Louder Than Love


A & M Records, 1989


REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


No other cassette has come close to doing the damage that Louder Than Love did to my music collection. The year-1989. I was still teethering between my 'keepin' it real' skater pals and my pop-metal cravings. Let's see, Poison, White Lion, Winger, Stryper, Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth or...Def Leppard. A bridge had to be burned.

In comes Circus magazine. In a small, isolated article, I read a positively glowing review of Louder Than Love, from this group called Soundgarden. The review was so powerful, I went out and picked up the cassette. The power of the written word-perfect- a perfect example of its power, mainly due to the fact that there was no way in hell that Louder Than Love would be played on the radio stations.

So, armed with that cassette, my friend and I retreated back to my room where we engaged in the usual Saturday afternoon rituals. Metal Gear on the Nintendo, a small bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and a big ass glass of Mountain Dew. The moment I pushed 'play,' a path would be paved. A path that, due to my then Beavis-like tendencies, resulted in the smashing of nearly two-thirds of my hair-metal cassette tape collection.

Such baptismals are never pretty. And Louder Than Love was as pretty as a medieval bludgeoning instrument. Unlike some of the speed metal that I had, Louder Than Lovemy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 's pace was rather slow. It felt like sludges of lava were in my room (and that was before I discovered alcohol). For a pace so slow, Louder Than Love sounded inexpliciably heavy.

Credit guitarist Kim Thayil for creating a bombastic guitar assault. The heshen-stomp of "Get On The Snake," the pulverizing "Ugly Truth" and the sinister "No Wrong No Right" were all primitive guitar assaults. Though Thayil would grow more sophisticated in later releases, dabbling in psychedellic textures, he never sounded as forceful as he did on this album, with the exception of one or two songs on their newer releases.

Louder Than Love was the last album recorded with Hiro Yamamoto, the former bassist of the now-defunct band. Possibly sensing the band wasn't going far, financial wise, Yamamoto opted to quit the band and finish his Master's degree. Ben Shepard replaced Yamamoto and quickly became one of the most viable members of the band.

But like most heavy metal bands, the voice is the all-important facet. And Chris Cornell had a throat that could emit a noise similar to a civil defense siren. The highlight of the album comes in the second song as Cornell cannons out a wail, then yells, "Don't touch me!" in the environmental-warning song, "Hands All Over."

Lyric-wise, Louder Than Love was typical heavy-metal topics, with a more lyrical approach. "Full On Kevin's Mom" was a great ode to hillbilly inbreeding. (Silly note, in 1989, my sister got married, I gave her away, her husband's name...you guessed it, Kevin) That song made me squirm more than any other song on the album. And the misunderstood lyric of the year, for that year, went to "Power Trip". Cornell's drunken, ID raging persona was slurring, "I wanna be King" in a way that for awhile I swore he was saying, "I want to be gay!" Needless to say, that chorus made my friend and I drop the Nintendo pads and hit the rewind button. Is that what I thought he said?

Excluding the "Full On(Reprise)" ending, "Louder Than Love" concluded with one of the most misunderstood songs in heavy metal. The title, "Big Dumb Sex" should have told listeners not to take the song too seriously. As it was a joke against most crotch-grabbing, frat boy types of people. The chorus said it all: "Yeah, I know what to do!/ I'm gonna fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck you, fuck you!" Slap a 'Parental Advisory' sticker on that baby, pronto.

All in all, about $40 worth of cassettes were destroyed after listening to Louder Than Love. Devoid of any market-grabbing tactics, packed full of primitive aggression, Louder Than Love made me want to find out about Mother Love Bone. As well as a favorite of mine, Kurt Cobain said that it was one of his favorite albums. It's hard not to see some of Love in Nevermind. And honestly, I don't think that groundbreaking album would have sounded the same had it not been for Louder Than Love.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 1998 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of A & M Records, and is used for informational purposes only.