AudioHammock's Top 20 Soundgarden Songs


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2014 marks the twentieth anniversary of Superunknown, Soundgarden's third LP and one of the most quintessential albums of the nineties. For those of you familiar with Soundgarden, I invite you to delve into the list of what I categorize as my favorite songs from the band. The list will resonante with some and cause others to become irate I'm sure. Just remember that at the end of the day internet lists are subjective, usually horrible and wrought with inept fact checking - I doubt this list is no different. This list was painstakingly hard and if I had to do it again it might look entirely different. Soundgarden's discography spans multiple decades and sub genres and cases can be made for probably half of their songs to be on this list; a sign of a truly great band. If you're looking for radio hits, look elsewhere.


#20 - Black Hole Sun
Album: Superunknown
Year: 1994

Blasphemy you say! How can one of their best songs be so far down on the list? "Black Hole Sun" is the beautiful psychedelic romp that Soundgarden is known for. It is a memorable tune to be sure, and for most fans it is their introduciton to the band (other usual suspects being "Outshined" and "Spoonman," neither of which make this list). The problem is that at this late stage in the game, this song has been so overplayed and exposed that I've grown sick of it to a certain extent, and to be quite honest, it doesn't even sound that great live, which live performance is something this list takes into account.

The guitar intro is goose bump inducing and high on life to be sure. This song will always have a special place in my heart, but for now, this great song comes in at #20. For some, this song is the anthem of a displaced generation, for others a lot rhetorical reflection during spats of altered minds, and for everyone else, a head bobbing good time. The music video for "Black Hole Sun" is vivid with surrealism and blended the perfect amount of reality with apocolytpic freak out to have you question the way the world works. Salvidor Dali and Virginia Wolf would be proud. "Won't you wash away the rain?"


#19 Nazi Driver
Album: Ultramega OK
Year: 1988

Hiro Yamamoto's bass leads the charge and Thayil's wail comes in right behind it. This is just vintage rock, post hair band, and pre total power chord. A sweet spot of guitar bliss. Cornell's lyrics point towards a Nazi soldier who has second thoughts about what he is doing (persecution of the jews) but continues to "feed the prison" regardless. Powerful subject matter from a band that was just beginning to scratch the surface.


#18 Blow Up the Outside World
Album: Down on the Upside
Year: 1996

"Nothing -guitar slide- seems to kill me. No matter how hard I try." The drudgery of the shift from E-chord to C-chord combined with Kim's guitar slide sets the tone of the verse for this exquisitely executed mundane tune until the chorus errupts in a fit of distortion and desire from Cornell. The music video is in a similar fashion to Black Hole Sun and the song is no less rhetorical. Dissolution? Social phobia? Totalitarian programmed humans? Authoritative control? To each interpreter their own, just don't forget to enjoy the ride. I imagine this song goes good alongside an Orwellian reading.


#17 Nothing to Say
Album: Screaming Life/Fopp
Year: 1990

"Nothing to Say" has the methodical grunge trudging along industrial sound that Soundgarden would become known for. The song came along before Badmotorfinger and Superunknown made the sound a staple so it gets a well deserved spot on the list. Heavy.


#16 Hunted Down
Album: Screaming Life/Fopp
Year: 1990

I had the esteemed pleasure of seeing this performed live in Seattle and it didn't dissapoint. A rarity from Screaming Life, Kim's riff paints an image of someone being chased through an ever alive forest. Hence, "Hunted Down."


Two-way Tie

#15-2 Blind Dogs
Album: The Basketball Diaries/Unreleased B-side
Year: 1995

An unrelased b-side that is anything but, "Blind Dogs" features some of Cornell's best lyrics and was included on the 1995 film The Basketball Diaries.


#15-1 Tighter & Tighter
Album: Down on the Upside
Year: 1996

One of my favorite tracks from the underrated Down on the Upside album. "Cause I feel I'm going, feel I'm slowing down." Great line.


#14 Ugly truth
Album: Louder Than Love
Year: 1989

Our first entry from Soundgarden's first LP also happens to be the first track the on the LP. "Ugly Truth" starts with a Matt Cameron roll and steady beat that leads us into some heavy riffs via Thayil and Cornell. With Louder Than Love Soundgarden entered a new stage in their career with a defining grunge sound and ever improving Cornell vocals.


#13 Loud Love
Album: Louder Than Love
Year: 1989

"There's no time to keep it low". "Loud Love" has a phenominal and eerie guitar intro that fades into another monster riff. Turn the volume up on this one. Footage from Dusseldorf, Germany, circa 1990.



#12 Like Suicide
Album: Superunkown
Year: 1994

I'm a sucker for a tribal drum beat, and "Like Suicide" does the trick as Matt Cameron really doesn't get enough credit. At seven minutes in length "Like Suicide" isn't so much a song as it is a journey through the story (according to fan lore) of how Chris heard a robin crash into a hotel window one night and put the poor bird out of it's misery with a brick. Knowing that makes this one worth reading:

Eyes were waking up just to fall asleep
Love's like suicide
Dazed out in a garden bed
With a borken neck lays my broken gift
Just like suicide
And my last ditch
Was my last brick
Lent to finish her
Finish her
Bit down on the bullet now
I had a taste so sour
I had to think of something sweet
Love's like suicide
Safe outside my gilded cage
With an ounce of pain
I wield a ton of rage
Just like suicide


11-6

#11 Rusty Cage
Album: Badmotorfinger
Year: 1991

A Johhny Cash song! Just kidding. This song is so awesome that Johhny Cash actually covered it. "Rusty Cage" is another of Soundgarden's more well known tunes and fans of the video game series Grand Theft Auto will remember its inclusion in San Andreas. The song spawned a music video and is still one of the classic Soundgarden tunes that is frequently played on radio waves today.


#10 Searching With My Good Eye Closed
Album: Badmotorfinger
Year: 1991

A constant concert opener for live shows and for good reason, the barnyard sounds that accompany the intro and the familiarity that everyone has with them make everyone feel nostalgic, then "The Devil says" line kicks in and straight rocking out commences. I won't even pretend I know what this one's about, it's so open to interpretation. Younger, I thought the lyrics meant this song was about tripping but an older self has me often skeptically questioning things around me and this song is a reminder of that. Perhaps both are right, and perhaps both are wrong. What of you? This song will take you places if you let it.


#9 Jesus Christ Pose
Album: Badmotorfinger
Year: 1991

Six minutes on how figureheads and < insert people you know here > use religion as a tool for personal gain or to hold dominion over others? Sign me up. Oh, some of Matt Cameron's finest drumming? Yes, throw that in there too. This is the devils music!


#8 Hands All Over
Album: Louder Than Love
Year: 1989

Humans are a virus.


#7 Incessant Mace
Album: Ultramega OK
Year: 1988

If you're a blues fan then this is the Soundgarden song for you. This tune from 1988 has had a rejuvenation as of late at Soundgarden concerts and is a pleasure to hear. The blues pattern enables Kim to really open up and have some fun. Shepard and Cameron are dependable as ever, the former with that soul piercing stare, and the latter with his stoic drumming patterns. Check out an exceptional performance on youtube from the Letterman appearance, I'd link to it but I refuse to directly support "vevo" videos. Viva La Resistance!


#6 4th of July
Album: Superunknown
Year: 1994

This song is so lyrically deep that it should be studied in undergrad literature courses.


5-1

#5 Limo Wreck
Album: Superunknown
Year: 1994

Like "4th of July," "Limo Wreck" is an gargantuant piece of songwriting, Chris touches on everything from the futility of humanity, the fiction of religion, materialistic society, and class defiance. Biblical scholars will no doubt catch the Tower of Babel reference in the first verse. An articulate magnum opus piss off to society.


#4 The Day I Tried to Live
Album: Superunknown
Year: 1994

"I woke the same as any other day, except a voice was in my head."


#3 Mind Riot
Album: Badmotorfinger
Year: 1991

"Mind Riot" is an interesting conception in that it features unique instrumental tuning on the guitar, all notes are tuned to an E. Lyrically the song is very ambiguous but a general overtone of stress is clearly felt. I surmise this song is about the path that we as people take to further advance ourselves by walking over others. Again I'm a sucker for Cameron's tribal drum beat.


#2 Slaves and Bulldozers
Album: Badmotorfinger
Year: 1991

An epic wail of a tune, "Slaves and Bulldozers" sounds like Godzilla destroying Tokyo and clocks in at an impressive 7 minutes. Live performances can eclipse the ten to twelve minute mark and make this one a choice concert closer.


#1

Beyond The Wheel
Album: Ultramega OK
Year: 1989

This is the song that puts Chris on the map as possibly the best male vocalist ever. Cornell's vocal range on "Beyond the Wheel" is off the charts.

Far beyond the road
Between your house and home
There is a churning storm
Of hailing burning bones

Tiny baby cries
Little, tiny pawn
In the profit gain
Tiny baby grows

Mother, who's your man
Is he doing what he can
To make a proper home, home
By overturning other stones, stones
Father, mighty man
Loves his little boys, boys
Shows them how to kill
To save his precious stones, stones

Far beyond the wheel
It steers your life around
We're driving flesh and blood
Deep into the ground, ground


Russ Bashaw

Founder, Owner

Russ Bashaw founded AudioHammock in the summer of 2013 and continues to be an active contributor and editor. In addition to writing the occasional review Russ is also one of the hosts of the AudioHammock Podcast. Follow Russ on Instagram @russba1 or email him at russ@audiohammock.com.

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