Louder Than Love is the second studio album by American rock band Soundgarden. It was released on September 5, 1989, by A&M Records. After touring in support of their first studio album, Ultramega OK (1988), Soundgarden signed with A&M and began work on its first album for a major label. The songs on the album featured a metal-leaning grunge sound with some songs featuring unusual or unorthodox time signatures.
Due to the nature of some of the lyrics, a Parental Advisory sticker was placed on the album packaging. Louder Than Love would become the band's first album to chart on the Billboard 200. The band supported the album with tours of North America and Europe. It was the last Soundgarden album to feature the band's original bassist, Hiro Yamamoto. It was later reissued on January 24, 2002.
The album's recording sessions took place from December 1988 to January 1989 at London Bridge Studios in Seattle, Washington. The band worked with producer Terry Date. The album was mixed by Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero at both Mediasound, New York, and House of Music, West Orange, New Jersey.
Regarding the sessions, frontman Chris Cornell said, "At the time Hiro [Yamamoto] had excommunicated himself from the band and there wasn't a free-flowing system as far as music went, so I ended up writing a lot of it." Cornell would end up solely writing seven out of the album's twelve tracks. Cornell stated that there "was plenty of angst, anger, frustration and hell...but none of it had anything to do with Terry. He was very supportive." He said that the sessions as a whole were a "positive experience." Bassist Hiro Yamamoto left the band once the sessions were over and went back to college, frustrated that he wasn't contributing much.
Regarding the album's production, Cornell said that the band tried to avoid 1980s production techniques. On the album's sound as a whole, Cornell stated that the album "was just a few degrees too produced and too clean, although I wouldn't want to change any of it."
Steve Huey of Allmusic said that Soundgarden took "a step toward the metal mainstream" with "a slow, grinding, detuned mountain of Sabbath/Zeppelin riffs and Chris Cornell wailing." At the time the band was trying to avoid the "heavy metal" label, with guitarist Kim Thayil stating that the band's sound was "as much influenced by British bands like Killing Joke and Bauhaus as it is by heavy metal." Cornell said that the band's sound is "enough for anyone into speed metal, but we're heavy rock...Neo-metal maybe."
Some songs on the album feature unusual or unorthodox time signatures. "Get On The Snake", for example, is played in 9/4. "I Awake" uses 4/4, 6/4, 9/8, 11/8, and 14/8. "Gun" features varying tempos, which speed up and slow down over the course of the song. A lot of the songs on the album are tuned down to a drop D tuning.
Cornell said that "Hands All Over" is about how humans defile the environment, and that "Full on Kevin's Mom" is about "a friend of mine who slept with another friend of mine's mom. The guy who did it said to us, 'Yeah, full on Kevin's mom'." The lyrics of "I Awake" were originally part of a note written by Yamamoto's then girlfriend Kate McDonald. In the late 1990s, an urban legend circulated on internet message boards which stated that Yamamoto, after writing the music, wrote some lyrics on the back side of McDonald's note. When Yamamoto gave the paper containing these lyrics to Cornell, Cornell looked at the wrong side of the sheet and believed McDonald's note was the lyrics to Yamamoto's song. There was less material on the album intended as humorous compared with Ultramega OK. However, the song "Big Dumb Sex" was written as a parody of glam metal bands, who often metaphorically addressed sexual intercourse in their lyrics. The song, with its many uses of "fuck", was the reason the album gained a Parental Advisory sticker upon release.
Because of some of the song lyrics, most notably on "Hands All Over" (the "kill your mother" line) and "Big Dumb Sex", the band faced various retail and distribution problems upon the album's release. Louder Than Love peaked at number 108 on the Billboard 200 album chart in 1990. It was the band's first album to chart on the Billboard Top 200. Louder Than Love spawned the Loudest Love EP and the Louder Than Live home video, both released in 1990.
Rolling Stone staff writer J. D. Considine gave Louder Than Love three and a half out of five stars, saying that "Chris Cornell has the sort of soaring, muscular voice Ian Astbury can only dream of, while guitarist Kim Thayil comes across like The Edge with an attitude." He stated that "the songs on Louder Than Love are mean, lean and fighting fit." However, Considine criticized Cornell's lyrics, observing that "much of what the band has to say is clichéd, confused or generally incomprehensible." He ended his review by saying that "even when his lyrics are as dumb as rocks...Cornell delivers them with such full-throated intensity that they actually sound impressive." Allmusic staff writer Steve Huey gave the album three out of five stars, saying that "too much of the album drifts along without focus or variety." Critic Robert Christgau gave the album a C+, stating that it is "covertly conceptual, arty in spite of itself, and I bet metal fans don't bite."
Three singles were released from the album, "Loud Love", "Hands All Over" and the radio-only "Get on the Snake", each with accompanying music videos. "Get on the Snake" was featured in the 1989 movie and soundtrack, Lost Angels. Guns N' Roses covered "Big Dumb Sex" on its 1993 album, "The Spaghetti Incident?", as part of a medley with T. Rex's "Buick Mackane".
In 2001, Q magazine named Louder Than Love as one of the "50 Heaviest Albums of All Time."
In 2010, Soundgarden released a music video for the song "Get on the Snake".
The album's cover art, photographed by Charles Peterson, features a black and white picture of Cornell. Cornell called the album cover "the quintessential angry young man." Regarding the title, Cornell said, "It's sort of making fun of heavy metal bravado. Metal bands would say Louder Than Thunder or something. So Louder Than Love, what is Louder Than Love?" Thayil said that the band really wanted to call the album Louder Than Fuck.
A month before touring for Louder Than Love commenced, Yamamoto left to go back to college. Cornell stated, "It seems an odd time to quit. We're doing real well. We've got a touring budget now. We don't haul amps or do such long van rides any more." He was replaced by Jason Everman, formerly of Nirvana. The band embarked on a North American tour that went from December 1989 to March 1990. On this tour the band served as the opening act for Voivod on the band's Nothingface tour, with Faith No More and The Big F also serving as opening acts at the beginning and end of the tour. Cornell's roommate, Andrew Wood, the lead singer of Mother Love Bone, died on March 19, 1990 of a heroin overdose, the day Cornell got back from touring in support of Louder Than Love.
As Cornell went on to tour Europe with Soundgarden a few days later, he started writing songs in tribute to his late friend. The result was two songs, "Reach Down" and "Say Hello 2 Heaven", that he recorded as soon as he got back from touring. The two songs would eventually lead into the Temple of the Dog project. Bassist Jason Everman was fired immediately after Soundgarden completed its promotional tour for Louder Than Love in mid-1990. Thayil said that "Jason just didn't work out," and that the band "didn't need to go find someone better than him; we needed to find a kindred spirit that we'd hang out with anyway." The band later released the video compilation Louder Than Live, which was filmed at the Whisky a Go Go in 1989.
All lyrics written by Chris Cornell, except where noted.
|1.||"Ugly Truth"||Chris Cornell||5:26|
|2.||"Hands All Over"||Kim Thayil||6:00|
|4.||"Power Trip"||Hiro Yamamoto||4:11|
|5.||"Get on the Snake"||Thayil||3:44|
|6.||"Full on Kevin's Mom"||Cornell||3:37|
|8.||"I Awake"||Kate McDonald||Yamamoto||4:21|
|9.||"No Wrong No Right"||Yamamoto||4:48|
|11.||"Big Dumb Sex"||Cornell||4:11|
|12.||"Full On (Reprise)"||Cornell||2:42|
Some rare special editions of the album include a bonus disc of the Loudest Love EP. Cornell said in a Rolling Stone interview that the album is fully complete when you add the last 4 tracks of the Loudest Love EP to the 12 tracks. Cornell has said that he wants to do a reissue of the album remastered with the 4 tracks added, making the total to 16 tracks.
The album's singles featured two B-sides from the Louder Than Love recording sessions that weren't included on the album, "Fresh Deadly Roses" and "Heretic". "Fresh Deadly Roses" was a B-side on the "Loud Love" single and was featured on the 1990 Pave the Earth compilation. "Heretic" was originally recorded for the 1986 Deep Six compilation. However, the song was re-recorded during the Louder Than Love recording sessions and this version is featured on the "Hands All Over" single, the Pump Up the Volume soundtrack, and the Loudest Love EP. A Cameron penned instrumental entitled "Twin Tower" was recorded during the sessions, but not released until it appeared on Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path.
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