Way back in the day, I was dating a guy who thought it would be cool to have a band’s live club performance on in the background when we got back to his place. I didn’t recognize the band, so I asked what band it was, and he answered “Soundgarden.” I replied with, “No, not WHERE is this show, who is playing?” He again answered “Soundgarden” … we went on like that for a while – me mistaking the name for a place, him trying to correct me, both of us killing the entire mood. The performance captured a show from their Louder Than Love tour and was filmed in a small club well before they were known to the masses. I was mesmerized by the performance, and from that day forward, Soundgarden has been my favorite band. After I left, I had no idea where to find their albums, as they weren’t yet widely released, and I never asked my date about them.
But that was just the beginning…
A few months later, they are again on TV, this time in heavy rotation on MTV with their “Jesus Christ Pose” video. I recognized them from the live performance and rushed out to get their album, Badmotorfinger. Every song on that album spoke to me, but my favorite is “Drawing Flies” – it had such an upbeat tempo and such a dark meaning. At first listen, I imagined a cartoonist drawing flies on a piece of paper, because of the tempo, but after a few listens, I saw it as a post-suicide corpse attracting flies. The word play against the music fascinates me to this day.
Their next album, Superunknown, brought “Mailman” a song about going postal – shooting your boss – which was set to a heavy bass line that had me imagining a man finding his wife with the mailman in the 1950’s. Funny thing is that the song was written when Chris Cornell’s wife was his boss, so the sexual undertones of the bass line were apropos. “Fell On Black Days,” my most favorite Soundgarden song (also on Superunknown), hit the airwaves right as I was dealing with postpartum depression. It fit my mood perfectly. When I listen to this song around other people, I revert back to those feelings so forcibly people ask if I’m okay…
When I got to college, I wrote a paper for my poetry unit of my Creative Writing course using these songs from Soundgarden. I broke the rules to write the paper because I wrote about a “musician” rather than a “poet.” The paper I wrote proved the depth of the lyrics and exemplified their poetic merit: I saw something not meant by the artist. I was shocked when I received an A on the paper with a note from the teacher saying she would never hear music the same way again.
By the way, the research for the paper proved out that “Soundgarden” is a place after all: A Sound Garden by Douglas Hollis and is most definitely the namesake of the band.
Comment below with your favorite band! Are they poetic?