Soundgarden - Louder Than Love

NME.COM feature on Soundgarden - Louder Than Love album including album review, artwork, tracks, listen now, tour dates, discography and more.

Release date: 05 September 1989

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Soundgarden - Louder Than Love: Wikipedia Album Entry

Louder Than Love is the second studio album by the American alternative rock band Soundgarden, released on September 5, 1989 through A&M Records. After touring in support of its first full-length studio album, Ultramega OK (1988), Soundgarden signed with A&M and began work on its first album for a major label. The songs on the album featured a heavy rock sound with some songs featuring unusual or unorthodox time signatures.

Because of some of the song lyrics the band faced various retail and distribution problems upon the album's release, including the addition of a Parental Advisory sticker on the album packaging. Louder Than Love would become the band's first album to chart on the Billboard 200. The band supported the album with tours of North America and Europe. It was the last Soundgarden album to feature the band's original bassist, Hiro Yamamoto.

The album's recording sessions took place from December 1988 to January 1989 at London Bridge Studios in Seattle, Washington. The band worked with producer Terry Date. The album was mixed by Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero.

Regarding the sessions, frontman Chris Cornell said, "At the time Hiro (Yamamoto) had excommunicated himself from the band and there wasn't a free-flowing system as far as music went, so I ended up writing a lot of it." Cornell would end up solely writing seven out of the album's twelve tracks. Cornell stated that there "was plenty of angst, anger, frustration and hell...but none of it had anything to do with Terry. He was very supportive." He said that the sessions as a whole were a "positive experience." Bassist Hiro Yamamoto would leave the band once the sessions were over. Yamamoto was becoming frustrated that he wasn't contributing much, and opted to go back to college.

Regarding the album's production, Cornell said that the band tried to avoid 1980s production techniques. On the album's sound as a whole, Cornell stated that the album "was just a few degrees too produced and too clean, although I wouldn't want to change any of it."

Steve Huey of Allmusic said that Soundgarden took "a step toward the metal mainstream" with "a slow, grinding, detuned mountain of Sabbath/Zeppelin riffs and Chris Cornell wailing." At the time the band was trying to avoid the "heavy metal" label, with guitarist Kim Thayil stating that the band's sound was "as much influenced by British bands like Killing Joke and Bauhaus as it is by heavy metal." Cornell said that the band's sound is "enough for anyone into speed metal, but we're heavy rock...Neo-metal maybe."

Some songs on the album feature unusual or unorthodox time signatures. "Get on the Snake", for example, is played in a 9/4 time signature. "Gun" features varying tempos, which speed up and slow down over the course of the song. A lot of the songs on the album are tuned down to an open D tuning.

Cornell said that "Hands All Over" is about how humans defile the environment, and that "Full on Kevin's Mom" is about "a friend of mine who slept with another friend of mine's mom. The guy who did it said to us, 'Yeah, full on Kevin's mom'." The lyrics of "I Awake" were originally part of a note written by Yamamoto's then girlfriend Kate McDonald. In the late 1990's, an urban legend circulated on internet message boards which stated that Yamamoto, after writing the music, wrote some lyrics on the back side of McDonald's note. When Yamamoto gave the paper containing these lyrics to Cornell, Cornell looked at the wrong side of the sheet and believed McDonald's note was the lyrics to Yamamoto's song. There was less material on the album intended as humorous compared with Ultramega OK. However, the song "Big Dumb Sex" was written as a parody of glam metal bands, who often metaphorically addressed sexual intercourse in their lyrics. The song was the reason the album gained a Parental Advisory sticker upon release.

Because of some of the song lyrics, most notably on "Hands All Over" (the "kill your mother" line) and "Big Dumb Sex", the band faced various retail and distribution problems upon the album's release. Louder Than Love peaked at number 108 on the Billboard 200 album chart in 1990. It was the band's first album to chart on the Billboard Top 200. Louder Than Love spawned the Loudest Love EP and the Louder Than Live home video, both released in 1990.

Rolling Stone staff writer J.D. Considine gave Louder Than Love three and a half out of five stars, saying that "Chris Cornell has the sort of soaring, muscular voice Ian Astbury can only dream of, while guitarist Kim Thayil comes across like The Edge with an attitude." He stated that "the songs on Louder Than Love are mean, lean and fighting fit." However, Considine criticized Cornell's lyrics, observing that "much of what the band has to say is clichéd, confused or generally incomprehensible." He ended his review by saying that "even when his lyrics are as dumb as rocks...Cornell delivers them with such full-throated intensity that they actually sound impressive." Allmusic staff writer Steve Huey gave the album three out of five stars, saying that "too much of the album drifts along without focus or variety." Critic Robert Christgau gave the album a C+, stating that it is "covertly conceptual, arty in spite of itself, and I bet metal fans don't bite."

Two singles were released from the album, "Loud Love" (1989) and "Hands All Over" (1990), each with accompanying music videos. "Get on the Snake" was featured in the 1989 movie and soundtrack, Lost Angels. Guns N' Roses covered "Big Dumb Sex" on its 1993 album, "The Spaghetti Incident?", as part of a medley with T. Rex's "Buick Mackane".

In 2001, Q magazine named Louder Than Love as one of the "50 Heaviest Albums of All Time."

The album's cover art, photographed by Charles Peterson, features a black and white picture of Cornell. Cornell called the album cover "the quintessential angry young man." Regarding the title, Cornell said, "It's sort of making fun of heavy metal bravado. Metal bands would say Louder Than Thunder or something. So Louder Than Love, what is Louder Than Love?" Thayil said that the band really wanted to call the album Louder Than Fuck.

The album's singles featured two B-sides from the Louder Than Love recording sessions that weren't included on the album, "Fresh Deadly Roses" and "Heretic". "Fresh Deadly Roses" was a B-side on the "Loud Love" single and was featured on the 1990 Pave the Earth compilation. "Heretic" was originally recorded for the 1986 Deep Six compilation. However, the song was re-recorded during the Louder Than Love recording sessions and this version is featured on the "Hands All Over" single, the Pump Up the Volume soundtrack, and the Loudest Love EP.

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