Reunion Mania


  • Axl Rosenberg


Soundgarden reunion rumors have been flying around almost as long as Soundgarden have been broken up. (And in case you lost count, this Friday will be the thirteenth anniversary of the break-up. Someone will have been born and bar mitzvahed in the time since Soundgarden were last together! Egads!) Chris Cornell pretty much let the cat out of the bag that the band is reuniting back in January, and now they’ve announced that they’re headlining Lollapalooza in August. (Unfortunately, the rest of the line-up for that festival is pretty blech, especially from a fan of half-way decent rock; there’s Social Distortion and, uh, that’s it. If the artist on the bill I’d be most excited to see that isn’t Soundgarden is Erykah Badu, well, that’s a festival I won’t be attending.)

And, as usual, my enthusiasm is tempered with cynicism.

For one thing, there’s really no getting around the fact that Chris Cornell’s popularity is waning, and that his attempts at a solo career have been pretty disastrous. (The first time he put out a mediocre solo album that flopped, he promptly joined Audioslave; this time, we get a Soundgarden reunion. If you think that’s just a coincidence, you’re a fool.) I’m sure that money was a motivating factor to some degree or another in ALL the reunions we’ve been enjoying these past few years, but it never felt like the members of At the Gates, or Carcass, or Alice in Chains, or Faith No More needed their reunions. The key members of those bands, if not all the members of those bands, managed to keep busy and stay cool in the years following the dissolution of their most well-regarded bands; I think Kim Thayil more or less dropped off the face of the earth by choice, but I have literally no idea what the fuck Ben Shepard’s been doing with himself for the past decade, and Cornell seems to have gone out of his way to kill his street cred. Matt Cameron is the only member of this band that managed to stay at least kind of cool (not that I’m a Pearl Jam fan, but I can’t exactly knock that band). So it’s hard not to look at this as a desperate, clichéd “We’re reuniting because really what choice do we have?” move.

Beyond that, Soundgarden is yet another reunited band who, God willing, will be a legacy act and never, ever record another album. Maybe Thayil and the gang still have some creative spark left in ’em, but it’s hard for me not to think that Cornell is just one of those artists whose hungriest days were his best days. Audioslave were okay, but when you’re dealing with guys as respected as that you want more than “okay.” And I’m with the public on Cornell’s solo outings; those albums weren’t popular for a reason. So it’s kind of hard for me not to think that Cornell just doesn’t have any more great songs left in him.

Then again, once upon a time I thought a new Alice in Chains record was an awful idea, and we all know how that turned out. I’d argue that the difference was, again, that Jerry Cantrell was still a relevant artist even without the use of the “Alice in Chains” moniker – my reservations about that reunion always centered around a lack of Layne Staley, not a dearth of songwriting talent – whereas I’m not sure that Cornell could write a good song now if his life depended on it.

But if nothing else, seeing the band live should be fun. So I guess we’ll see what happens. Lollapalooza is just the beginning, I’m sure; this time next year, we’ll all have seen the reunited Soundgarden, and I can either pat myself on the back for being a Negative Nancy yet again, or eat a bag of crow.


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