Vedder is mostly a background singer here, although hardly a wallflower. He sets the mass of reverb around his voice on fire in the big-lung coda of "Your Savior." When Vedder joins Cornell in the chorus of "Pushin Forward Back," their harmonies virtually bleed with need. Cornell and Vedder also trade leads in "Hunger Strike," and together they turn its four minutes into a veritable opera of rock-star guilt: "I don't mind stealing bread/From the mouths of decadence/But I can't feed on the powerless/When my cup's already overfilled." Cornell turns on the Robert Plant-style napalm full blast, but it is Vedder's scorched introspection that brings the conscience in the song to a full boil. "Hunger Strike" was his first starring vocal on record; it is still one of his best.
For "Hunger Strike" and "Reach Down" alone, Temple of the Dog deserves immortality; those songs are proof that the angst that defined Seattle rock in the 1990s was not cheap sentiment, at least in the beginning. And you can't help but love the irony of an album, made in great sadness, kick-starting the last great pop mutiny of the twentieth century. (RS 856/857)
Soundgarden, Louder than Love (A&M, 1989) FOUR STARS
Pearl Jam, Ten (Epic, 1991) FOUR STARS
Mother Love Bone, Mother Love Bone (Mercury, 1992) THREE AND A HALF STARS
(Posted: Dec 14, 2000)
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