Ultramega OK

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Ultramega OK
Studio album by Soundgarden
Released October 31, 1988
Recorded Spring 1988 in Seattle, Washington and Newberg, Oregon
Genre Grunge, heavy metal, alternative metal, stoner rock[1]
Length 42:48
Language English
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
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[2]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[3][4]
Kerrang! 4.5/5 stars[5]
Sputnikmusic 3.3/5 stars[6]

Ultramega OK is the debut full-length studio album by the American rock band Soundgarden, released on October 31, 1988 through SST Records. Following the release of the EPs Screaming Life (1987), and Fopp (1988), both for the Sub Pop record label, Soundgarden signed with the independent record label SST and went to work on its first full-length studio album.

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

Recording[edit]

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."[7]

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."[8]

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.[9] The project has since been resumed by Jack Endino and Kim Thayil. [10]


Music and lyrics[edit]

A sample of "Flower", the only single released from the album. The song's intro features Thayil blowing across his guitar strings.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Ultramega OK has elements of 1960s psychedelic rock, 1970s hard rock and heavy metal, and 1980s hardcore punk.[11] 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."[2]

Guitarist Kim Thayil recalls "Flower" as being the first time he blew across his guitar strings.[12] 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. Cornell said that "Flower" is "about a girl...who becomes a woman and basically invests everything in vanity and then burns out quick."[11] 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[edit]

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."[2] 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[edit]

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[edit]

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]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Chris Cornell, except where noted. 

No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Flower"     Kim Thayil 3:25
2. "All Your Lies"     Thayil, Hiro Yamamoto 3:51
3. "665"     Yamamoto 1:37
4. "Beyond the Wheel"     Cornell 4:20
5. "667"     Yamamoto 0:56
6. "Mood for Trouble"     Cornell 4:21
7. "Circle of Power"   Yamamoto Thayil 2:05
8. "He Didn't"     Matt Cameron 2:47
9. "Smokestack Lightning"   Howlin' Wolf Howlin' Wolf 5:07
10. "Nazi Driver"     Yamamoto 3:52
11. "Head Injury"     Cornell 2:22
12. "Incessant Mace"     Thayil 6:27
13. "One Minute of Silence"     John Lennon 1:02
Total length:
42:48

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Queens of the Stone Age - Rated R". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2009-04-30. Retrieved 2012-01-25. 
  2. ^ a b c Huey, Steve. "allmusic ((( Ultramega OK > Review )))". Allmusic. Retrieved March 21, 2009. 
  3. ^ Brackett, Nathan. "Soundgarden". The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. November 2004. pg. 762, cited April 18, 2010
  4. ^ "Soundgarden: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-03-26. 
  5. ^ Kaye, Don (14 Jan 1989). "Soundgarden 'Ultramega OK'". Kerrang! 221. London, UK: Spotlight Publications Ltd. p. 25. 
  6. ^ "Sputnikmusic Ultramega OK Review.". Retrieved 23 December 2012. 
  7. ^ Alexander, Phil. "Soundgarden". Raw. 1989.
  8. ^ "Yeah! I'm a Moody Bastard". Kerrang!. August 19, 1995.
  9. ^ Nickson, Chris. New Metal Crown 1995. p. 89.
  10. ^ "SOUNDGARDEN Planning To Reissue Remixed First Album". Blabbermouth. Retrieved 2014-11-20. 
  11. ^ a b "Kashmir". Sounds. May 13, 1989.
  12. ^ Gilbert, Jeff. "Primecuts: Kim Thayil". Guitar School. May 1994.
  13. ^ a b "Sonic Bloom Boys". Sounds. February 11, 1989.
  14. ^ Foege, Alec. "The End of Innocence". Rolling Stone. January 12, 1995.
  15. ^ a b c True, Everett. "Soundgarden: The Mutate Gallery". Melody Maker. June 10, 1989.
  16. ^ White, Richard. "Soundgarden Rocks". Rockpool. October 1, 1989.
  17. ^ Powers, Ann. "Soundgarden: Ultramega OK". Blender. Retrieved on May 20, 2009.
  18. ^ "32nd Grammy Awards - 1990". Rockonthenet.com. Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
  19. ^ Superuninterview. Promo CD. A&M Records. 1994.
  20. ^ Elliot, Paul. "The Think Tank". Select. June 1996.
  21. ^ "Haughty Culture". Kerrang!. April 8, 1989.