Almost thirty years later, legendary grunge producer and engineer aficionado Jack Endino has finally grabbed hold of Soundgarden’s Ultramega OK. First released in the fall of ’88, Soundgarden’s Ultramega OK has been given its resurgence with the expanded reissue release. Previously marking the band’s first full-length studio album and the advancing explosions of grunge enthusiasts, the expanded reissue provides further insight into the dog days of early Seattle rock. Much a result of Endino’s ability, the album feels vastly cleaner and a bit more fine-tuned, stripping down over-reverberation and muddled sound bites.
The remix, as it has been referred, was released by longtime label Sub Pop and, for some, seemed like a long-awaited revamp. According to Endino in a recent conversation with TheStranger, “right after the band made the record, they realized that they didn’t really like the mid, and nobody else really liked it that much, either,” and later, “the guitar tones were very thin and shrill. There’s a lot of strange reverb layered over it in various places. The feeling of the music had to come out a little bit more; it was obscured. I wanted more energy coming out of the grooves, more vibe.” Endino had helped produce the band’s first few LPs, but was replaced by Drew Canulette to produce the original recording of Ultramega OK. Even with the band’s disappointment and some minor critical response, the 1988 release won Cornell, Thayil, Yamamoto and Cameron a Grammy for Best Metal Performance.
Ultramega OK (Expanded Reissue) is constructed from the tracks now considered building blocks of early grunge and is justly given new life with the addition of various demo tapes and Endino’s expertise. The added demos grant a fresh look into the historical outcrop of pre-nineties style by adding length and unreleased tracks to the mix. It feels almost like an anthology that looks back to the point when Soundgarden grabbed hold of a style all their own. The reissue album delivers a fascinating glimpse into Soundgarden’s early days while providing listeners a look into Endino’s backstage talent. The sound which started a movement and eventually came to define a genre is clearly present within the confines of Endino’s masterful reproduction. A young Cornell barks loudly alongside the band’s signature instrumentals and, as a whole, the album feels very much like it was originally intended, crisp and clean. After twenty-nine years Soundgarden’s Ultramega OK finally feels complete.