What the hell, god.
Chris Cornell’s life as one of the patron saints of alt.rock is one that I am sure will be examined and devoured in the weeks and years to come. All I can talk about here is how his music intersected the teenage life of a weird kid growing up in the 90’s, on the other side of the planet to the epicentre of a movement that felt so vital and radical at the time.
The music of Soundgarden (and later, Audioslave) made that weird kid feel not so alone in a world that has been doing its best to turn us all into brands, ‘experiences’, and menu choices. Whereas it might be easy to fall into despair, Soundgarden has always had an uncompromising, hard-edged element that provided hope at the right times. Life might suck, but you don’t have to give in. It’s okay to be angry about things. It’s okay to call the bullshit out – both the world’s, and your own.
Of course, the music wasn’t just angry – that might not even make up the majority of the songs on the four albums that I treasured (I never got Louder than Love until years later as a university student, and Ultramega OK only existed where I grew up as one side of a pirated C90 cassette), Soundgarden, paired with Chris Cornell’s lyrics and phenomenal vocal abilities, injected a – dare I say it – determined optimism with his soothing, soulsy refrains. It has always been clear that optimism (like the top quote, from Audioslaves ‘Be Yourself’) is held between the teeth, like a dog on a bone. Hope as desperate survival mechanism, because all the rest of it is just too awful to contemplate. Chris Cornell and Pearl Jam’s project Temple of the Dog (itself a tribute to a close friend) has become an enduring musical totem in many ways; or a magic spell to recognise and name the sadness, and to dispel it.
Say Hello, dude.
Chris Cornell, July 20th, 1964 ~ May 17th, 2017