REVIEW: Soundgarden – Telephantasm (2010)

SOUNDGARDEN – Telephantasm (2010)

Soundgarden was one of the first Seattle bands I tweaked onto, mainly because Soundgarden (and Alice in Chains) were the most metallic in their approach. I refused to call them grunge — not with riffs this Sabbathy and a singer who could have been Ronnie James Dio’s protege!

Soundgarden broke up for 13 years, and Chris Cornell started (in my opinion) a lucklustre solo career, while Matt Cameron fared better as the longtime drummer in Pearl Jam. There’s a certain renaissance for these kinds of bands now, what with recent critically acclaimed albums by Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam (and that new studio Soundgarden record) being very well received. Telephantasm acts as a sort of “Anthology” collection. Back in the 90’s this deluxe edition would have been considered a boxed set. Just that today, we’ve done away with the box! It’s not quite a greatest hits set (live versions of “Jesus Christ Pose” and “Pretty Noose” are subbed into for the familiar singles), and not quite a rarities set (9 of the 24 tracks are rare or unreleased).

What Telephantasm is, is a really good overview of one of Seattle’s best. From the Deep Six compilation to their final pre-breakup album Down on the Upside, this set chronologically presents Soundgarden at their very best, live and in the studio. Personally I haven’t listened to old Soundgarden in a while. I have a bunch of albums and singles at home, but after I quit the record store, I reverted back to my metal roots and didn’t listen to Soundgarden much anymore. For me, this was almost like the first time again. Hearing the songs in this new context didn’t take away from what they were on albums either.

TELEPHANTASM_0003Outstanding classics for me include: “Fopp”, “Superunknown”, “My Wave”, “Dusty”, “Burden In My Hand”, “Rusty Cage”, and “Spoonman”. I mean, every fan of musicianship absolutely needs a song in their collection with a killer spoons solo!

Outstanding rarities for me were: the video mix of “Fell On Black Days”, and live versions of “Pretty Noose”, “Flower”, “Blow Up The Outside World”, and a frenetic “Jesus Christ Pose”. Hard to believe that Cameron can play those complex rhythms live. Unbelievable!

Of course there is the much hyped “Black Rain”, an unreleased track from the Down on the Upside sessions. Sounds great. Could have been written for Badmotorfinger. Liner notes are excellent. There are two essays, one by guitarist Kim Thayil (who seems like one of the coolest guys in rock). There are a handful of photos and exhaustive credits. I’m not too keen on the cover art, but there is a big fold out revealing the whole thing, and it’s quite expansive.

Of course there’s the DVD, for some this will be worth the price of purchase alone! This is a pretty comprehensive collection of music videos including uncensored and international versions. For new fans who are upset that they didn’t get the studio versions of “Jesus Christ Pose” or “Pretty Noose” on the CDs, they are here on the DVD.

TELEPHANTASM_0005There is a bonus track on some versions — the unreleased song “The Telephantasm”. However the best way to get that song is to buy the 7″ single, which also includes a killer, killer live version of “Gun”. This is a brand new live version by the reunited band. If you want the truly complete picture of Telephantasm, go out and get that single while you still can. Also required, but much more expensive and still unacquired by me: There is a bonus track on the deluxe vinyl version of the album: “Beyond the Wheel”, live by the reunited band.  This is on a included 7″ single, which I would very much like to get.

Lastly I’ll have to say a few words about the mastering of this album. Unfortunately the “Loudness Wars” can add Soundgarden to its body count. The album was mastered way too loud, and it really takes its toll on the sound. You can really hear it on the cymbals. It’s unfortunate, since so many of these songs are previously unreleased. This is the only way you can hear them, and it’s not as good as it should be, thanks to the record company mastering this damned thing too loudly.

Regardless, the music is incredible.

4/5 stars

27 comments

  1. Mike,of all the Seattle bands out there Soundgarden are my favs from that genre (saw them open up for Axl when Soundgarden was touring on Badmotorfinger)and one band I still purchase and that’s cuz of Cornells voice.
    I dug the first Audioslave but I never bought any of Cornell’s solo stuff but for Soundgarden man it cooks so I bought this as well and it’s a good batch of music that’s for sure!
    No qualms about it…..
    Think I may have to put Ty Cobb on today….!
    Or maybe on the way to work tommorrow!

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  2. Remember Mike, if it’s too loud, you’re too old!
    I love this set. It helped to turn me on a lot of pre-Badmotorfinger stuff that I’d never heard before. And the live versions are great. Why just put in the same track we’ve already heard on the albums?
    Good review, but I probably would have given it a 5/5.

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    1. I have some issues with the sound quality. When they crank the volume into the red zone, you’re missing the subtleties that normally you should be able to hear on a CD. So for me unfortunately the original CDs actually sound a lot better and clearer with more detail than Telephantasm. Even the vinyl has the same issue, I picked that up and it’s the same volume level.

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        1. Can’t wait until you get there man. Faith No More are a very special band to me — they defined the first half of the 1990’s for me. They were so far ahead of their time that you could probably trick kids into thinking it was a new band. Look at Jim Martin — I bet he gets mistaken for Redfoo from LMFAO all the time.

          Anyway Real Thing is not their best album — I would say that’s Angel Dust. But it certainly is a 5/5 star treasure to me.

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  3. Gah! Live versions on a hits set. I will never grow to accept it. Soundgarden’s songs were always most interesting to me structurally. They’ve got some really wacky time signatures, and their songs actually challenge you. I appreciated that. Plus, at high enough volume, their records can peel paint. It’s true, I’ve seen it happen. Awesome.

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  4. Always like AIC and Soundgarden best of the grunge bands too because of their more metal sound. Love the irony of the term you used labeling it a Renaissance of Grunge bands…so against their reason for existence in the first place, but, so true of human nature as we get all growed up. Glad they are getting their due once again!!

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    1. Yeah true. So against their reason for existence in the first place! Kind of like when the Sex Pistols reunited for money in 1996. Like, “really? I thought you were THE punk band!”

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