Badmotorfinger is the third studio album by the American alternative rock band Soundgarden, released on October 8, 1991 through A&M Records. After touring in support of its previous album, Louder Than Love (1989), Soundgarden began the recording sessions for its next album with new bassist Ben Shepherd. The music on the album maintained the band's heavy rock sound while featuring an increased focus on songwriting as compared with the band's previous releases.
The focus on the Seattle grunge scene helped bring attention to Badmotorfinger. The singles "Outshined" and "Rusty Cage" were able to find an audience at alternative rock radio and MTV. Badmotorfinger became the band's highest charting album at the time on the Billboard 200. The band supported the album with tours of North America and Europe, including opening for Guns N' Roses on that band's Use Your Illusion Tour. In 1992, Badmotorfinger was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. The album has been certified two times platinum by the RIAA in the United States.
This was the band's first album with bassist Ben Shepherd, who replaced previous bassist Jason Everman following the band's promotional tour for the album Louder Than Love. The album's recording sessions took place from March 1991 to April 1991. It was recorded at Studio D in Sausalito, California, Bear Creek Studios in Woodinville, Washington, and A&M Studios in Los Angeles, California. The band again worked with producer Terry Date. The album was mixed by Ron St. Germain.
Soundgarden chose to work with Terry Date again as it had on its previous release Louder Than Love. Frontman Chris Cornell said the band chose to work with Date again seeing as the band had a good relationship with him and did not want to go through the pressure of trying to find a new producer.
Cornell said that Shepherd brought a "fresh and creative" approach to the recording sessions. and the band as a whole said that his knowledge of music and writing skills redefined the band. Before joining, Soundgarden had been Shepherd's favorite band. Compared with Louder Than Love, the band took a more collaborative approach to the writing process.
Music and lyrics
Steve Huey of Allmusic said that the songwriting on Badmotorfinger "takes a quantum leap in focus and consistency." He added, "It's surprisingly cerebral and arty music for a band courting mainstream metal audiences, but it attacks with scientific precision." Guitarist Kim Thayil jokingly called it the "Heavy Metal White Album." Cornell said, "I think there's songs on the new record which are almost more commercially viable because they have that memorable feel to them, and I think if anyone expected us to come out and make something more commercial than Louder Than Love, then I'm glad that they were surprised." Cornell also added that the album is more representative of how the band is live. Shepherd contributed the song "Somewhere" and collaborated on the musical composition of several other songs on the album. Thayil said that Shepherd's contributions helped make the album "faster" and "weirder."
On the opening song, "Rusty Cage", Thayil uses a wah pedal as an audio filter, producing an unusual guitar sound. In describing the song's guitar riff he said that it "almost sounds backward." Soundgarden utilized alternative tunings and odd time signatures on several of the album's songs. "Jesus Christ Pose" and "Outshined" were performed in drop D tuning. On "Rusty Cage", "Holy Water", and "Searching with My Good Eye Closed", the bottom E string is tuned all the way down to B. On "Mind Riot" every string is tuned to one of several E's. Soundgarden's use of odd-meter time signatures was varied as well; songs like "Jesus Christ Pose" are in typical 4/4 time, "Outshined" is in 7/4, "Somewhere" is in 6/4, "Face Pollution" uses 9/8 and 6/4, and "Rusty Cage" uses 4/4 for the majority of the song and a repeated pattern of 3/4, 2/4, and 5/4 in its coda. Thayil said that he didn't "push for weird time signatures," but rather "push[ed] to get the quirkiness out of things."
Cornell said that he tried to not get too specific with his lyrics and was more interested in "creating colourful images." Thayil suggested that it is "like reading a novel [about] man's conflict with himself and society, or the government, or his family, or the economy, or anything." "Jesus Christ Pose" was written about famous people who exploit the symbol of Jesus' crucifixion as to suggest that they're persecuted by the public. Cornell said that "Outshined" is about going from "periods of extreme self-confidence" to "plummeting in the opposite direction." "Holy Water" was written about people who force their beliefs unto others. Thayil wrote the lyrics for "Room a Thousand Years Wide", and said that the song is about "experience in general." "New Damage" subtly criticizes the right-wing government of the United States.
Release and reception
The album became a breakthrough hit for Soundgarden. Badmotorfinger peaked at number 39 on the Billboard 200 album chart. It was the band's highest position on that chart at the time. It was released in the same year as Nirvana's Nevermind and Pearl Jam's Ten, all of which helped to break grunge into the mainstream. Although overshadowed at the time of its release by the sudden popularity of Nirvana's Nevermind, the focus of attention brought by Nevermind to the Seattle scene helped Soundgarden gain wider attention. Badmotorfinger was among the 100 top selling albums of 1992. Badmotorfinger has been certified two times platinum by the RIAA.
Allmusic staff writer Steve Huey gave the album four and a half out of five stars, calling it "heavy, challenging hard rock full of intellectual sensibility and complex band interplay." Ann Powers of Blender said, "Cornell strikes the perfect Jesus Christ pose on this sonic wallop." Gina Arnold of Entertainment Weekly gave the album a B+. She said, "On songs like the cynical "Jesus Christ Pose" and "Slaves and Bulldozers", Soundgarden sound a hell of a lot smarter than their peers, who seldom get beyond extolling booze, girls, and cars." She ended her review by stating that "the final effect is merely stylishly bombastic rather than bludgeoningly bombastic. Tuneless heavy metal is, after all, still tuneless heavy metal, and in that department, Soundgarden are as functional as they make 'em." Critic Robert Christgau gave the album a B-, calling it a "credible metal album" while also criticizing the album's lyrical writing.
Badmotorfinger included the singles "Jesus Christ Pose", "Outshined", and "Rusty Cage". The three singles gained considerable airtime on alternative rock radio stations, while the videos for "Outshined" and "Rusty Cage" gained considerable airtime on MTV. The lead single "Jesus Christ Pose" and its music video were the subject of widespread controversy in 1991, and the video was removed from MTV's playlist. Many listeners were outraged by the song and its video, perceiving them as anti-Christian. The band received death threats while on tour in the United Kingdom in support of the album. "Room a Thousand Years Wide" was released previously as a single in 1990, but not to promote the album. It was released (with the song "HIV Baby") as a 7" through Sub Pop's Single of the Month club a full year before the release of Badmotorfinger. The song was re-recorded for this album. "Rusty Cage" was covered by Johnny Cash on his 1996 album, Unchained. It also appeared on the fictional radio station Radio X on the videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and in the 32-bit version of Road Rash.
At the 1992 Grammy Awards, Badmotorfinger received a nomination for Best Metal Performance. It was also ranked number 45 in the October 2006 issue of Guitar World on the magazine's list of the 100 greatest guitar albums of all time.
The Badmotorfinger logo consists of a jagged, cyclone-like design. In the center of the logo is a triangle containing a spark plug. The album's cover art was illustrated by guitarist Mark Dancey from the Sub Pop band Big Chief.
Thayil suggested the title Badmotorfinger as a joke on the Montrose song "Bad Motor Scooter". Regarding the title, Thayil said, "It was sort of off the top of my head. I simply like it because it was colorful. It was kinda aggressive, too...It conjures up a lot of different kinds of images. We like the ambiguity in it, the way it sounded and the way it looked."
Following the release of Badmotorfinger, Soundgarden went on a tour in North America that ran from October 1991 to November 1991. Afterward, the band took a slot opening for Guns N' Roses in North America on the band's Use Your Illusion Tour. Soundgarden was personally selected by Guns N' Roses as its opening band. This was Soundgarden's first arena tour. Afterward, the band took a slot opening for Skid Row in North America in February 1992 on the band's Slave to the Grind tour. Soundgarden then headed to Europe for a month-long headlining theater tour. Afterward, the band then returned for a tour in the United States. Soundgarden rejoined Guns N' Roses as part of the Use Your Illusion Tour in the summer of 1992 for a tour of Europe along with fellow opening act Faith No More. Regarding the time spent opening for Guns N' Roses, Cornell said, "It wasn't a whole lot of fun going out in front of 40,000 people for 35 minutes every day. Most of them hadn't heard our songs and didn't care about them. It was a bizarre thing." The band would go on to play the 1992 Lollapalooza tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, and Ministry, among others. The band later released the video compilation Motorvision, which was filmed at the Paramount Theatre in 1992. Track listing All lyrics written by Chris Cornell, except where noted.
|3.||"Slaves & Bulldozers"||Cornell, Ben Shepherd||6:56|
|4.||"Jesus Christ Pose"||Matt Cameron, Cornell, Shepherd, Kim Thayil||5:51|
|7.||"Searching with My Good Eye Closed"||Cornell||6:31|
|8.||"Room a Thousand Years Wide"||Thayil||Cameron||4:06|
|12.||"New Damage"||Thayil, Cameron||5:40|
In anticipation of the band's appearance at the 1992 Lollapalooza tour, a limited edition of Badmotorfinger was released on June 23, 1992 with a second disc containing the EP Satanoscillatemymetallicsonatas (or SOMMS). The title is a palindrome. This EP includes three covers, a Soundgarden original, and a song recorded at a concert. For its cover of Black Sabbath's "Into the Void", the original lyrics are replaced by words of protest by Chief Sealth, which fit the metre of the song. At the 1993 Grammy Awards, "Into the Void (Sealth)" received a nomination for Best Metal Performance.
|1.||"Into the Void (Sealth)"||Chief Sealth, Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward||6:37|
|2.||"Girl U Want"||Gerald Casale, Mark Mothersbaugh||3:29|
|3.||"Stray Cat Blues"||Mick Jagger, Keith Richards||4:46|
|4.||"She's a Politician"||Cornell||1:48|
|5.||"Slaves & Bulldozers (live)"||Cornell, Shepherd||8:38|
The album's singles featured eleven B-sides from the Badmotorfinger recording sessions that weren't included on the album, "Stray Cat Blues", "Into the Void (Sealth)", "Cold Bitch", "I Can't Give You Anything", "Girl U Want", "Show Me", "I Don't Care About You", "Can You See Me", "Homicidal Suicidal", "Touch Me", and "She's a Politician". Various versions of the "Jesus Christ Pose" single featured "Stray Cat Blues" and "Into the Void (Sealth)", various versions of the "Outshined" single featured "Into the Void (Sealth)", "Cold Bitch", "I Can't Give You Anything", "Girl U Want", "Show Me", "I Don't Care About You", "Can You See Me", and "Homicidal Suicidal", and various versions of the "Rusty Cage" single featured "Stray Cat Blues", "Girl U Want", "Show Me", and "Touch Me". The SOMMS EP featured "Stray Cat Blues", "Into the Void (Sealth)", "Girl U Want", and "She's a Politician". "Show Me" was later featured on the 1993 No Alternative compilation, "Cold Bitch" was later featured on the "Spoonman" single, "Girl U Want" was later featured on the "Fell on Black Days" single, and "She's a Politician" was later featured on the "Burden in My Hand" single. "Cold Bitch" was one of Shepherd's favorite songs that the band recorded. The song "Birth Ritual" was worked on during the recording sessions, but wasn't completed. It would eventually see release on the Singles soundtrack. "No Attention", which later appeared on the band's 1996 album, Down on the Upside, was attempted during the Badmotorfinger recording sessions. Thayil said that the recording of "No Attention" that came out of the sessions didn't work.
|US Billboard 200||39|
|UK Albums Chart||39|
|Canadian Albums Chart||50|
|New Zealand Albums Chart||49|
|1991||"Jesus Christ Pose"||30|
The information regarding accolades attributed to Badmotorfinger is adapted in part from AcclaimedMusic.net.
|Guitar World||United States||"100 Greatest Guitar Albums of All Time"||2006||45|
|Revolver||United States||"The 69 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time"||2002||26|
|Kerrang!||United Kingdom||"100 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die"||1998||25|
|Visions||Germany||"The Most Important Albums of the 90s"||1999||3|
|Juice||Australia||"The 100 (+34) Greatest Albums of the 90s"||1999||48|
|The Movement||New Zealand||"The 101 Best Albums of the 90s"||2004||84|
|Soundgarden studio albums|
|Ultramega OK, Louder Than Love, Badmotorfinger, Superunknown, Down on the Upside, King Animal|