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Please explain to me ... Soundgarden

By David Malitz

soundgardenThe real superunknown - why people love Soundgarden.

Watching a reunited Soundgarden play "Hunted Down" on “Conan” last night was one of those “makes-you-think” moments. Here were my thoughts, in order.

1) Wow, this is awful.

2) Wow, grunge was awful.

3) Wow, maybe the ‘90s were actually awful?

4) Soundgarden playing a song released in 1987 on “Conan” on TBS in 2010 ... this certainly wasn't part of the master plan, was it? The band seemed reanimated with half-juiced batteries. Simply put, it was a drag.

Mostly, though, it just reminded me of my complete indifference to Soundgarden. Besides the fact that the band is responsible for "Spoonman," worst alt-rock staple of the ‘90s not by Live, what was there to grab onto? A murky metal sound that morphed into standard album rock, serviceable lead guitar playing, Chris Cornell’s constant screeching, some Zeppelin posturing? Their reunion tactics aren’t doing them any favors, either. They are one of the last bands to jump on the bandwagon (after Cornell’s failure of a solo career), releasing a best-of that’s a tie-in with “Guitar Hero” in what feels like a cheap ploy to go platinum. Cornell even grew his hair long again for this reunion. Did he miss his long locks or was he making sure to look just like the glory days?

So what am I missing? Please explain...

UPDATE - Now with very simple and straightforward poll!

By David Malitz  | November 10, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Please explain to me  | Tags:  Soundgarden  
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I can explain're an idiot.

Posted by: soundopinion | November 10, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

I can explain're an idiot.

Posted by: soundopinion | November 10, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Who cares about the music? Look at those nipples!

Posted by: bryc3 | November 10, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I've never had a problem with Soundgarden. They're not HOF material, but they've produced some decent albums, and Cornell is one of the best lead singers in rock. No one can match his range or tonal consistancy.

Posted by: Russtinator | November 10, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

I always had a soft spot for "Wicked Garden." But yes.

Posted by: fischerj1 | November 10, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Hm. In my head that joke came through. Oh well!

Posted by: fischerj1 | November 10, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Could it be? Another hipster pretentiously deriding 90s rock? Yawn.

Posted by: wpost16 | November 10, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

The same could be said for 90% of the bands you listen to. And despite your indifference to Soundgarden, you spend 200 words sh!tting on them. Are you auditioning for a gig at Pitchfork by showing how snarky and superior you can be?

Posted by: Handsome_John_Pruitt | November 10, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Let's see . . . interesting, odd time signatures in most of their songs, interesting and creative lyrics, one of the most gifted vocalists in the history of rock music, and the authenticity that most of the early 90's Seattle shared. That's why I and many others like them, but to each their own. I think that anyone who mindlessly trashes a band (usually to prop their ego up) should be willing to list a few of their own favorites so that others may return the favor, if necessary. Otherwise, you come off as a pretentious hipster, as the above poster indicated.

So . . . how about it?

Posted by: pariah247 | November 10, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

You are not missing anything David. Soundgarden is/was terrible.

Posted by: popopo | November 10, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Some people enjoy various combinations of the following: guitar, bass, drums, vocals. Explained.

Posted by: foosball | November 10, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Soundgarden was always one of those bands that you were supposed to like, but they always felt like the homework in a grunge class. Spoonman is the best of their hits, because of the spoon interval and the almost-zany lyrics. Compare to ponderous noise like Black Hole Sun, best forgotten.

Posted by: tomtildrum | November 10, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Pretty easy to explain I Jam NW grunge. Was almost guaranteed to be a hit at the time.

Posted by: agl132 | November 10, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

You must not have suffered through the horrible music of the 1980's.

You are clueless.

Remember, these guys were part of the greatest band EVER... Temple of the Dog!!

Posted by: skippy9baller | November 10, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Still waiting for those who are trashing this band and any band for that matter to rattle off of few bands that us non-hipsters "should" be listening to. I'm curious.

Posted by: pariah247 | November 10, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Late 80's/early 90's Soundgarden saved me from listening to the Hooters, Celine Dion, Richard Marx and Mike and the Mechanics. While I may have lost my hearing, it added years to my youth..

Posted by: davidf67 | November 10, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Please somone who lives in the United States go visit this guy and tell him that he doesn't have a clue about music..thanks!!

Posted by: pravindaswani | November 10, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: pravindaswani | November 10, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Warrent Fan!

Posted by: 1DaL | November 10, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

They played Black Rain, not Hunted Down (a web exclusive) on TBS last night. Did you actually watch their performance on Conan or did you just see a link to Soundgarden and decide to trash them?

Posted by: LuckyLouie | November 10, 2010 8:13 PM | Report abuse

They played Black Rain, not Hunted Down (a web exclusive) on TBS last night. Did you actually watch their performance on Conan or did you just see a link to Soundgarden and decide to trash them?

Posted by: LuckyLouie | November 10, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Does the author have a "I'm listening to bands that don't even exist yet" and take it seriously? Just because you go the Black Cat it doesn't make your musical taste superior.

Posted by: irascible1 | November 10, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

The Conan performance was pretty amazing actually. 'Hunted Down' is by no means one of my favorite songs, but it needed to be plugged in order to promote Telephantasm. As far as Cornell is concerned, he is a top tier vocalist. Guy has vast, rare range coupled with an equally rare maturity. Plus he's just got a powerful voice on him.

It's odd. There were so few good bands to come out of the 'grunge'/90 scene, and you pick one of the only good ones to ridicule. Is this article part of a trilogy? Can we expect a 'Please explain to me...' Alice in Chains, or Stone Temple Pilots? Should readers prepare to explain music to David Malitz in a decade by decade format? Maybe you have a fellow writer who can release a counterpoint 'Please explain to me...why is David Malitz writing about music?' that we can throw a poll on.

Posted by: czerro | November 10, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse

First off- You did not watch Soundgarden play Hunted down on TBS. It was a web only- so either you lied or you actually sought out the performance and then slagged it off. I did watch the performance and it was great. I am not sure, but are you the same reviewer who went to see Roger Waters do The Wall and complained that they only had a couple of good songs on that album? The Washington Post should be embarrassed by its music coverage.

Posted by: dustyscrn | November 10, 2010 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Please explain to me....why this uninsightful yet striving-for-pretentiousness blog post is affiliated with the Washington Post and not some kid's MySpace page?

Posted by: deathdrop81 | November 11, 2010 12:35 AM | Report abuse

First of all, Soundgarden was BEFORE Nirvana and Pearl Jam, check your dates agl132. Also, Chris had a huge career after them, remember Audioslave? I don't think he's hurting for money. Maybe if you never experienced a live show in the 90s (which it sounds like you didn't) then you just won't ever get it. Don't just judge them based on their popular stuff, go back and find Ultramega OK and Louder than Love and you'll hear what makes them the BEST band of that era

Posted by: xana16 | November 11, 2010 2:21 AM | Report abuse

Sort of ironic that Malitz is indifferent to Soundgarden but will drive all the way to Baltimore to shop at the store that bears its name...

"Favorite record store in the area:
Red Onion’s good, but the best place to lose track of time while sitting on the floor looking through stacks of vinyls is Joe’s Record Paradise in Rockville. If you want to buy new music, it’s worth the trip up to Baltimore to double up on Soundgarden and True Vine."*

He's just as entitled to his opinion as the rest of us, but he's also wrong. Soundgarden was awesome, even if they are now a shadow of their former selves (what reunited band isn't?).


Posted by: iheartthe90s | November 11, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Do you need any more explanation than your own damn poll? Soundgarden is one of the most significant and important bands in Rock'n roll world.

Posted by: SOLAT319 | November 11, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Looking forward to more of your articles so I can figure out if your a total buffoon, or if this is an anomaly. Enjoy your Zeppelin.

Posted by: dmodie | November 11, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Hi Dave,
First off, thanks for your "honesty" about Soundgarden.
You made it crystal clear that you simply don't "get it."
Additionally,, I would venture that trying to explain Soundgarden to you would be about as helpful as you trying to explain to me why everyone should be listening to real music like Morrisey and R.E.M., you know what I mean?
Secondly, I sincerely hope that with the "passing of time" you will realize that your writing days probably could've been spent doing something more constructive with your time than trying to pass off this piece of crap blog.
In conclusion, Washington Post, wake-the f-up, are you guys really that desperate for writers like Dave?
This is just more run-of-the-mill,tiresome and typical thoughtless yuppie posturing.
Dave, try getting rid of your 70's Top Gun sunglasses, step out from your Dad's shadow and trying forming your own opinion some time, lol!

Posted by: washingtonpostsux | November 11, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Well this is exactly what we need from the Mainstream Media...Negativity towards a Great Band.

It's obvious you didn't actually watch Conan, because "Hunted Down" wasn't aired live. Regardless though, Hunted Down was most likely a sound check that was recorded and made available for people to see on So you didn't watch big deal. Are you way off the mark as to what Soundgarden did for the 90's? That's an easy one...They rid us of the 80's. Music meant more. Do yourself a favor and listen to the complete catalog of Soundgarden from Start to Finish. Listen how a young band full of energy with cool deep riffs and an awesome singer grow their sound over the course of almost a decade.

You simply don't get it! Damn Baby Boomers step aside already. Long Live Generation X!

Posted by: zanetom | November 12, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I can explain it to you the best I can so that you will understand:

Soundgarden is a band you obviously know nothing about.

I might add, you don't know your readers either by looking at the results of your own poll there. Most of them do not agree with your article.

Please stick to bands you know about, don't use the Soundgarden name to bring more readers to your lousy blog.

Posted by: Sound000 | November 16, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Big, big, BRAVO Soundgarden fans. One thing I'd like to say in reference to what they played, of course they're going to start their reunion off with their old music before moving on to new pieces. That's what people have been waiting to hear again. All bands still together, or reunited continue to play their old music too. "xana 16", thanks for talking about who came 1st in the Grunge bands, some people don't know. SG is as Amazing as ever, CC has continued to grow experiment with his writing and singing as any real artist should. What an angry, bitter little commentary. There is nothing constructive to hear or to learn from it unless one is planning a hate fest of their own. Got to wonder with guys like this, what little thing is hiding under their big nasty comments!

Posted by: jalindberg1 | November 16, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Oh yea, forgot to mention CC's hair. He's been growing it out for at least a couple of now, before SG got together again. Personally, I'm soooo glad too. He's equally beautiful with short hair as well, but those long sexy curls flowing to his shoulders are so ravishing! By the way David, I've never seen you. Do you have hair?

Posted by: jalindberg1 | November 16, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

couple of "years"! sorry

Posted by: jalindberg1 | November 16, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

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