Soundgarden, Ultramega OK

Michael Azerrad

By Michael Azerrad

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Ultramega OK

They loved/hated hard rock — and created a grunge classic.

As far back as 1988 Seattle quartet Soundgarden were being primed as the Next Big Thing — they'd even signed to A&M before releasing this album on SST, and songs like "All Your Lies" already sounded like the future. The Stooges, the MC5, and local neo-punk-metal gods the Melvins (check "Beyond the Wheel") are in the mix, and that cool factor made the band's overtly Zeppelin/Sabbath sounds palatable to indie rockers. The band's love-hate relationship with classic hard rock would define grunge and pioneer the metal/indie fusion that birthed an entire era of mainstream rock. The best moments of Ultramega OK resolve the brainy and the fist-pumping, like Kim Thayil's convulsive stop-start on "Flower" and Chris Cornell's air raid siren impression on "Beyond the Wheel." Favoring the riff over the song (a habit the band would eventually outgrow), Ultramega OK might be crude and uneven in a way later Soundgarden albums were not, but as rock music blueprints go, it's hard to fault.