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“King Animal” boasts all the roar and tear of Soundgarden’s classic work, from the aptly named opener “Been Away Too Long” (which echoes the big rock hits “Spoonman” and “Rusty Cage”) to rawer, sludgier, bloodier tracks such as “Non-State Actor” and “By Crooked Steps” (more evocative of the band’s early work). “Down on the Upside” producer Adam Kasper returned for this one, and the band members made no bones about wanting to revive their old glory.
“There was a certain amount of flying by the seat of our pants and just seeing what happens,” Cornell said. “Not surprisingly, the same musical influences and sensibility that we bonded over in the first place came out again.”
With Soundgarden’s sound left intact, though, the singer made a point of defending his solo work.
“After six or seven albums and 13 years or so working outside Soundgarden, I feel satisfied I got to explore all the different facets of music that I love,” he said. “The one thing I knew I wasn’t going to do was to try to make a record that sounds like Soundgarden. I always had too much respect for the band and the fans to ever do that.”
Some observers wondered if Cornell was hesitant to reform Soundgarden for fear of having to hit all those high notes he wailed back in his 20s (as is also the speculation around Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin). “King Animal” confirms he can still bring it. However, Cornell gave a surprisingly frank answer when asked about those concerns.
“Clearly, I’m not going to be able to sing this way forever,” he said. “I think people get too hung up on singers and their range, sort of like they’d expect Michael Jordan to get out on a basketball court and play like he once did. It’s physically impossible.”
That rare bit of humility didn’t last long, though: “I’ll probably never retire. I’ll just adapt, and do what I have to do to keep the music interesting.”
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 • Twitter: @ChrisRstrib