Daily Song Study

Temple of the Dog – Say Hello 2 Heaven

In songs on July 11, 2011 at 9:07 pm

The grunge explosion that hit the nation in 1992 brought some good and bad things. On the good side, there was a return to bands playing real instruments (escaping the Milli Vanilli era), and a pullback from bloated power balladry & hair metal bombast.

On the bad side, slacker irony exerted a suffocating influence on the radio and in the club scene, to the point that any emotion that wasn’t accompanied with a wink, nudge & “fuck you” was judged irrelevant and laughable. Songwriters were supposed to be pissed off and resigned to the futility of existence.

One notable exception to this, interestingly, came about just prior to the movement’s rise, and was perpetrated by several of its originators. The story goes that Andrew Wood, lead vocalist of Seattle-area band Mother Love Bone, died of a heroin overdose in 1990. He had many musical friends, including Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and several members of what would become Pearl Jam. In the wake of Wood’s death, these musicians came together as a one-time band called Temple of the Dog, and released an album by that name in 1991. The songs are ostensibly about Wood, but also touch on themes of grief and alienation, in a way that is certainly sincere, and not at all ironic.

The best of these, in my opinion, is the tune above. Though nominally a rock song, in execution it actually more closely approximates gospel, not least because of Cornell’s soul-filled vocals. If grunge had continued along this path, I might have been a bigger fan for the long haul.

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  1. Best. Vocals. Ever.

  2. I wonder what it’s like to be in the room with Cornell when he’s going full tilt. It’d probably make your face melt off.

  3. […] the early-90s explosion of grunge spawned a second wave of imitators. Even more predictably, these new bands tended to skew […]

  4. […] that time period in the very early 1990s before “alternative” reflexively meant “grunge and its offshoots.” It may be a bit contentious, but I place the weirdo-rock stylings of They Might Be Giants […]

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