Listening to TELEPHANTASM over the past couple of weeks has been a reminder of just how good a band SOUNDGARDEN was in their prime. While the reunited warriors from the late 80’s/early 90’s Seattle explosion are performing again, no one knows how their songwriting will hold up if and when they decide to make another record.
Released in multiple configurations (including the single-disc edition packed with GUITAR HERO: WARRIORS OF ROCK), TELEPHANTASM is a career-spanning retrospective that is less of a “greatest hits” than it is a time capsule that presents the band in their many forms through album cuts, b-sides, and rarities.
As expected, the hits are here with songs like “Outshined,” “Rusty Cage,” “Spoonman,” and the still-overplayed “Black Hole Sun” all checking in. Presented in somewhat of a chronological order, the collection displays the band as frontman Chris Cornell finds his voice – going from a raw hunger in the early days, to metal anger, and gradually maturing into one of the finest and most recognizable voices in rock. As a band, we hear Soundgarden become more refined with age, maintaining their underlying heaviness, while polishing off some of the abrasive edges.
Overall, TELEPHANTASM at times feels incomplete, as if pieces from each era of the band were just sprinkled in amongst a few oddities here and there. Until an all-encompassing box set makes its way to market, this release should be considered an essential for listeners old and new, bridging generations with hope that a new album could be manifesting itself within the reactivated band.
Personally, the early works of SOUNDGARDEN, culled from the SUB-POP era makes me hunger for those days again, and has inspired a trip to the archives to revisit some of the other, less-appreciated, and sludgier bands from the Seattle area such as MELVINS and TAD.