1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 52

Temple of the Dog, by Temple of the Dog
Suggested by Matt Smith

Temple of the Dog are a Rock Supergroup, apparently. They consist of some people from Pearl Jam, a few others from Pearl Jam, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, and a handful of people from Pearl Jam.

By Wikipedia’s definition – a musical performing group whose members have successful solo careers, are members of other groups, or are well known in other musical professions – I guess that’s a supergroup. But using common sense, it’s Pearl Jam with a guest vocalist. Hell, Eddie Veder is credited as a guest lead and backing vocalist, so it’s basically Pearl Jam plus Friend.

Digging a little deeper, it seems this album was released before Pearl Jam made it big, so we can scratch the “successful” caveat out of this definition too. Although the definition does not mention success as a factor for members of other groups, only that they be members of other groups.

Enough of this anal chicanery. What matters is whether Temple of the Dog is a super album.

Well… it’s good. But it’s not great.

Chris Cornell was a fantastic vocalist, gone far too soon. His voice is both expertly precise and full of gruff character. Pearl Jam, too, are apparently awesome. Unfortunately, I missed that particular train, not through intent or malice. So the melding of aspects of both should harvest a rare and succulent fruit. And it does. Almost.

The opening track, Say Hello 2 Heaven, has the feel of an overblown Aersomith Ballad, as do a number of the subsequent songs. It’s understandable, as Temple of the Dog was conceived as a tribute to Chris Cornell’s friend Andrew Wood, singer of Mother Love Bone (a band which connects almost all of the listed members), who died of a heroin overdose the year before. Personally, I prefer the songs that are more acerbic, more raucous out-and-out rock, such as my standout choice Wooden Jesus, but I appreciate the logic behind such choices.

I know it seems heartless, but I think it’s this balance that gives me pause in rating this album highly. I like the constituents. Great vocals? Check. Big Rock Sound? Check. Raw and Personal? Check. But it feels maudlin in places, the sum of its parts forming something not quite as shapely as any individual strand. Plus, anything that reminds me of Aerosmith Ballads reminds me of the amazing Aerosmith Pre-Ballad era, and that just makes me sad.

I like this album. It has heart. But I give it 6/10, as it’s pining for a loss in which I’m never invested.

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