Soundgarden have long been the most-likely grunge outfit to reunite; the only surprise here is that it took this long for them to get their shit together. While frontman Chris Cornell was off making questionable decisions like hooking up with Timbaland for a beats-infused solo effort, penning James Bond theme songs, and doing that whole Audioslave thing, the rest of us were waiting for him to rejoin the powerhouse where he initially made his bones. There was a bit of a shaky start — check the hideous "Live to Rise" that got thrown together for The Avengers closing credits earlier this year. New offering King Animal starts off inauspiciously enough with lead single "Been Away too Long" — for a band who made their mark with vague lyrical content, this one tries sledgehammer browbeating. We get it Chris, you only "ever really wanted a break" and now you're where you belong. Cornell's caterwaul has been on the wane for years, and despite loads of studio magic he still sounds a bit raspy for those hoping for a "Rusty Cage" redux some 16 years later. Thankfully, it wasn't just the voice that made Soundgarden shine in the first place; guitarist Kim Thayil remains the star, doing his familiar sonic circles on tracks like "Non-State Actor" and the brilliant "Bones of Birds." There are a couple more clunkers, though; "Attrition" feels like forced heaviness — cock rock for the sake of Zeppelin but lacking any real passion other than the drumming by Matt Cameron, who's been honing his already formidable skills in the Pearl Jam stable. On the whole, King Animal is a welcome return, and though it doesn't reinvent the wheel, it reminds us why these guys were considered the architects of the Seattle scene.
MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER » MICHAELCHRISTOPHER22@HOTMAIL.COM