Thursday, May 18, 2017
Chris Cornell 1964 - 2017
Chris Cornell has just passed in very sad circumstances shortly after a Soundgarden gig in Detroit. It depressed me rather, even though I haven't really listened to his music much over the years. But the news did take me back to the Grunge era of the early nineties when I was living in Dortmund Germany and was good friends with a big devotee of the band who used to play their stuff regularly on Friday evenings when we would habitually meet up and listen to music before heading out to meet with our colleagues for drinks.
This was the period when they put out Superunknown which topped the US album charts and shifted millions worldwide. It was and still is a very powerful record, channeling a certain kind of fueled darkness but taking it beyond their metal roots towards genuine mainstream acceptance, no mean achievement. I saw them play in support of that record, (in 1994 I think), ironically in a nightclub in that city also named Soundgarden. The gig came shortly after the death of Kurt Cobain and the band were no doubt mightily weighed down by the legacy of that whole series of events, I imagine faced by a barrage of questions about him at every interview they were obliged to give. They were wonderful that night anyhow. A mighty, churning riff machine.
I don't really go for Metal, it's probably the one genre of music where I pretty much always draw the line but Soundgarden were the band closest to that dividing line that I cared for over the years. Superunknown was a mission statement and not one that just draws on those traditions but is also fed by the energies of the Blues and Psychedelia. A great set of songs, a brooding, troubled comment on the world and the way it can sometimes be.
Although much of Cornell's other output over the years has not really been to my taste, it's telling that the tributes to him as a person and a musician today have been fulsome and sincere and coming from the broadest quarters imaginable. Elton John, Jimmy Page, Nile Rodgers, Brian Wilson and Chuck D have all paid their respects among the more expected words of his immediate contemporaries. It's clear that musicians don't abide by the tribal affiliations and restrictions that many fans tend to restrict themselves to. What seems saddest about all this is that it appears, on the surface at least, to be another one of 'those' deaths. What with Cobain, Elliott Smith, Mark Linkous and so on and so forth, we've all had more than enough of all that!