Photofantasm Soundgarden: Nudedragons to King Animal | Authors: Jaye & Mike English | Rating: 11/11 |
Fact: Nostalgia, particularly that of the rock n roll kind, can be a sad sack of a thing. We’re talking downright, put-it-out-of-its-misery pitiful (looking at you The Doors of the 21st Century and Jackson Unity Tour just to name a few) particularly if there’s just not enough substance from within (let alone genuine demand from without) to warrant it. Oftentimes it truly is best to fondly remember, appreciate and preserve the memory of the way your music heroes were. That is, unless your music heroes’ band name is Soundgarden and they’re the epitome of a band with unfinished business ripe for redress.
We gave you a synopsis of the impending Photofantasm Soundgarden: Nudedragons To King Animal by Jaye and Mike English, a husband and wife team who have been Soundgarden fans since the band’s career began. Full disclosure time: I am a contributor to this project as are many from around the world. The many are widespread, eclectic and varied but all have one thing in common with Jaye and Mike: their uniform and unabashed reverence for the sonic output of Chris Cornell, Kim Thayil, Ben Shepard and Matt Cameron.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to digest a work such as this: Jesus, it’s huge and could very well qualify as a weapon. And while nothing short of mammoth and practically encyclopedic in nature, it’s also unusually intimate. Now you have to understand where a book like this comes from. Thoroughly and fully, from foreword to sources and every chapter between, what we are dealing with is the ultimate love letter to (and about) a band from its most loving devotees. Between the pages are the fundamentals that make band love so very human, relatable and unique: stories of travels to shows, meeting and making friends while queuing for hours, onstage and offstage moments captured in photographs, emotional testimonies of gratitude and all of it pure and distinct due to the angle of capture. While fully aware of its production, Photofantasm comes without any contributions from the band, itself, making it even more of an imposing and glorious work of art. And a work of art it is, exactly. Almost every performance step of Soundgarden’s resurgence is chronicled on 592 highly professional pages: from their 2010 reformation under the moniker Nudedragons to officially taking on the world again as Soundgarden to the release of King Animal (their first studio album in 16 years) and touring through 2013. Every set list and individual show tour poster is vividly accounted for along with the compiled words, photos and art of journalists, fans, and professional musicians like Myles Kennedy, Duff McKagan, William DuVall and many more who, at the end of the day, are simply “Knights of the Soundtable”, themselves. You’ve never seen anything like this and chances are, any subsequent efforts will pale feebly if held up to Photofantasm in comparison. But that shouldn’t dissuade future fan bases from trying: eloquent and legitimate adoration such as this is never, ever a bad thing.
Random little “Factoids” are sprinkled throughout like Easter eggs so catching every fine detail will hardly happen in one sitting. Instead, this book is meant for repeat visits whether you are a hardcore Soundgarden fan or a casual one and, gradually, it starts to feel as if you are attending a reunion even if you weren’t at a particular show. The foreword by author Mark Yarm (Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge) keenly prefaces the history with Yarm recounting pointed and personal instances from the past that read as both harbinger and dignified homage. Particularly a 2010 conversation when Yarm asked bassist Ben Shepard about a droll nickname that the band had acquired early in their career where Shepard’s answer concluded with, “We were there to blow your doors off.” Indeed and mission accomplished in spades.
Soundgarden is hardly in need of confirmation, written or otherwise, of their place in music history: that’s not why Photofantasm was created. It exists not just as a celebration of the band’s catalog and output but also as a testament to how a little band from Seattle unified a worldwide community through a durable – if not unbreakable – connection of emotion that the music built. It also exists in honor of and in memorial to long time Soundgarden fan, Tiffany Patterson-Gross, who lost her battle with cancer in 2013. A gentle chapter on Tiffany where she met the band at a Seattle show before she passed away is yet another oh-so humanly relatable touch, as is the fact that net proceeds from Photofantasm will go to the Canary Foundation for early cancer detection solutions. Yes, this book was 100% fan created, but it is nothing if not professionally crafted and brilliant in execution, let alone mind-boggling in conception. I don’t know how they pulled this herculean feat of a book off, but massive cheers to Jaye and Mike English for a tome as monumental and magnificent as any Soundgarden song.
Even though Photofantasm Soundgarden: Nudedragons To King Animal is supposed to be Jaye, Mike and “Knights of the Soundtable” around the world giving their profound thanks to the band of their hearts, I suspect that Chris Cornell, Kim Thayil, Ben Shepard and Matt Cameron are the ones saying, “Thank you.”
NOTE: Photofantasm Soundgarden: Nudedragons To King Animal is a collector’s item limited to 1,000 printed copies and available only at Photofantasm.com.