Friday, January 6, 2012

The Telephantasm

The Telephantasm - Soundgarden 2010 (recorded in 1987)

Record Store Day 2010 this VVer was busy doing something important or some such (probably working) and so the other VVer was very nice and went to the neighborhood CD/Game Exchange to pick up this oddball 7", limited press of only 4,000 worldwide. So of course I'm feeling great about all of this.

Listening to The Telephantasm is another story entirely. It is not really a proper song, but an instrumental. As a single I've got to wonder, umm, do they know what a single is? Telephantasm is a giant riff (with some moaning from Chris Cornell) track by axe master Kim Thayil. Thayil has always been reliable for laying down the heaviest of guitar riffs; notable for their stellar sludge hammering. Sludge hammering? Wha? Anyways, I think the guy is basically a guitar demon. Listening to Telephantasm we get that riff. THE UBER RIFF! And it keeps coming over and over. Pretty much non-stop. The track has a sort of mantra chant of the guitar monk thing going on. Here comes the pulsing giant riff in overdrive! It has been a real journey to wrap my head around this track. I've listened to it many times over (not all at once mind you - doing so would likely cause some sort of convulsive drooling fit.). Telephantasm has been a furiously confounding listen. At just under three minutes it is over and done with almost too quickly. Pounding riff, devastating drums, weird moaning and atmospherics. It is an odd thing indeed. Loudness and a few cocktails help exponentially.

I haven't been able to track down anything close to a review of this track. Just a tiny snippet about the production. Apparently whilst preparing to put out a comprehensive best of collection (also named after this, the oddest of odd tracks; another strange decision) they found this outtake from their very first record; the amazing Screaming Life. With a little studio hodge podgery, mixer Adam Kaspar was able to polish it enough to put out into the world. But why as a single? Isn't that what Black Rain was supposed to be? Most peculiar thing about the Telephantasm single is sandwiching it with an unreleased live version of GUN; a song from two albums later; the spectacular Louder than Love. Why put these two together? How about a version of Heretic or Nothing to Say, you know, at least something from the same time period as Screaming Life?

It seems there is little to be gained and I would say a lot to be lost with a goofy ass single like this. It kind of turned me off for a while. Is this a joke? Who was high that day? Who sobered up? Ultimately it makes me really question what kind of reunion album the guys in Soundgarden are working on. Telephantasm, while interesting in its peculiarness, does not bode well for the future.

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