RIP Chris Cornell

Growing up in the 90s, Soundgarden were my Beatles. Chris Cornell’s piercing wail was the voice of rock and roll in my mind. Superunknown could easily be said to be the soundtrack of my adolescence. “Spoonman”, “Black Hole Sun”, “My Wave” and a playlist staple for me to this day, “Like Suicide”, among others play in the background of my memories from my formative years.

In a manner of speaking, Chris Cornell (along with Layne Staley, Jerry Cantrell, Billy Corgan, Anthony Kiedis and a few others) was a composer of the soundtrack of my life.

More than any other album, chances are one of the fifteen tracks is eternally tethered to some memory and to hear the song is to relive that memory and recalling that memory plays the song as clearly as if it were playing through the red earpiece, over the ear headphones tethered to my Aiwa personal cassette player.

The introductory riffs of the first track – “Let Me Drown” form a symbiotic sense recollection with the smell of grass. To hear those three short notes followed by a shrieking electric guitar might as well be shoving my nose in a bag of fresh lawn clippings. Conversely, every time I fire up the lawnmower, I feel a powerful urge to call up Chris, Kim, Matt and Ben to rock me through another lawn mowing.

You see, when Superunknown was released, I was 13 – the age where fathers rejoice that they have an able body (willing or not) to share in the yard work.

I decreed that, though I had become a thrall of sod, I’d maintain sovereignty over my ears.

With a brazen disregard for aural health, I donned my cassette player and let Chris take me hither and thither. To look at me, you’d think that boy with the freckly, round face is mowing that yard and listening to music at the same time, what a nice boy.

In actuality, I was watching a black hole sun gobble up the world, or “wallow[ing] in the blood and mud with all the other pigs” or “feel[ing] the rhythm with [my] hands” as I beat the rhythm with the bones of my friends, the ones so afraid of death.

Occasionally, I’d come down from “My Wave” to empty the grass catcher or get a drink.

I’d continue delving into the Superunknown to see me through my landscaping duties through high school.

Speaking of the gratuitously anonymous, the title track for Superunknown was the catalyst for one of my earliest recollections of independent thought.

As a lad, I’d spend a few weeks out of each summer at my grandparents house in that exotic landlocked Xanadu of the plains – Salina, KS. Also living in that sprawling, wheat enclosed utopia was my cousin, TJ. A few months older than me, I typically did what he did, liked what he liked, said what he said, etc. that I’d make a suitable, and dare I say, pleasant companion. TJ liked Soundgarden, so naturally I liked Soundgarden.

During one of our Coca Cola and Cheese Whiz fueled Street Fighter II (yes, the original) sessions, we discussed the joy joy sounds of Superunknown. I was shocked to learn that TJ didn’t rank “Superunknown” among the noteworthy tracks on the album that bears its name. To uphold my position as pleasant companion I agreed, but on the inside I was boiling with unsettling dubiety.

“Superunknown” was worthy of the same praise given “Spoonman”, “My Wave”, “Fresh Tendrils” and so on.

I hope that, when he reads this, he’ll overlook my treachery and continue to view me as a loyal companion.

Listen, at this time (early to mid 90s), the music video was hitting its stride as the creative visual outlet for musicians. The music video for “Black Hole Sun” was a sparkling example of how this medium could enhance the appeal of a piece of music. By itself, the song is worthy of inclusion on any respectable rocker’s rockinest playlist, but the downright eerie countenance of each citizen depicted in that forsaken suburban development is most disturbing. I wanted the black hole sun to suck those plastic smiles off each of face and pull those bulbous orbs out of each eye socket.

As an outspoken GI Joe enthusiast, I took a morbid satisfaction seeing the Barbie get barbecued (Barbiecued?). And I can’t forget feeling sticky after watching ice cream dribble out of the little girl’s mouth.

Why do I remember a ~23 year old music video so well? Because MTV might as well have been called “Black Hole Sun TV” at that time.

I took a long hiatus from this grim ballad, and now have a more grievous reason to spurn the melodic…uhh, melodies of this grunge classic…

…RIP Chris Cornell, you will be missed.

 

FIN

 

@JarrettLWilson

 

Super special bonus – you just finished reading (then following, oh yes, follow…) this blog and are probably thinking I better see to *insert lame crap* now. But then you’d miss out on my expert selections of Soundgarden’s most face meltingest creations.

This first selection, from the oft overlooked precursor to Superunknown, Badmotorfinger, will melt your ears. Your eyes will be fine (for now) as there is no official music video. The linked video shows the lyrics karaoke style.
Now for your eyes. It’s too bad that you won’t be able to hear this song after “Room a Thousand Years Wide” melts your ears, rest assured that the song is every bit as organ dissolving as the video. This track was originally composed during recording of Badmotorfinger in 1991, but not released until a 2010 compilation album called The Telephantasm. I give you “Black Rain” –

 

Dialectical Menialism #1 – Left vs. Right

Hello Internet!

I recently found myself balancing precariously on but a sliver of rational thought. In the chasm to my right, there was a tool essential to my progress, but I would be forced to use my weak left side. The mire on my left was more easily traversed, but I’d have to go back for the tool.

What feat of daring do was I engaged in, you ask? Surely you were braving the French Alps and came to a narrow path between a sheer precipice and a murky bog, or some other such harrowing errand (harranding?), you boisterously assert.

No no. Nothing so Indiana Jones-like. I was engaged in battle with a stair replicating mechanism. It was diabolical, Internet! I’d take a step, thinking I had bested the confounded contraption (contrountion?) and ascended as far as I could, when with methodical regularity, a new stair appeared in its place. I stared in wonder at this expert of the terraced walking surface. I bestowed the name “Stair Master” on this austere device.

Just as “StairMaster” conspired to produce an endless staircase, my forehead unleashed a torrent of perspiration. Being subject to gravity, my sweat fell onto this machine, giving it a briny glaze peppered with pooled workout juice hither and thither.

This microcosm of the water cycle produced enough moisture to require the courtesy of a disinfecting wipe-down.

I concluded that “StairMaster” could and would continue the onslaught of steps indefinitely. I ceased my fruitless ascent and fetched a disposable rag bathed in a solution to hastily dispatch any microbes that had taken up residence in the juice of my labors.

I was thrust into the balancing act recounted previously when I returned to the machine. You see, to the right of the machine was my water bottle (the “tool”); but this approach also meant that I’d have to use my left arm to clean the machine, and AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FO’ DAT!

The left approach was not wrought with perils so…uhh…perilous to the neurologically unbalanced, but I’d have to backtrack for my water bottle.

These are the things I think about. You might see the intense focus on my face and think he looks pretty smart; I bet he’s thinking up some solution to social inequality or a better way to dispose of old VHS tapes, or some other high minded notion. Well, dear reader, you’d have given me too much credit. At any given moment, two likely inane, inconsequential concepts are throwing down in an epic battle for a piece of Jarrett’s grey matter.

In this case, the combatants are the left vs. the right. In the future, you might see form vs. function, quantity vs. quality, nature vs. nurture, etc. (vs. and so on).

This is all to say that this will be the first entry in a blog series I call “Dialectical Menialism”, which is a play on Karl Marx’s “dialectical materialism”, or the idea that history propagates because people fight over stuff. “Dialectical” in that most of the time the conflict is between two parties (i.e. good vs. evil, bourgeois vs. the proletariat, aristocracy vs. peasants, cats vs. dogs, Coke vs. Pepsi, and so on).

Slide1

“Menialism” isn’t actually a word. The roots are menial or “lacking interest or dignity” (thanks be to Merriam and/or Webster), and ism.

Adding ism to a word turns it into “an oppressive and especially discriminatory attitude or belief” (thanks be to Webster and/or Merriam. How come Merriam always gets to go first?). Ergo, “menialism” is “an oppressive and especially discriminatory attitude or belief [that is] lacking interest or dignity”.

So, “Dialectical Menialism” is a high stakes battle for supreme obscurity (sobscremicy? Obscuracy?) regarding my disposition.

Next time – an examination of my Being Until a Transformative Trauma versus life After a Sinister Sickness. I’ll tell you about my BUTT, then move on to my ASS. I tell ya, the whole thing really stinks! Bwahaha! Have I gone too fart?

 

#fartjokes

 

FIN

 

@JarrettLWilson

 

 

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