Industrial Noise: Soundgarden--Band or Business?

So far, the reunited quartet is busier as the former.

On December 31, 2009, Chris Cornell sent out a tweet that put the Soundgarden rumor mill into overdrive: "The 12 year break is over & school is back in session," the band's frontman wrote. "Sign up now. Knights of the Soundtable ride again!" Much as it seemed to be an announcement of a reunion, it was not. It was actually just a pitch for the band's new website. In fact, when the band members started meeting and talking again, it was only to discuss relaunching their catalog. Business, not a chance to perform together, was what brought them back together. Then came the tweet. "We're not the Knights of the Soundtable, that was our fan club. We were just re-upping it with the new website. But the rumors generated offers," guitarist Kim Thayil later told SPIN. "The demand was overwhelming. I wouldn't say we acquiesced, but we kind of warmed to the idea." A year later, Soundgarden-the-business has been busier than the band. Telephantasm, a new greatest-hits album with a previously unreleased song, "Black Rain," was packaged with a million copies of Guitar Hero, while in August the band played a much-lauded reunion date at Chicago's Lollapalooza, for which they warmed up with small gigs at Showbox at the Market and Chicago's Vic Theater. There have been no Soundgarden shows since, and as of press time the band has no dates scheduled. This month, Soundgarden revealed the details of their first live album, Live on I5, due March 22, which pulls together performances from their 1996 West Coast tour, and includes recordings of "Head Down," "Nothing to Say," "Search and Destroy," and "Black Hole Sun" from their last Seattle shows at Mercer Arena. But days later, Cornell threw a curveball, announcing an acoustic solo tour, dubbed the "Songbook" tour, to hit the Moore on May 1. It goes without saying that after the band reunited, no Soundgarden fan expected Cornell to hit the road with just his acoustic guitar before touring with the band. So is Soundgarden once again a working band, or still just a business? When asked what gives with Cornell's solo tour before a full Soundgarden run, the band's publicist says, "They posted some photos on their site that may give you a hint!" But what a few photos of band members playing their instruments means is subject to speculation. It's not too late for them to make good on the reunion. Cornell's solo tour wraps up before the summer-festival season is in full swing. And after being courted by—yet turning down—Sasquatch! last year, perhaps the band has reconsidered for 2011. In the meantime, every day Soundgarden-the-band, not the business, remains idle, Cornell's tweet looks more and more like a publicity stunt. ckornelis@seattleweekly.com

 
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