Soundgarden is likely one of the most widely known bands under the banner of “Grunge.” It honestly feels as though they’ve been around forever, and that’s probably because they basically have been around since the beginning of the Seattle grunge movement of the late ’80s and into the mid-’90s. Most recently, the band has remastered the early releases Screaming Life and EP Fopp. As a remastered album, there aren’t any groundbreaking tunes to point out here. It’s not as though it is an album that can be compared to their previous work, since, well it is their previous work.
However, as a standalone album, the songs fall right into that perfect grunge sound. One can sense the transition from just four guys jamming in a room to ultimately working hard to put together a coherent, if slightly angst-driven, sound. And even though this is a remastered album, you can still hear the rough edges (check out “Nothing to Say” as an example).
There isn’t a great amount of distortion for something classified as grunge, which is nice for the listener’s ears because the music is edgy but still accessible and easy to understand. There is a solid rhythm section that is easy to sway to, like that in “Little Joe.” Much of the actual instrumentation is clear and inventive; it’s hard to say the same about the vocals, which aren’t distorted per say, but at this stage, singer Chris Cornell was still relying more on screaming/talking rather than melodic singing. Instead, the melodies are carried by the instrumentals, and it is actually be Kim Thayil’s guitar lines that get stuck in the listener’s head.
As weird as it may sound, this album has sort of a comforting feel to it. Today, so much of the produced music is overproduced that it feels soulless, or the group is trying to be someone else. Screaming Life/Fopp just feels right and fresh. The music itself isn’t really of “today,” of course, but at the same time that doesn’t even matter. This is one of those albums you can just listen to and feel as though you have been completely transported back into the ’90s, in the middle of a flannel covered, rough edged mosh pit somewhere in downtown Seattle.