Wednesday, July 28, 2010

July 28: Soundgarden, "Jesus Christ Pose"

Artist: Soundgarden
Song: "Jesus Christ Pose"
Album: Badmotorfinger
Year: 1991

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In all of the possible things one can do as a musician, there is perhaps no more daunting a task than that of being a true musical pioneer and bringing a new musical style to the masses.  The fact of the matter is, these new sounds are often so against the mainstream that in every aspect, from labels to the general public, it is almost impossible to get anyone to listen.  Furthermore, if this new sounds crosses over into the mainstream, in nearly every case, these innovators of style are often overlooked by the more popular bands that borrowed their sound.  Then of course, there is the band that was somehow able to get the best of both worlds, and that is one of the many reasons that musicians around the world still have only the highest respect for Seattle's own musical legends, Soundgarden.  Though they are often lost a bit behind the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam when the "Seattle sound" or "grunge" are discussed, there is simply no denying that it was largely the work of Soundgarden throughout the 1980's that made this breakthrough possible, as it was this band that found the ideal way to bridge punk rock and heavy metal into a new sound.  This hybrid sound is one for which the band were not only the architects, but they perfected it early on in their careers in the form of their 1991 musical masterpiece, Badmotorfinger.  Though the album is absolutely flawless from end to end, few songs capture the essence of the band and the sound they created than Soundgarden's 1991 single, "Jesus Christ Pose."

Quite literally, from the moment the song begins, everything that there is to love about the music of Soundgarden is on full display, as"Jesus Christ Pose" kicks off with some odd feedback before dropping into a fast paced, crushing musical cycle.  The song has an extremely unsettling, intimidating, dark groove running underneath nearly the entire time, and much of this mood is set in motion by the fantastic rhythm section of bassist Ben Shepherd and drummer Matt Cameron.  The tempo they create and maintain is nothing short of stunning and stands as one of the most impressive and unique musical feats of the entire "Seattle sound" as no other song even comes close to the pace mood found here.  Also on "Jesus Christ Pose," Soundgarden displays one of the aspects of their sound that makes them so easily identifiable: the guitar work of Kim Thayll.  Without question, one of the most talented and highly influential players of his generation, and his performance here is easily one of his finest, most stunning moments of his career.  From the screaming progressions during the bridge sections to the pulverizing chords on the chorus to the lightning-fast parts in between, Thayll shows off all of his chops on this song, and much like the band as a whole, there were simply none of his peers that could even remotely compare to his sound and skill.  The sound achieved by the band on "Jesus Christ Pose" is so frenzied and borderline chaotic that even nearly twenty years later, it still blows away almost every other song that has been recorded.

In many ways, Soundgarden was a "super-group," but in this case, the true talents of each of the band members was not fully realized until after they had been together for more than a decade.  With the musicians strong making an instantly recognizable song, there are few vocalists that are as distinctive as the voice of Chris Cornell.  Both in terms of tone as well as the emotion behind his voice, it is impossible to mistake the singing of Cornell, and on "Jesus Christ Pose," all of his different vocal approaches can be heard.  Whether he is almost speaking the verses or completely unleashing the stunning power of his singing during the bridges and chorus, Cornell has one of the most captivating voices in history, and this song is clearly one of his finest performances.  Due to the extraordinary vocal display here, the lyrics become somewhat lost, though they were able to create a fair amount of controversy when the song was first released.  Though often misinterpreted as an attack on formal religion, the words are in fact nothing short of a brutal indictment of public figures and the way in which many attempt to frame themselves as martyrs for personal gain.  Cornell pulled no punches, many times mentioning Perry Farrell by name and summing up the song with the statement, " became fashionable to be the sort of persecuted-deity guy..."  This idea remains a very large part of "celebrity culture," and few bands have as unrelentingly, yet accurately attacked it over the decades.

Perhaps overshadowed by the two singles that followed ("Rusty Cage" and "Outshined"), one can find everything that makes Soundgarden such an extraordinary band within the first single off of their 1991 record, Badmotorfinger, the uncompromising "Jesus Christ Pose."  Though over the years, Soundgarden released a number of dizzying, metal-rooted classics, it is hard to argue that any of them top the fury and venom found on this song.  On every front, the band is clicking perfectly, led by the sonic assault from the guitar of Thayll and the bass of Shepherd.  The way in which these two move in and around one anothers' playing is second to none, and it is this formula that served as the influence for countless later bands.  Furthermore, Matt Cameron delivers an all out drumming assault, and it often sounds as if he is trying to completely destroy his drum kit during the song.  Capped off by the unmistakable, mesmerizing, and yet absolutely vicious vocal battering from Cornell, "Jesus Christ Pose" is the ultimate punk-metal fusion on every level.  Though it may not have had as "friendly" a melody as the songs of Pearl Jam and it makes the idea of Nirvana's music being "aggressive" or "angry" an almost laughable idea, these three bands remain linked as all three of their "big" records were released within months of one another, and the trio of albums almost complete defined everything that made the "Seattle sound."  In many ways kicking off the final stage in their rise to international fame, there are few songs in history that carry the same punch and lasting impact as Soundgarden's ferocious 1991 single, "Jesus Christ Pose."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey! Get this. Cornell and Perry Farrell more less made up in 1992 when Soundgarden played Lollapalooza, festival tht Farrell founded.

They also played it in 1996 and just last year Cornell was in a friendly interview with Farrell. Weird, hunh?