The Record That Changed My Life
Soundgarden -- Superunknown
The arrangements are deceptively complex and airtight; Kim Thayil invents notes that had not previously existed on this planet; Ben Shepherd stirs bass melodies like black tar in a honey pot; and then, strewn across this vast and beautifully twisted wasteland of sound, is one of the best vocalists of our generation piping out soaring lyrics, so elegant, so vaguely ironic and, in hindsight, sometimes even prophetic.
I think "The Day I Tried to Live" has some of the best writing I've seen, mirroring the likes of Cohen and Dylan. Most people know that I'm a huge Jeff Buckley fanatic, and certainly Grace was another pylon that influenced me vocally. But Superunknown is what first sparked my young, stoned, impressionable mind. Grace was what made me dive head first into music, but Superunknown was the pool and the water. I have a vivid high school memory. It is me and (Noctaluca bassist) Donovan sitting in the front seats of my car in some suburban neighborhood on the outskirts of Milford on some random Friday night. We were waiting on our friend Jon. This was his girlfriend's house and he had gone inside a half hour earlier, trying to get laid probably. Meanwhile, we sat and we waited ... and for some reason, we had no music. Maybe the car battery was near dead, maybe I just didn't have the album with us, I don't remember. But at some point we broke out into an entire no holds barred air-performance of Superunknown. We performed all 15 tracks, playing as many instruments as two guys with no instruments could play. We pounded Matt Cameron's infectious drum fills on the dashboard, the steering wheel and our thighs; we squealed out Thayil's clinically insane riffs; we faked Chris Cornell's vocals with shaky falsetto screams -- "And the wreck of you is the death of you aaaaaaall!" -- sometimes stopping after this chorus or that break trying to remember what the hell came next. It exemplified the reverence we felt for this Rock masterpiece. And it wouldn't be the last time we played Superunknown with the air.
NOCTALUCA (noctaluca.com) plays Friday at York Street Cafe with Loretta and Kohai.