RIP Chris Cornell. Sorry I said such mean things about you when I was a teenager. I didn’t mean it. I didn’t “get it” at the time.
I am one of the fortunate few who doesn’t subscribe to the notion that the music of my generation is the end-all. In fact, if we’re being honest here, most of my mothballed CD collection hasn’t aged so hot. Case in point: The Cranberries, The Proclaimers, Goo Goo Dolls, Matchbox Twenty, Soul Asylum, Bush, Blind Melon, Gin Blossoms, Counting Crows, Korn, Collective Soul and Veruca Salt have all managed to swim to the top of the cracked stacks in the box in the garage among notables like Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Bikini Kill, Beck, Sleater-Kinney, My Bloody Valentine, Lush, Pixies, Blur, Stone Temple Pilots, Cocteau Twins, Alice in Chains and Radiohead.
Of all those only one band, Radiohead, is still making relevant music today.
Who’s to say whether Beach House, Sleigh Bells, Kendrick, Mac DeMarco, Wild Nothing, Chicano Batman, Warpaint, Levitation Room, Mild High Club, Bonobo, Thundercat and Parquet Courts will be remembered or even recalled in twenty years? The answer is likely, no. There’s too much to choose from and we’re moving too fast for bands not be disposable like everything else. Or, in the prescient words of Cliff Poncier: “Look at this, most of these bands are like well designed bottles of bleach. It’s beer and lifestyle music! I mean it’s like the next world war will be sponsored by i don’t know, what!”
While some of us have ancient memories of Lollapaloozas of days gone by — that is where I saw Soundgarden in 1996 — the past is where those should stay: I hated them at the time and tried not to get annoyed as I focused on finding my footing on the miserable, slippery knoll of the Shoreline lawn as they ripped through a 38-minute set. That was me pushing and bitching and moaning that even that hot moment was taking time away from Metallica.
I also recall a couple years earlier seeing Green Day roll through their entire catalog (at the time it was limited to their 1992 EP Kerplunk and my agitated 19-year-old self stand-by Dookie) at the same venue. Billie Joe stopped for a sip of beer and played the first three verses of “Black Hole Sun”, mocking Chris Cornell’s whiny falsetto.
I cheered and laughed the loudest because fuck Chris Cornell.
I was one of those guys who thought Soundgarden had either “sold out” or were never that good in the first place. These thoughts made even more clear from the fact that fucking EVERYONE was annoyingly issued a copy of Superunknown along with their Gap flannel and mom jeans. You couldn’t walk down a Pacific Northwest dorm hallway in 1994 without being involuntary treated to the droning “Fell on Black Days” or the ultra-annoying “Spoonman”. Blech.
Soundgarden was one of those bands I got more than enough of through osmosis.
Though there was one track on that album, “The Day I Tried to Live”, that I re-discovered a little later. It captured Cornell’s soaring razorblade vocals, his eyes somehow locking on you from beneath his perfect rocker curls and coming through the speaker. I came to that song along with “Blow Up the Outside World” — both welcome on any playlist and not for nostalgia sake — after I’d been working for a few years and realized that everything about being an adult kind of sucked. Jobs weren’t important. Relationships blew. Even friends started to seem a little strange. More importantly, it was the time I first discovered that I sucked too. That everything I was seeing in the world around me could be projected right back at me.
To me, waking up to that sums up the whole of Soundgarden’s catalog.
We live the majority of our lives in the in-between times and Soundgarden just “got that”…to a point that when they come on I basically have to stop what I’m doing and melt into a moment of involuntary introspection. You can take away my rock stars but you can’t take away my ’90s super powers.
So that’s where I’m at. Another guy gone. Another band of my generation silenced. No more shitty reunions. Today, the feed is filled with images of Cornell’s squint and well-trimmed goatee. Everyone is shoving I-was-there memories in the mosh pit of the social medias for whoever will pay attention waiting for the next act to come on.
Tomorrow Chris Cornell will be gone too and the next day and the day after that.
But oh to have your voice captured for all time and someday, with any luck, be rediscovered again in the cardboard box underneath the pile of outgrown kid clothes and rusty garden shears.