Hard on the heels of reissue packages by Tad and Mother Love Bone, a more successful grunge-era band, Soundgarden, has reissued what many fans and critics think is its best album, “Badmotorfinger.”

Share story

Seattle’s Soundgarden has just reissued “Badmotorfinger,” the 1991 album many fans think is their best. Many critics think so, too. It’s the purest of Soundgarden’s loud rock records, truly bludgeoning, but with inspired melodics, before their sound had any real pop elements.

There are four different packages of the reissue, including a seven-disc $150 deluxe set.

For Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil, working on it made him appreciate it more.

“I think it’s always been seen as a visceral record,” he said. “It’s also a very social album, that a lot of people didn’t think was introspective.”

But as Thayil dug up outtakes and live video footage for the deluxe sets, he found a depth he hadn’t heard the first time through.

“You would think I would have fatigue listening to it so many times,” he joked. “Instead, a colorful depth came through. To understand the record that way has led me to place it at the top of our heap.”

Many critics cite Thayil’s guitar work on “Badmotorfinger” as the height of Soundgarden’s heaviness, but Thayil says songs like “Rusty Cage” and “Jesus Christ Pose” have “more texture, color, and depth” than listeners may have heard when it first came out. For the reissue, the album has been remixed to high-definition 5.1, which makes it easier to hear those flavors.

In Soundgarden’s history, “Badmotorfinger” has always been overshadowed by their commercial breakthrough “Superunknown,” which followed by two years. “Badmotorfinger” was cursed by a bit of unfortunate timing, too, coming out in October 1991, just two weeks after Nirvana released “Nevermind,” and after Pearl Jam’s “Ten.”

“Badmotorfinger” initially did nowhere near as well as those albums, and peaked at No. 39 on the Billboard charts. When “Superunknown” pushed the band back up the charts, “Badmotorfinger” sold better, and eventually moved over 2 million copies.

But bad timing even stymied this reissue.

“We missed the 20th anniversary because we were just starting to do ‘King Animal,’ and because our A & R guy was also working on the 20th anniversary of ‘Nevermind,’ ” Thayil said, laughing at the irony.

Soundgarden considered doing a “23rd year issue,” which would have been in line with the band’s dark humor, but the label nixed that.

For Thayil, now is the time. The highlight of the reissue, he said, may be recently located video footage of a 1992 Paramount show, included in the deluxe set, which captures the band at its best.

“It was just an amazing time for Soundgarden, and for Seattle,” he said. “This live material makes you remember all that.”