Soundgarden are in the UK this week, completing their European tour with two dates at Brixton Academy on Wed and Thurs 18-19 Sept.
Can’t wait to see them live, as oddly it will be the first time (and I call myself a grunge fan – pah!). They were due to headline the last night at Reading in 1994, for which I had a ticket grasped in my sweaty paw, only for the band to pull out because Chris Cornell had laryngitis. Singers and their precious voices, I don’t know. Everyone moved one up the bill, so the Chilis headlined (back in the days when they were still – just – cool), with Therapy? getting the second slot.
Anyway, departing the sylvan charms of memory lane … Soundgarden have released a new video for ‘Halfway There’ from last year’s King Animal. (Which I still haven’t reviewed … oops. I’ve been meaning to, it’s just stuff, y’know. Look, it’s really good, if a bit of a grower. Not as good as Superunknown, but that’s setting the bar pretty damn high. If you haven’t given it a spin yet, what’s wrong with you?)
Bassist Ben Shepherd has also just released his own album, In Deep Owl. Radio Seattle’s singer, Sean, has covered ‘Collide’, one of its standout tracks, on his Soundcloud page. Sounds truly excellent. (Yes, I know I’m biased, but give it a listen. It really is a bit special.)
Shepherd‘s talents as a songwriter should not be in doubt. When, as a long-term fan of the band, he joined Soundgarden in 1990, replacing the remarkable if musically ill-fated Jason Everman, the depth of his songwriting ability was immediately apparent on Badmotorfinger, his first album with the band. Less immediate than Cornell in his creative style, Shepherd both broadened the range of the band’s music (‘Somewhere’, ‘Head Down’, ‘Zero Chance’) and improved the arrangement of the others’ material.
I’ve only listened to In Deep Owl once-through to date – you can find it on Shepherd’s Bandcamp page – but it’s a sensitive, languid, eccentric, rather eclectic album, mostly acoustic, mixing gentler, folky vibes with darker, denser colours (can vibes and colours mix?); as with any well-constructed solo album, one perceives tones of the artist’s personality in the songwriting and lyrics that are not so obvious from their main, collaborative musical project. Shepherd has a surprisingly wide vocal range, from a Lanegan-esque gravelly rasp through to a dreamer, airy tone. There’s also a lo-fi/60s garage/psychedelic/surf-punk-blues-type-kinda-thingy (it’s good to be precise) going on that places it not a million miles from both Hater, Shepherd’s 1995 project with Matt Cameron and John McBain, and the latter two’s Wellwater Conspiracy.