31 Years of Soundgarden’s ‘Louder Than Love’

Released on this day back in 1989, find out how the band’s landmark album helped formulate the Grunge Movement.

Back in September of 1989, Grunge pioneers, Soundgarden were only just beginning to send waves across the music scene. Helping to manufacture the iconic Grunge movement that defined the 1990s, it was the band’s first major-label release, Louder Than Love, that shaped the music industry for decades to come.

Whilst currently beloved by Soundgarden fans as one of their classic albums, during the time of its release, the album was turning heads in the industry for many of the wrong reasons.

From the rebellious message it wanted to send, to conflict within the band and issues of censorship, Louder Than Love was a paradoxical album of both success and setbacks from the beginning- perfectly paving the path for one of the most tumultuous and tragic music scenes of all time.

Although regarded as the most ‘metal’ band in the Seattle scene, the album actually strived to rebel against the metal genre.

Distancing themselves from the shred-orientated metal trend, Louder Than Love instead embedded influences from more raw, emotion-driven British bands such as Bauhaus and Killing Joke; providing a refreshing, less egocentric sound for the charts.

This was seen, not only in the concept behind the album, but also through the lyrical content. The track ‘Big Dumb Sex’ for instance was written as a parody of the Glam bands that dominated the music scene at the time- mocking their hyper-sexualised lyrics.

What’s more is that even the album’s title was based upon poking fun at the macho-bravado of Glam bands of the time such as Poison, Ratt and Mötley Crüe, who proudly claimed to be larger than life.

Predominantly written by frontman, Chris Cornell– who wrote seven out of the twelve songs singlehandedly- Louder Than Love wasn’t merely a parody of the Glam Metal scene, but also withheld a deeper meaning. 

Covering issues of a greater calibre throughout, including the singles, ‘Hands All Over’: an attack on those who defile the world around them for self-gain, and ‘Loud Love’: a heroic anthem of resilience towards oppressive regulations, the album conveyed a more important, deep-rooted message than it initially seemed.

However, an underlying sense of irony followed Soundgarden as the album began to come together. Despite being given their ‘big break’ as they were signed to a major label, the band itself was beginning to face turbulence.

Cornell claimed there to be elements of angst, frustration and hostility as tension mounted between Soundgarden’s original bassist, Hiro Yamamoto and the other members. 

Already beginning to lose interest in and distance himself from the band, Yamamoto’s presence during the writing and recording aspects of Louder Than Love became minimal, with his departure from Soundgarden occurring shortly after.

Further, upon its release, the album seemed to fluctuate between commercial success and an array of criticism and censorship. 

Publications across the globe gave overall mixed reviews to the release- many of which censoring the album for its unorthodox choice of lyrics and criticising the vast array of different motifs that ran simultaneously. 

However, attitudes towards the album began to shift with the passing of time. Their first album to crack the Billboard 200, peaking at number 108, and receiving praise for Cornell’s vocal abilities, Louder Than Love eventually catapulted Soundgarden into the focal point of the Seattle Music industry and helped form the Grunge movement. 

Similarly, the lead single, ‘Loud Love’ was featured on Cult Classic film, Wayne’s World and the album was credited as inspiring Metallica’s iconic riff, ‘Enter Sandman’… revolutionising the world of metal for decades to come. 

Now, listed as one of the “50 Heaviest Albums of All Time” by Q Magazine back in 2001 and ranking at number 69 on Rolling Stone’s lost of ‘Greatest Metal Albums of All Time” in 2017, it is fair to say that, whilst it may not be their largest commercial success, Louder Than Love helped to form the iconic Grunge movement and reinvented the way that rock was perceived from the 1990s onwards.

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