Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Return Of The Rusty Caged Spoonman

If the last six years have proven anything, reunions are profitable for both artists (financially) and fans (visually and musically). Within these years, everyone from Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. to Digable Planets and A Tribe Called Quest have reunited with some resulting in new albums (Dinosaur Jr, Alice In Chains) while others have reunited for nostalgia and the promotion of catalog reissues (Pixies, The Jesus Lizard). While I'm all for the reunions (depending on my interest in the band the first time they existed), one reunion has me as excited as I am leery about their return. That band is Soundgarden.
Recently, Chris Cornell has taken to the Internet (via Twitter and Soundgarden's Web site) to announce "The 12 year break is over & school is back in session. Sign up now. Knights of the Soundtable ride again!" This announcement along with Cornell appearing at a recent Pearl Jam concert to perform Temple Of The Dog's "Hunger Strike" (which features Soundgarden/Pearl Jam drummer, Matt Cameron, and Pearl Jam vocalist, Eddie Vedder), the instrumental portion of the band (Cameron, bassist Ben Shepherd and guitarist, Kim Thayil) reuniting, a few months ago, to perform a trio of Soundgarden classics and the discussions of a possible box set of the band's career implies great things as it should. Soundgarden was definitely one of the best bands to come from Seattle and one of the more impressive Hard Rock bands of the 80's and 90's with blend of dark, Led Zeppelin influenced sound and strong, melodic vocals. Their sound and recorded output has stood the test of time to the fact, Ultramega O.K. and Louder Than Love are still impressive musically even 20 years after their releases. So why does their return bother me?

In summary, it's the Chris Cornell element that has me worried. Granted, Cameron's touring schedule with Pearl Jam is hurdle for such a reunion but things can be settled with him between tours, family time and albums. Cornell, however, provides the most cause for any alarm in this reunion. Since the band's breakup in 1997, most of the members, aside from Cameron, have kept lower profiles with appearances on various projects and forming various bands but nothing on the popularity level of Soundgarden. Cornell embarked on two separate and somewhat disappointing careers post-Soundgarden. The first one being his solo career, although not bad, it is somewhat unremarkable. The voice is still there but it the overall presentation is somewhat bland except for last year's Timbaland produced Scream in which the vocalist wasted his vocal talent over bland Hip Hop and Club tracks much in the way Nelly Furtado had done years earlier with well...Timbaland. In the middle of his solo career, he became a member of Audioslave (featuring the instrumental section of Rage Against The Machine). While better than the solo recordings, Audioslave failed to live up to its own hype and potential and ended their short career after three albums. For more on my feelings about Cornell's post-Soundgarden activities, read "The Trial of Chris Cornell"

With that being said, is Cornell really interested in doing this or is it just a quick cash-in to jump start a somewhat stagnant career? If his heart is really in it, then this will be amazing. As stated earlier, the band's albums are still impressive all these years later so it would be incredible to hear them wailing on songs like "Nothing To Say," "The Day I Tried To Live" or "Hands All Over" live. If his interest is nothing than a chance to revive his career, then please seek your attention elsewhere and leave your former band with its legacy. Please do not be a Billy Corgan and return when all hope has failed with other projects that are not as popular as your most important band. If nothing else, release the long rumored box set, play a one-off show and end it on that note. That would still make many people happy.