Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Soundgarden: Superunknown [A&M, 1994]
Having mocked this group's conceptual pretensions for years, I'd best point out that Chris Cornell still isn't Robert Plant, Kim Thayill still isn't Jimmy Page, and so forth, before cheerfully acknowledging that 1) they're all closer than they used to be and 2) it no longer matters. This is easily the best--the most galvanizing, kinetic, sensational, catchy--Zep rip in history. And though there may be a philosophical or interpersonal dimension, to me the trick sounds like it was done with songwriting, arrangement, and production. At 70 minutes, it's what used to be called a double album, not quite as long as Physical Graffiti but a lot more consistent. And though their apocalyptic pessimism is almost as content-free as Zep's apocalyptic mystagogy, Zep never reached out like Cornell in "My Wave": "Cry, if you want to cry/If it helps you see/If it clears your eyes/Hate, if you want to hate/If it keeps you safe/If it makes you brave." A-