REVIEW: Soundgarden – King Animal


Artist: Soundgarden
Album: King Animal
Genre: Rock

A band’s return is a scary thing. Too often reviewers will be quick to point out the length between the band’s working together, and if the album is good, the time away is the reason the band wrote with passion now. If the album sucks, the time apart made the band rusty and is why it sucks. With Soundgarden’s King Animal, it’s neither. This is their first album since Down on the Upside, and it feels like the album you would expect to follow Down on the Upside. Now, is that a good or a bad thing? It’s a pretty good thing.

Soundgarden haven’t missed a step with this release; they just also didn’t kick you in the balls and make you want to rock with it, either. King Animal is a good release that belongs in every Soundgarden fans collection, but will likely make both the people who say “Chris Cornell is too old” and the people that say “still rocking strong” reiterate their sentiments. It’s stylistically their least adventurous album, with not nearly as much strange rhythms or time signatures as other releases, no dissident harmony, and nothing particularly unusual going on. That’s the reason I loved Soundgarden, so I’m left desiring something a bit beyond all that is here. The people who loved them for their radio hits, for the arena rock sound, and for Cornell’s insane vocal range will think this album belongs.

“Been Away Too Long” is the lead single, and it is the most radio ready material here. It’s not the best song on the album, and but it is the best song in the first half. Keep at it, though: this album is long (over an hour if you get it with the bonus tracks), and the best songs are all in the final five tracks. “Black Saturday” is the most musically inventive piece since Superunknown, with an ethereal bridge I cannot begin to explain. It’s like waves of sound hit you softly, as Thayil’s guitar swings you into oblivion. If every song on the album were as good, it would have its place in history as a great rock album. Several other songs stand out as gems, too – with “Eyelid’s Mouth” and “Worse Dreams” destined to become live staples.

The trouble is that on an album that’s more than fifty minutes in length shouldn’t have any filler, and this album does. There’s good spots all over the album, but some of the songs are more annoying, and don’t ever offer the blissful excuse of being musically complex to brush it off with. There are songs on here (“A Thousand Days Before” comes to mind) that sound like they were written in half an hour, with everyone going “Yes, this sounds like a Soundgarden song. Done.”

This all comes back to my original point, though. I have no greater expectation for this album because of the wait. I have no notion of Soundgarden needing to “wear off the rust”, nor “proving themselves” to me. They proved themselves long ago. This album is really good, really listenable, and really enjoyable on each passing listen, as there is some depth to it. Unfortunately, it’s also really long with a turd or two thrown in. Nonetheless, I can’t help but recommend everyone who ever liked them check out King Animal. It’s not Superunknown, it’s not Badmotorfinger; it’s better songwriting than their earliest music and yet still not as cookie cutter Down on the Upside.

…And goddamn it, I’m happy to listen to it. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

SCORE: 8/10
Review written by: Dan Bogosian (Twitter)

Dan Bogosian

I finished school with a music theory degree. Before I finished school, I was a janitor. You really should apologize to all the janitors you've ever had. You hurt them. Seriously. You did.

But, now that we've cleared that up and you called your high school janitor, know that I quit being a janitor to pursue writing about music. So here I am, and here you are, and hey how are you?
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