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Soundgarden is a large expanse of grass notable for its emission of transparent audible waves, located in Seattle, Washington. It was planted by ambitious gardeners Chris Cornell and Kim Thayil in the early 1980s, as a way of combining their two favourite things; heavy metal and gardening. Being in Seattle of course, the Soundgarden played not just heavy metal, but a new blues-oriented heavy metal specific to Seattle called grunge. The crew realised that their noise-making garden was far superior at producing records than their local recording studios, and so they formed an eponymous band, a victory they followed when they plugged in their guitars and mics and used their creation to record some fine bangin' tunes.
Founded in 1984, the band have been through several exciting adventures throughout the following decades, each one adding to the awe-inspiring mythos of Soundgarden.
edit Early years
Soundgarden was formed at the same time as another grunge band, the Melvins. Soundgarden and the Melvins were the earliest of the grunge bands, as the two were the only ones in existence at the time. In order to boost publicity, they both agreed to contrast each other by playing at two different audio frequencies - the Melvins chugged a single, slow riff at bass pitch (for well over 20 years), while Cornell's glass-shattering screams and Thayil's wailing guitar sound accommodated the treble section. The audio waves emitted from the latter band shattered the glass windows of Sub Pop studio, the nearest recording studio and Seattle's finest. Having recognised the sound from local legend, one of Sub Pop's record agents rushed to find the legendary sound garden and sign up the crew responsible for such a glorious piece of nature. The band plugged in their guitars and mics, and Soundgarden were about to have their first record produced.
edit Ultramega OK and Louder Than Love (1980s)
Soundgarden's first record was Ultramega OK, released in 1988. The album was named by the band's then-bassist, Hiro Yamamoto. Yamamoto was Japanese, and being Japanese, it was only expected that he would come up with such a title as "Superdupergammadelta Ultraawesomemega OK!". The record company understandably did not want to release a record with such a title, so it was shortened to Ultramega OK. Despite Soundgarden's grunge origins, the record companies wanted the album to sell outside of their native Seattle. Unfortunately for Soundgarden, this meant changing the sound from the hardcore heavy metal they were playing, and replacing it with non-Seattle sounding stoner rock music. Frontman Chris Cornell was so angry about this, he wailed loudly in a burst of energetic fury. His scream was so intense, it went right through the soundproof recording studio and made it into the record, becoming released as their lead single "AAAAAAAAA!". The crew were so impressed with this single that they decided to base their sound around this.
They followed their debut album with 1989's Louder than Love. The album title comes from a known fact about the band; love, which is a human emotion, plays at an audio frequency of 0 decibels, whereas Soundgarden's music is in fact at a much higher volume, which means that the album can reasonably be described as "louder than love". This album allowed the crew to find their own sound, which was the bluesy sound of Black Sabbath mixed with the low-budget sludgy noise of a penniless Seattle grunge band with cheap equipment - however, getting "the bluesy sound of Black Sabbath" would not be perfected until their next album, and so the album's initial lack of success outside of its native city can be attributed to the fact it sounds somewhat like a bunch of drunken punks screaming and playing heavy metal music out of time, a sound which - although very popular in the Seattle music scene - did not attract outsiders towards the band. The album would also prove to be the last album featuring bassist Yamamoto, who subsequently left the band so he could travel to his ancestral land of Japan and fight dragons.
edit Badmotorfinger (1991)
Now it was the 1990s, and alternative music was now the popular choice, which was good news for Seattlites. Soundgarden reached great success with their third album, the grunge masterpiece Badmotorfinger, released in 1991. The title of the album was conceived by Kim Thayil, but the meaning behind it is unknown - it could perhaps be a very sexual reference, as Indians are known to be notorious sex-pests. The band had actually made a decent budget from their last album, and while fellow Seattlites like Alice in Chains were spending their earned money on drugs and booze, Soundgarden spent theirs on fancy high-quality equipment and effects pedals, erroneously believing this would automatically make them better musicians. Badmotorfinger as a result contains the sludgy wah-laden guitar sound that could accurately be described as "grungy", thus becoming the first fully grunge album. This sound is best exemplified on the track "Slaves and Bulldozers", which was actually an improvised jam session recorded while the band were absolutely smashed (turns out the band did spend a little of their revenue on booze). Cornell on this album managed to turn his wailing vocals into the unique Chris Cornell singing voice everyone recognises, which was a success, as previous albums featured vocals that, although being very high pitched, sounded like Kurt Cobain being brutally attacked by a vicious group of wild coyotes.
The album's three singles - "Rusty Cage", "Outshined" and the ever popular "Jesus Christ Pose" - were very successful on radio and on music television, being played regularly on rotation (of course, as Beavis and Butt-Head had not yet been invented, not many people cared for MTV). "Rusty Cage" is a true story about how Chris Cornell was once locked in a cage by some crazy madman in the middle of a snowy forest, after which case he escaped and the madman sent hounds to chase him down. The madman was none other than country musician Johnny Cash, who took Cornell so he could steal his compositions and take credit for them. Cash released his version of Rusty Cage later that decade. "Outshined" is a song about how Soundgarden, once the heaviest band in Seattle, were outshined by fellow grunge metalheads Alice in Chains, who were by far more metal. "Jesus Christ Pose" is a song about Chris Cornell himself, who looks like Jesus and sings like an angel. MTV initially banned the music video for the latter, citing the crucifixion depicted as "obscene". Since crucifixion doesn't actually take place in the video at all and the only problem with it is the seizure-inducing flashing, Soundgarden called bullshit on MTV's ban and forced them to play the video.