When Soundgarden split up in 1997, the press didn’t canonize the band like it did to fellow ‘90s grunge casualty Nirvana. The group’s demise was merely mourned with sad platitudes, marked as yet another nail in the coffin that was alternative rock’s declining mainstream power at the end of the decade. Since then, it’s been easy to take the band’s existence for granted, reserved for obligatory acknowledgment in grunge histories and by the continued presence of select Soundgarden hits on rock radio stations.
Since so much of Soundgarden’s legacy lay in the years before their superstardom, their major label-oriented 1997 A-Sides compilation didn’t quite do them justice. Although it contained cuts from the years before they signed to A&M, A-Sides downplayed the first act of their story, so the 2010 compilation Telephantasm is quite welcome, at least in its double disc incarnation where there’s enough room to capture the entire arc of the group’s career. Not only is there a heavy dose of their SST and SubPop recordings but there is a strategic deployment of live cuts, BBC sessions, single versions and rarities, including the previously unreleased outtake “Black Rain,” all of which capture the band at their heaviest, a shift that’s particularly notable toward the end of their career, with “Pretty Noose” and “Blow Up The Outside World” present in rawer versions than their studio incarnations.
Unlike a fair number of their PacNW peers, Soundgarden suffered through some growing pains. The problem wasn't so much that the band was trying to find its own voice, but that Chris Cornell wasn't always sure how to best utilize his. Cornell's apocalyptic shriek is the sort of weapon of mass destruction that needs to be implemented with care and precision.
Superb 24-track best-of from the reformed Seattle hard-rockers. Mike Diver 2010 With the Knights of the Soundtable riding once more after 13 years apart, the time is right for an in-depth retrospective of one of the grunge era’s best-loved bands. Soundgarden, Seattle natives at the epicentre of the early 1990s’ plaid-and-flannel rock scene, already have one best-of to their name, 1997’s A-Sides.