Release Date: Mar 10, 2017
Record label: Sub Pop
When Soundgarden released Ultramega OK in 1988, it came out a day before Sub Pop dropped Nirvana's debut 7" and just a few months after Mudhoney's first single. The cultural explosion of "grunge" was still to come, and metal was on life support while the masses were waiting for their whiffs of teen spirit. Soundgarden themselves were still a few years away from sorting out their own sound.
Soundgarden's ascent from Seattle's punk scene to rock's upper echelon wasn't preordained, but it was probably inevitable. Their first full-length, 1988's Ultramega OK, expands upon the promise offered by their two Sub Pop EPs, the careening Screaming Life and the glitchy, funked-up Fopp. The band's assault is sharper and more focused, their musical ideas borrowing from blues (and blooze), punk, tape-manipulation experiments, and dredged-in-mud riffing.
The band had finally found a cohesive sound on their previous outing, 1991's Badmotorfinger, and were rewarded for strong (pop) songwriting when Superunknown came out three years later. Those killer singles and great deep cuts of later offerings didn't appear out of thin air, however. Instead, Soundgarden had been rounding off the messy edges of their unfocused beginnings for years across multiple EPs and LPs.
Soundgarden's Ultramega OK wasn't the first grunge album, but it was among the most pivotal. Such semi-forgotten north-west frontiersmen as Skin Yard and Green River may have beaten them to the record store racks, but it was Soundgarden's debut that first had major label eyes swivelling Seattlewards. Ultramega OK doesn't sound quite so alien in 2017 as it did when it first landed at the tail end of 1988.