In 1989, thunder came to my college radio station. It’s possible there was a copy of Soundgarden’s 1988 debut, Ultramega OK, floating around the station, but I don’t recall it. Given the sound, I suspect it went straight into the heavy metal stacks. But the band’s sophomore effort, Louder Than Love, arrived on a bed of raves from the college rock press. This wasn’t something to be relegated to a specialty show, we were assured. This thing needed to be heard.
Before Nirvana’s Nevermind shoved a big, grungy pushpin into Seattle on the rock ‘n’ roll map, Soundgarden was representing the city with a big, ferocious sound. (Nirvana’s debut, Bleach, came out a few months before Louder Than Love, but trailed Ultramega OK). While Soundgarden would eventually become beneficiaries of the knee-jerk commercial radio craving for anything that could be considered aligned with the Nirvana aesthetic, they were ultimately very different from their city-mates. Where grunge rock acts sort of sloughed into their songs — escalating volume somehow an expression of reluctance — Soundgarden hit hard, without hesitation or apology. Kurt Cobain muttered, but Chris Cornell wailed.
The music on the album was notably window-rattling for our little Central Wisconsin community. This is the part where I’m supposed to note how genteel it sounds now, marveling that we ever found it risky to put on the air. But I can’t. Listening today to a song like “Ugly Truth,” the opening track on Louder Than Love, is to be reawakened to its powerful, propulsive quality. To borrow phrasing from the host of Metal Thunder, then and now my college station’s wildly popular hard rock show, Louder Than Love still rages.
Listen or download –> Soundgarden, “Ugly Truth”
(Disclaimer: I haven’t checked, but I certainly assume that Louder Than Love is still in print as a physical object that can be purchased at your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a manner that compensates both the proprietor of that establishment and the original artist. So, I share this track as an enticement to go out and make a purchase. As noted above, this is the first song on the album, and the rest are just as good or better. A lot of music collections include Superunknown, and there are probably plenty of copies of Badmotorfinger in the wild, too. If you have those, you need this one. If you don’t have those, start here. Though I mean no fiscal harm in sharing this, I do know the rules. I will gladly and promptly remove this file from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)