Louder Than Love

Louder Than Love

In some ways, 1989’s Louder Than Love is the moment Soundgarden became Soundgarden: the sludgy riffs, the multi-octave wailing, the weird mix of the visceral and ethereal that made albums like Badmotorfinger and Superunknown so epochal. You can still hear that the band was coming from punk (“Full On Kevin’s Mom”), but they were also tilting more earnestly toward blues, metal, and psychedelia, creating strange amalgams of heaviness that didn’t quite fit with mainstream hard rock or the evolving indie scene. (The piggish butt-rock send-up “Big Dumb Sex” caused a stir at the time in part because nobody could figure out whether or not they were joking; that they ended up on tour with the hair-metal band Skid Row a couple of years later didn’t clarify things.) “Louder Than Love might have been maybe a little bit grittier or more aggressive, I think, [where] Superunknown might have some more nuance to it,” guitarist Kim Thayil tells Apple Music on the album’s 30th birthday. “There’s a roughness…a slashing, fist-like style to the way I was playing guitar on those earlier records. Louder Than Love might’ve been the last time, and maybe a little bit of [1991’s] Badmotorfinger. Then that kind of style—that more aggressive banging-the-guitar style—kind of went away.” Still, as brutal as it could be (“Gun” being the nastiest), LTL could be surprisingly pretty, too: Listen to the plumes of feedback on the beginning of “Loud Love,” for example, or the middle section of “Ugly Truth”—sweet-and-sour combinations that set the course for what the band became. “When I think about that album, I think about the working relationship with [producer] Terry [Date], and getting used to a larger budget,” Thayil says. “Trying to get that live feel that we were acquainted with and at the same time utilizing the technology and the abilities of the producer in the studio was a weird kind of balance.” Mostly, though, he remembers it as a learning experience, a moment when the band stepped into bigger shoes and tried to find their footing. “Usually when we’re done [with a record], we always think, ‘We could’ve done this better, do that better,’” he said. “Then, given time, it comes to rest, and you have a perspective on it that’s less self-critical. And now, I listen back to [Louder Than Love] and think, ‘Wow, that’s way better than I remembered it being at the time.’”

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