck you
Fuck you I’m gonna

PPS: Lordy this is a cool video.

*as voted for by Mrs 1537, who was a big fan.

**in fact the, brilliantly titled ‘Get On the Snake’ is a dead ringer for a particularly energised Cult track; no bad thing.

*^as it used to be called way back then in 1989sville.

21 thoughts on “Hey I Know What To Do, I’m Gonna …

  1. A few good tracks, but I’m not a fan of this one. It just isn’t sure what it wants to be and it really isn’t helped by the production.

    Strangely enough, I’ve been listening to Badmotorfinger an awfy lot recently. Superunknown was always my favourite, but I think Badmotorfinger has been taking its place.

      1. It’s a long album… though I think it’s near enough 70 minutes? Maybe more… would have been a perfect proper double album. It’s pretty incredible.

    1. I take your point entirely. I think the difference is always that the gestation period for a debut can be 10-15 years, but 6 months for a follow-up.

      Soundgarden definitely had to work at it.

  2. Never really heard this one. Just certain tracks. I was one of those with the masses when Badmotorfinger hit as I joined along with the ride!

  3. I do agree with you that this one is neither great nor bad. It just sits in the discography as an interesting place to stop on your way to Badmotorfinger. I might like this a bit more than you, but not much. I’d throw “Hands All Over” and “Get On The Snake” as some of the here as well. You can hear some melodic hints of things to come on here, too.

    Great ode to a proper stepping stone to greatness.

    1. Thanks Mr H. They’re just not quite there yet on this one – better production needed. I’m less keen on Hands than I am on Ugly. I would back Loud Love against anything they’ve ever done though.

      Funnily enough I played Alice in Chains ‘Dirt’ for the first time in many years today. Wow! Now that’s an album.

      1. Dirt is one of my favourite albums of ever. By anyone. Ever. Makes current Alice in Chains sound like Take That.

      2. ‘Dirt’ is still amazing after all these years. Hell, I still like a good portion of ‘Facelift’. There’s some pretty heavy stuff on there.

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