Soundgarden-King Animal (iTunes Deluxe Edition)
This is just one of two "new" albums, both from older groups that were a part of the soundtrack of my youth, that I've been sitting on for a little while. Why? Well, the obvious answer who be that I've just been trying to decide how I feel about these new albums. In case your wondering the other release is from Neurosis. Again, with their new album, "Honor Found In Decay", I'm just not sure what to think. Both of these releases share a common theme for me and, as such, I hope to tackle the pair this weekend. One today, Saturday the 15th, and the other one tomorrow. As I had heard the single "Been Away Too Long" prior to the release of this new album I was left with a underlying sense of both fear and anticipation. The more spins I gave that single the more I liked it. The guitar work from Kim Thayil was heavy and featured this intimating riff while frontman Chris Cornell sounded as if he could still hold his own. For the most part those two statements are also true of "King Animal" as a whole. If anything though the 2012 version of Soundgarden sounds a lot like the mid-90's version of Soundgarden so, if you are like I am and loved "Badmotorfinger" and the previous albums more then "Superunknown" and what followed, you might be left out in the cold looking in. "Been Away Too Long" is the album's opener followed by the cut "Non-State Actor". "Non-State Actor" and "By Crooked Steps" are both numbers that wouldn't have felt out of place on "Superunknown". While the songs showcase an older and wiser Soundgarden, there is no doubt that not only these two tracks, but the whole album is well-crafted and technically sound, therein lies a potential part of the problem as you listen to "King Animal". The band has aged and even though all four musicians sound good, drummer Matt Cameron and bassist Ben Shepherd still manage to anchor the band's solid rhythm section without ever getting a chance to truly show off their own skills, band's sixth studio album is not as loud or imposing as "Been Away Too Long' suggested it might be. Produced by both the band and Adam Kasper (Foo Fighters, Queens Of The Stone Age) "King Animal" is not a bad album at all. "A Thousand Days Before" is rather good as is "Attrition" which, while not living up to it's full potential, is still a nice little kicker of a song. But, when the band tries to play outside of it's own comfort zone ("Blood on the Valley Floor" is marked-down, bargain stoner rock), or forgets that this is not a Chris Cornell solo-album ("Black Saturday" and "Halfway There" are acoustic-driven numbers) things quickly go astray. Why the band also felt the need to tack on the obligatory ballad ("Bones Of Birds") is a question in need of a serious answer. While the knocks against the band might seem to be too many to count (Old age, not as loud or fierce, lacking credibility-with Chris Cornell in a bromance with Brad Pitt is there anyway you can really take some of his rants against the system seriously?) the truth is "King Animal" still features a good half-album's worth of material that is worth while. Whether you choose to call them grunge or post-grunge/alternative rock (or for that matter just rock) Soundgarden is still capable of writing good material and pulling off an addictive hook or two when they set their minds to it even if some of us are left wondering what relevance the band has left to offer in this day and age.