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Temple of the Dog

Temple Of The Dog  Hear it Now

RS: 4of 5 Stars Average User Rating: 4.5of 5 Stars

1991

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Seattle's five-year reign as rock's capital city ended -- brutally -- with the 1994 death of Kurt Cobain. But the city's golden age also began with tragedy: the fatal overdose in 1990 of singer Andrew Wood of local heroes Mother Love Bone. In November and December that year, a band of mourners from Soundgarden, singer Chris Cornell and drummer Matt Cameron, and the newborn Pearl Jam -- bassist Jeff Ament, guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready and, in his recorded debut, singer Eddie Vedder -- met on weekends to cut a requiem for Wood. Made a year before Nirvana's Nevermind, Temple of the Dog was one of the first smash hits of the Seattle explosion; it also codified, with heart and muscle, the heavy anguish of the Puget sound. Gossard and Ament were Wood's band mates in Mother Love Bone, but it was Cornell who wrote the lyrics and most of the music for Temple and who, with his Herculean wail, sets the physical tone of grieving. In "Reach Down," the eleven-minute heart of the record, the Gossard-McCready guitars stalk Cornell's voice like hellhounds, snarling and howling with wicked relish until an a cappella chorale of overdubbed Cornell's signals the resurrection hour: "I wanna reach down/And pick the crowd up/Carry back in my hand/To the promised land." "Pushin Forward Back" is good shovin' built from the black thunder of Led Zeppelin and the twin-guitar lightning of the original Alice Cooper band. Cornell uses a lot of religious imagery in these songs, but it is more out of disbelief than faith. His cinematic howl in "Wooden Jesus" is packed end to end with bitterness.

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)

Further Listening: 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

DAVID FRICKE



(Posted: Dec 14, 2000)

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