I find it funny that the Chicago hipsters at pitchfork were so chomping at the bit to find flaws with Soundgarden in the mid-’90’s. They’re like tossing in their beds mulling it all over: it was “Rhinosaur”! I knew it! The rhythm guitar part during Kim Thayil’s ear-bleeding distortion is slightly desultory! Mu-hah-hah!
Well, whether or not the Queens of the Stone Age knew it, Soundgarden already knew that the term “rock radio” was oxymoronic; and whether or not Mudhoney knew it, Soundgarden already knew that “The lucky ones have already gone down.” If anything could make Down on the Upside into a classic in the critics’ ears, you’d think it would be “Blow Up the Outside World,” which is a “dumb” title in the positive connotation that Kim Deal applied to Nirvana even before they wrote a song called that, but swaddles itself in deliberate grunge mire patiently and relentlessly, with a six minutes that’s spiced up by a deceivingly clever mid-bridge key change. Maybe next universe, guys.
Anyway, moral of the story: don’t try to do too much. Don’t try to make a STATEMENT. No one really thinks Songs for the Deaf is better than Down on the Upside, it’s just that there was so little else going on in popular music around 2002. And they were louder. Pi**ed off at Soundgarden, probably.