Ultramega Ok

A continuation of the style of Screaming Life (but thankfully not Fopp), Ultraomega OK gets bogged down by its murky sound and inconsistent songwriting. Fortunately, Soundgarden’s talent shines through most of the time, though there’s not a single song in the same class as “Nothing To Say.” Unfortunately, “665” and “667” are “ironic” experiments whose best attributes are their song titles and brief running times (1:37 and :56), while bassist Hiro Yamamoto sings “Circle Of Power,” and awfully at that.

Elsewhere, the band fares much better on songs such as “Flower,” “All Your Lies,” “Beyond The Wheel,” and “Nazi Driver,” while a looser, more jam-based vibe marks songs such as “Mood For Trouble” and “He Didn’t.” In what would become Soundgarden trademarks, dirge-like attempts are interspersed with faster paced punkier numbers, but the band obviously leans far closer towards the metal side of things. Interestingly, the band covers Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning,” and as could be expected the old blues song is undone by its own repetitiveness, though that’s certainly a cute Rob Halford impersonation there at the end. The band also “covers” John Lennon’s “One Minute Of Silence,” but that’s just the band being ironic again. Which only goes to show that Soundgarden are not funny, a fact that they thankfully remember for the remainder of this dirty, hard-hitting grungefest. As such, though I’d call this both their weakest and least accessible album, and therefore not the place to start for neophytes, I would still recommend it to Soundgarden fans. After all, when Soundgarden break through the murk their playing remains powerful, and it’s always cool to check out the comparatively humble beginnings of a big-time band.

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