Ultramega OK

Last updated
Ultramega OK
Soundgarden-UtramegaOK.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 31, 1988
Recorded1988
Genre
Length42:48
Label SST
Producer
  • Drew Canulette
  • Soundgarden
Soundgarden chronology
Fopp
(1988)
Ultramega OK
(1988)
Louder Than Love
(1989)
Singles from Ultramega OK
  1. "Flower"
    Released: May 1989
Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [1]
Rolling Stone Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg [2] [3]
Kerrang! Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg [4]
Sputnikmusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svgStar empty.svg [5]

Ultramega OK is the debut studio album by American rock band Soundgarden, released on October 31, 1988 by SST Records. Following the release of the EPs Screaming Life (1987) and Fopp (1988), both for the Sub Pop record label, Soundgarden signed with SST and went to work on their debut full-length. The resulting album contained elements of heavy metal, psychedelic rock, and hardcore punk. The band supported the album with a tour of the United States, as well as its first overseas tour.

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

Soundgarden American grunge rock band

Soundgarden was an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1984 by singer and rhythm guitarist Chris Cornell, lead guitarist Kim Thayil, and bassist Hiro Yamamoto. Matt Cameron became the band's full-time drummer in 1986, while bassist Ben Shepherd became a permanent replacement for Yamamoto in 1990. The band dissolved in 1997 and re-formed in 2010. Following Cornell's suicide in 2017 and a year of uncertainty of the band's future, Thayil declared in an October 2018 interview with Seattle Times that they would not continue as Soundgarden; they did, however, reunite in January 2019 for a one-off concert in tribute to Cornell.

SST Records is an American independent record label formed in 1978 in Long Beach, California by musician Greg Ginn. The company was formed in 1966 by Ginn at age 12 as Solid State Tuners, a small business through which he sold electronics equipment. Ginn repurposed the company as a record label to release material by his band Black Flag.

Contents

In 1990, the album earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Metal Performance.

Grammy Award Accolade by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States

A Grammy Award, or Grammy, is an award presented by The Recording Academy to recognize achievements in the music industry. The trophy depicts a gilded gramophone. The annual presentation ceremony features performances by prominent artists, and the presentation of those awards that have a more popular interest. The Grammys are the second of the Big Three major music awards held annually.

The Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance is an award presented at the Grammy Awards to recording artists for works containing quality performances in the heavy metal music genre. The Grammy Awards is an annual ceremony, where honors in several categories are presented by The Recording Academy of the United States to "honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position". The ceremony was established in 1958 and originally called the Gramophone Awards.

Recording

The album was recorded in spring 1988 in Seattle, Washington, and Newberg, Oregon, with producer Drew Canulette. Frontman Chris Cornell said that during the recording sessions the band wasn't on the same page with Canulette. He said, "Material-wise we went through the process that we always do, but the producer wasn't used to the sound we wanted and didn't know what was happening in Seattle." [6]

Seattle City in Washington, United States

Seattle is a seaport city on the West Coast of the United States. It is the seat of King County, Washington. With an estimated 744,955 residents as of 2018, Seattle is the largest city in both the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest region of North America. According to U.S. Census data released in 2018, the Seattle metropolitan area's population stands at 3.94 million, and ranks as the 15th largest in the United States. In July 2013, it was the fastest-growing major city in the United States and remained in the top 5 in May 2015 with an annual growth rate of 2.1%. In July 2016, Seattle was again the fastest-growing major U.S. city, with a 3.1% annual growth rate. Seattle is the northernmost large city in the United States.

Washington (state) State of the United States of America

Washington, officially the State of Washington, is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Named for George Washington, the first U.S. president, the state was made out of the western part of the Washington Territory, which was ceded by Britain in 1846 in accordance with the Oregon Treaty in the settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute. The state, which is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, by Oregon to the south, by Idaho to the east, and the Canadian province of British Columbia to the north, was admitted to the Union as the 42nd state in 1889. Olympia is the state capital; the state's largest city is Seattle. Washington is often referred to as Washington State to distinguish it from the nation's capital, Washington, D.C..

Newberg, Oregon City in Oregon, United States

Newberg is a city in Yamhill County, Oregon, United States. Located in the Portland metropolitan area, the city is home to George Fox University. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 22,110 making it the second most populous city in the county.

He later said that "we made a huge mistake with Ultramega OK, because we left our home surroundings and people we'd been involved with and used this producer that really did affect our album in a kind of negative way. The producer was suggested by SST because they could get a good deal. I regret it, because in terms of material, it should have been one of the best records we ever did. It actually slowed down our momentum a little bit because it didn't really sound like us." [7]

Veteran Seattle producer Jack Endino, who also produced Soundgarden's first EP, Screaming Life , was in the process of re-mixing the album, and actually completed a rough mix of "Flower". But, due to the band wanting to move on and the financial costs involved with repressing and redistributing the record, it was put on hold. [8] The project has since been resumed by Jack Endino and Kim Thayil. [9]

Jack Endino American musician

Jack Endino is an American producer and musician based in Seattle, United States. Long associated with Seattle label Sub Pop and the grunge movement, Endino worked on seminal albums from bands such as Mudhoney, Soundgarden, and Nirvana. Endino was also the guitarist for the Seattle band Skin Yard which was active between 1985 and 1992. Endino currently manages a studio in Seattle called Soundhouse Recording.

<i>Screaming Life</i> 1987 EP by Soundgarden

Screaming Life is the debut EP by the American rock band Soundgarden, released in October 1987 through Sub Pop Records. Screaming Life was later combined with the band's next EP, Fopp (1988), and released as the Screaming Life/Fopp compilation album in 1990.

Flower (Soundgarden song) song by the American rock band Soundgarden

"Flower" is a song by the American rock band Soundgarden. Featuring lyrics written by frontman Chris Cornell and music written by guitarist Kim Thayil, "Flower" was released in May 1989 as the only single from the band's debut album, Ultramega OK (1988). The song was included on Soundgarden's 1997 greatest hits album, A-Sides. An alternate BBC version of "Flower" recorded on 14 May 1989 appeared on the Deluxe Edition of the band's 2010 compilation album Telephantasm.

Music and lyrics

Ultramega OK has elements of 1960s psychedelic rock, 1970s hard rock and heavy metal, and 1980s hardcore punk. [10] Drummer Matt Cameron said that the band tried to refine its sound while still trying to keep an edge. Steve Huey of AllMusic said that the album is the "best expression of Soundgarden's early, Stooges/MC5-meets-Zeppelin/Sabbath sound", and added that it is "a dark, murky, buzzing record that simultaneously subverts and pays tribute to heavy metal". [1]

Psychedelic rock Style of rock music

Psychedelic rock is a diverse style of rock music inspired, influenced, or representative of psychedelic culture, which is centred around perception-altering hallucinogenic drugs. The music is intended to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs, most notably LSD. Many psychedelic groups differ in style, and the label is often applied spuriously.

Hard rock is a loosely defined subgenre of rock music that began in the mid-1960s, with the garage, psychedelic and blues rock movements. It is typified by a heavy use of aggressive vocals, distorted electric guitars, bass guitar, drums, and often accompanied with keyboards.

Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the United Kingdom. With roots in blues rock, psychedelic rock, and acid rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. The genre's lyrics and performance styles are sometimes associated with aggression and machismo.

Guitarist Kim Thayil recalls "Flower" as being the first time he blew across his guitar strings. [11] This can be heard during the song's introduction, when they are played in rhythm with the drums. "Circle of Power" was one of the few Soundgarden songs to be written without any input from Cornell, as it was written by Thayil and bassist Hiro Yamamoto. It is also the only Soundgarden song on which Yamamoto performs lead vocals.

"Smokestack Lightning" is a Howlin' Wolf cover. On the original version of the album, "Smokestack Lightning" segued into a distorted excerpt from the Sonic Youth song, "Death Valley '69". Soundgarden included it as a tribute/parody of Sonic Youth's similar sampling of The Stooges song "Not Right" on their "Bad Moon Rising" album. [12] This excerpt was removed from the 2017 reissue of "Ultramega OK".

Cornell said that "Flower" is "about a girl...who becomes a woman and basically invests everything in vanity and then burns out quick." [10] Thayil stated that "Nazi Driver" is about "cutting up Nazis and making stew out of them". [13] Cornell observed that the lyrics and vocals for "Incessant Mace" are "very European Gothic". [14]

Three songs on the album were recorded as jokes or parodies by the band. The songs "665" and "667" are parodies of the idea of Satanic content in rock music, the idea being that if 666 is such a powerful number, then the surrounding numbers must be equally as powerful. [15] The album's closing track, "One Minute of Silence", is a "cover" of John Lennon's "Two Minutes of Silence" from the 1969 album, Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions , excluding Yoko Ono's part. Cornell said that the band "appreciated the Lennon arrangement so much". [15] No instruments are played, although the band (presumably) can be faintly heard in the background. Cornell stated, "We were trying real hard to shut up, but Kim couldn't possibly shut up for a whole minute." [13]

Release and reception

Cornell said, "On [Ultramega OK] the production wasn't what we were after at all, and that sort of hurt us critically." [16] Allmusic staff writer Steve Huey gave the album four out of five stars, saying, "It may not be quite as complex or consistent as some of Soundgarden's later albums, but Ultramega OK is easily the best document of grunge's early, pre-Nirvana days." [1] Ann Powers of Blender said, "Not every moment is brilliant, but it sure is loud." [17]

"Flower" was the only single released from the album. Its music video, directed by Mark Miremont, aired regularly on MTV's 120 Minutes , helping to call attention to the early Seattle grunge scene.

At the 1990 Grammy Awards, Ultramega OK received a nomination for Best Metal Performance. [18]

Packaging

The album's cover art, photographed by Lance Mercer, features a black and white picture of the band. According to Cornell, the album's title was a joke conceived by Thayil. [19] Cornell explained that the title Ultramega OK means "absolutely, unbelievably not bad," and suggested that the British version was going to be called Ultramega UK. [15] Cornell explained the title further, stating, "With Ultramega OK we really liked the songs on that record but we were disappointed in the production. We were sort of making fun of the finished product. It was Ultramega Alright. Ultramega could have been better but not bad." [20]

Tour

Soundgarden supported the album with a tour in the United States in the spring of 1989 and a tour in Europe, which began in May 1989 and was the band's first overseas tour. [21]

Reissues

Ultramega OK was reissued on LP in 2012. "One Minute of Silence" was not included on it.

A new reissue of Ultramega OK was released on March 10, 2017 on Sub Pop in four formats, namely, black and colored double LP, CD, cassette tape, and digital download. The album was fully remixed and remastered from the original tapes by Jack Endino. It includes, as bonus tracks, six early eight-track versions of songs from the same album, taken from a demo tape, informally called "the Ultramega EP" by the band members, recorded by Endino and Chris Hanzsek at Reciprocal Recording studio in 1987. [22] [23] [24] [25]

Track listing

All lyrics written by Chris Cornell, except where noted.

No.TitleLyricsMusicLength
1."Flower"  Kim Thayil 3:25
2."All Your Lies" Thayil, Hiro Yamamoto 3:51
3."665" Yamamoto1:37
4."Beyond the Wheel" Cornell4:20
5."667" Yamamoto0:56
6."Mood for Trouble" Cornell4:21
7."Circle of Power"YamamotoThayil2:05
8."He Didn't"  Matt Cameron 2:47
9."Smokestack Lightning" Howlin' Wolf Howlin' Wolf5:07
10."Nazi Driver" Yamamoto3:52
11."Head Injury" Cornell2:22
12."Incessant Mace" Thayil6:27
13."One Minute of Silence"  John Lennon 1:02
Total length:42:48

On cassette only, there is a 20th track titled "13 Minutes of Silence Remix," similar to the joke track "One Minute of Silence" from the original release.

Personnel

Soundgarden

Production

Charts

Chart (2017)Peak
position
US Vinyl Albums ( Billboard ) [26] 8
US Tastemaker Albums ( Billboard ) [27] 9
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia) [28] 122

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