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Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger.jpg
Studio album by
Released September 24, 1991[1]
Recorded Spring 1991
Length 57:42
Label A&M
Soundgarden chronology
Louder Than Love
Singles from Badmotorfinger
  1. "Jesus Christ Pose"
    Released: 1991
  2. "Outshined"
    Released: December 1991
  3. "Rusty Cage"
    Released: April 1992

Badmotorfinger is the third studio album by American rock band Soundgarden, released on September 24, 1991, through A&M Records. Soundgarden began the recording sessions for the album with new bassist Ben Shepherd in the spring of 1991. The album maintained the band's heavy metal sound while featuring an increased focus on songwriting as compared with the band's previous releases. AllMusic considered the album's music to be "surprisingly cerebral and arty"; alternative tunings and abnormal time signatures were present on several of the album's songs, and lyrics were intended to be ambiguous and create imagery.

The focus on the Seattle grunge scene helped bring attention to Badmotorfinger. The singles "Outshined" and "Rusty Cage" were able to find an audience in rock radio and MTV. Badmotorfinger became the band's highest charting album at the time on the Billboard 200. The band supported the album with tours of North America and Europe, including opening for Guns N' Roses on that band's Use Your Illusion Tour. In 1992, Badmotorfinger was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. The album was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in 1996.

Recording and production

Badmotorfinger was Soundgarden's first album with bassist Ben Shepherd, who joined the group in April 1990. Shepherd replaced previous bassist Jason Everman.[2] The album was recorded in the spring of 1991 at Studio D in Sausalito, California, Bear Creek Studios in Woodinville, Washington, and A&M Studios in Los Angeles, California.[3] Soundgarden chose to work with producer Terry Date again as it had on its previous release Louder Than Love (1989). Frontman Chris Cornell said the band decided to work with Date again seeing as the band had a good relationship with him and did not want to go through the pressure of trying to find a new producer.[4]

Cornell said that Shepherd brought a "fresh and creative" approach to the recording sessions,[5] and the band as a whole said that his knowledge of music and writing skills redefined the band.[6] Before joining, Soundgarden had been Shepherd's favorite band.[7] Compared with Louder Than Love, the band took a more collaborative approach to the writing process.[8]

Music and lyrics

Badmotorfinger has been classified by various critics as grunge,[9][10] alternative metal,[11] heavy metal[12] and hard rock.[13] Steve Huey of AllMusic said that the songwriting on the album "takes a quantum leap in focus and consistency". He added, "It's surprisingly cerebral and arty music for a band courting mainstream metal audiences, but it attacks with scientific precision."[13] Guitarist Kim Thayil jokingly called it the "Heavy Metal White Album".[5] Cornell said, "I think there's songs on the new record which are almost more commercially viable because they have that memorable feel to them, and I think if anyone expected us to come out and make something more commercial than Louder Than Love, then I'm glad that they were surprised."[14] Cornell also added that the album was more representative of how the band was live.[14] Shepherd contributed the song "Somewhere" and collaborated on the musical composition of several other songs on the album. Thayil said that Shepherd's contributions helped make the album "faster" and "weirder".[15]

On the opening song, "Rusty Cage", Thayil uses a wah pedal as an audio filter, producing an unusual guitar sound. In describing the song's guitar riff he said that it "almost sounds backward".[16] Soundgarden utilized alternative tunings and odd time signatures on several of the album's songs. On "Rusty Cage", "Holy Water", and "Searching with My Good Eye Closed", the bottom E string is tuned down to B.[17] On "Mind Riot" every string is tuned to one of several E's.[17] Soundgarden's use of odd-meter time signatures was varied as well. Thayil said that he didn't "push for weird time signatures", but rather "push[ed] to get the quirkiness out of things".[17]

Cornell said that he tried to not get too specific with his lyrics and was more interested in letting ambiguity "[create] colourful images."[18] Thayil suggested that it is "like reading a novel [about] man's conflict with himself and society, or the government, or his family, or the economy, or anything."[19] "Jesus Christ Pose" was written about famous people who exploit the symbol of Jesus' crucifixion as to suggest that they're persecuted by the public.[20] Cornell said that "Outshined" is about going from "periods of extreme self-confidence" to "plummeting in the opposite direction".[21] "Holy Water" was written about people who force their beliefs unto others.[14] Thayil wrote the lyrics for "Room a Thousand Years Wide", and said that the song is about "experience in general".[15] "New Damage" subtly criticizes the right-wing government of the United States.[22]


The Badmotorfinger logo consists of a jagged, cyclone-like design. In the center of the logo is a triangle with the album's title, containing a spark plug. The album's cover art was illustrated by guitarist Mark Dancey from the Sub Pop band Big Chief. Thayil suggested the title Badmotorfinger as a joke on the Montrose song "Bad Motor Scooter".[23] Regarding the title, Thayil said, "It was sort of off the top of my head. I simply like it because it was colorful. It was kinda aggressive, too ... It conjures up a lot of different kinds of images. We like the ambiguity in it, the way it sounded and the way it looked."[15]

Release and reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[13]
Christgau's Consumer Guide B−[24]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[25]
Entertainment Weekly B+[12]
Los Angeles Times 3.5/4 stars[26]
Mojo 4/5 stars[27]
Pitchfork 8.3/10[28]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4.5/5 stars[29]
Spin 4/5 stars[30]
Spin Alternative Record Guide 7/10[31]

Badmotorfinger was released on September 24, 1991 through A&M Records.[1] The album peaked at number 39 on the Billboard 200 album chart on February 29, 1992.[32] It was released nearly one month after Pearl Jam's Ten and on the same day as Nirvana's Nevermind, all of which helped to break alternative rock and grunge into the mainstream.[33] Although overshadowed at the time of its release by the sudden popularity of Nirvana's Nevermind, the focus of attention brought by Nevermind to the Seattle scene helped Soundgarden gain wider attention.[34] Badmotorfinger was among the 100 top selling albums of 1992.[35] Badmotorfinger sold a million copies in the early 1990s,[36] was certified platinum by the RIAA in January 1993[37] and certified double platinum in April 1996,[37] signifying two million shipped copies.[38][39]

In a contemporary review for Spin, Lauren Spencer hailed Badmotorfinger as a "garden of sound" that drew on older hard rock influences without sounding "derivative".[40] Ann Powers from Blender said, "Cornell strikes the perfect Jesus Christ pose on this sonic wallop",[41] while Entertainment Weekly critic Gina Arnold commended Soundgarden for writing more engagingly than their contemporaries, "who seldom get beyond extolling booze, girls, and cars". She concluded in her review that the record was more "stylishly bombastic rather than bludgeoningly bombastic. Tuneless heavy metal is, after all, still tuneless heavy metal, and in that department, Soundgarden are as functional as they make 'em."[12] In a retrospective review, AllMusic staff writer Steve Huey deemed the album "heavy, challenging hard rock full of intellectual sensibility and complex band interplay."[13] Robert Christgau was less enthusiastic, finding it "credible" as a metal record because of Thayil's impressive use of guitar noise but less impressive lyrically: "Chris Cornell howls on about 'lookin for the paradigm' and 'your Jesus Christ pose' (I swear, that's the good stuff)".[24]

Badmotorfinger included the singles "Jesus Christ Pose", "Outshined", and "Rusty Cage". The three singles gained considerable airtime on alternative rock radio stations, while the videos for "Outshined" and "Rusty Cage" gained considerable airtime on MTV. The lead single "Jesus Christ Pose" and its music video were the subject of widespread controversy in 1991, and the video was removed from MTV's playlist.[16] Many listeners were outraged by the song and its video, perceiving them as anti-Christian. The band received death threats while on tour in the United Kingdom in support of the album.[42]

At the 1992 Grammy Awards, Badmotorfinger received a nomination for Best Metal Performance, one of only nine full albums nominated in that category's history.[43] That same year, the album won a Northwest Area Music Award for Best Metal Album.[44] It was also ranked number 45 in the October 2006 issue of Guitar World on the magazine's list of the 100 greatest guitar albums of all time.[45]

In April 2019, Badmotorfinger was ranked No. 2 on Rolling Stone's "50 Greatest Grunge Albums" list.[46]

25th anniversary reissues (2016)

The 25th-anniversary reissue of Badmotorfinger was made available in two deluxe versions. The Deluxe Edition was a 2-CD package featuring the remastered album along with disc two consisting of studio outtakes and live tracks from the Paramount. The Super Deluxe Edition was a 7 disc package. The first disc was a remastered version of the album. Disc two had additional outtakes. The third and fourth discs were parts of a live album from the Paramount Theatre, and a DVD of the same show was included as the fifth disc. A DVD featuring the video compilation Motorvision (also at the Paramount) with bonus live videos included was on the sixth disc. The seventh disc is the album mixed in Blu-ray Audio 5.1 Surround Sound. The Super Deluxe Edition was packaged with various extras and the first 1,000 people to pre-order it received an exclusive re-issue of the "Jesus Christ Pose" single on 7" vinyl. A 2-LP gatefold of the album was also made available, along with a limited edition of 1,000 2-LP gatefold on silver vinyl.[47]

The Badmotorfinger reissue was created using a backup digital audio tape safety copy, as the original master tapes for the album were damaged or destroyed in the 2008 Universal Studios fire, which affected the label group's tape vault and had purportedly destroyed material from hundreds of other recording artists.[48] According to an August 2019 court filing by UMG, made in a class action lawsuit that Soundgarden and other artists had brought against the label as a result of the fire, the band were made aware in May 2015 that the original half-inch master tape of Badmotorfinger had been destroyed and was unavailable for use on the remaster project.[48]


Following the release of Badmotorfinger, Soundgarden went on a tour in North America during October and November 1991.[14] Following this tour, the band was selected by Guns N' Roses for an opening slot on their Use Your Illusion Tour.[49] After finishing their tour with Guns N' Roses, Soundgarden took a slot opening for Skid Row in North America in February 1992 on the band's Slave to the Grind tour.[50] Soundgarden then headed to Europe for a month-long headlining theater tour[6] before returning to tour in the United States.[6] Soundgarden rejoined Guns N' Roses as part of the Use Your Illusion Tour in the summer of 1992 for a tour of Europe along with fellow opening act Faith No More.[6] Regarding the time spent opening for Guns N' Roses, Cornell said, "It wasn't a whole lot of fun going out in front of 40,000 people for 35 minutes every day. Most of them hadn't heard our songs and didn't care about them. It was a bizarre thing."[42] The band would go on to play the 1992 Lollapalooza tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam, among others.[51] The band later released Motorvision, which was filmed at the Paramount Theatre in 1992.[52]

Track listing

Original release

All tracks are written by Chris Cornell, except where noted.

No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Rusty Cage"     4:26
2. "Outshined"     5:10
3. "Slaves & Bulldozers"   Cornell, Ben Shepherd 6:55
4. "Jesus Christ Pose"   Matt Cameron, Cornell, Shepherd, Kim Thayil 5:50
5. "Face Pollution"   Shepherd 2:23
6. "Somewhere" Shepherd Shepherd 4:20
7. "Searching with My Good Eye Closed"     6:31
8. "Room a Thousand Years Wide" Thayil Cameron 4:05
9. "Mind Riot"     4:49
10. "Drawing Flies"   Cameron 2:26
11. "Holy Water"     5:07
12. "New Damage"   Thayil, Cameron 5:40
Total length: 57:42


In anticipation of the band's appearance at the 1992 Lollapalooza tour, a limited edition of Badmotorfinger was released on June 28, 1992 with a second disc containing the EP Satan Oscillate My Metallic Sonatas (or SOMMS). The title is a palindrome. This EP includes three covers, an unreleased original song, and a live version of "Slaves & Bulldozers". For its cover of Black Sabbath's "Into the Void", the original lyrics are replaced by words of protest by Chief Seattle (also known as Sealth), which fit the meter of the song.[19] At the 1993 Grammy Awards, "Into the Void (Sealth)" received a nomination for Best Metal Performance.[53]

Satanoscillatemymetallicsonatas was reissued on purple 12" vinyl for Record Store Day on November 25, 2016.[54]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Into the Void (Sealth)" Chief Sealth (lyrics) / Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward (music) 6:37
2. "Girl U Want" Gerald Casale, Mark Mothersbaugh 3:29
3. "Stray Cat Blues" Mick Jagger, Keith Richards 4:46
4. "She's a Politician" Cornell 1:48
5. "Slaves & Bulldozers" (live) Cornell, Shepherd 8:38
Total length: 25:12


"Cold Bitch" was later featured on the "Spoonman" single in 1994, while "She's a Politician" appeared on the "Burden in My Hand" single in 1996. "Cold Bitch" was one of Shepherd's favorite songs that the band recorded.[55]

The song "Birth Ritual" was worked on during the Badmotorfinger recording sessions, but was not completed.[16] The finished version would eventually see release on the Singles soundtrack in 1992, and later on both Telephantasm (2010) and Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path (2014) compilations. "No Attention", which later appeared on the band's 1996 album, Down on the Upside, was attempted during the recording sessions but "did not work" according to Kim Thayil.[56] "Black Rain" was mostly recorded during the sessions, but the vocals were never completed. It was eventually finished in 2010 and released on Telephantasm and later, Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across The Path. Three tracks had been discarded during the mixing process, two of which were "A Broom", and "How Should I Know?"[57]

Although the album's singles featured plenty of B-sides, none of these were from the Badmotorfinger recording sessions. A one-day recording session with Stuart Hallerman yielded "Stray Cat Blues", "Into the Void (Sealth)", "Girl U Want", "Show Me", and "Touch Me".[58] "Show Me" was later featured on the 1993 No Alternative compilation,[59] and "Girl U Want" was later featured on the "Fell on Black Days" single.[60]


Chart performance


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[78] Gold 35,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[79] Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[80] Silver 60,000^
United States (RIAA)[81] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


The information regarding accolades attributed to Badmotorfinger is adapted in part from[82]

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Guitar World United States "100 Greatest Guitar Albums of All Time"[45] 2006 45
Revolver United States "The 69 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time"[83] 2002 26
Kerrang! United Kingdom "100 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die"[84] 1998 25
Visions Germany "The Most Important Albums of the 90s"[85] 1999 3
Juice Australia "The 100 (+34) Greatest Albums of the 90s"[86] 1999 48
The Movement New Zealand "The 101 Best Albums of the 90s"[87] 2004 84


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