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Picks and Pans Review: Above

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Mad Season

The success of Temple of the Dog, the 1991 one-shot project led by Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, paved the way for another Seattle grunge lineup. The group—Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, singer Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin and a little-known bassist called Baker—evolved from jam sessions. Eventually they felt ready to record. The results are intriguing if erratic.

Highlights include the tuneful popgrunge of “I’m Above” and the slow, crawling blues of “Artificial Red,” in which McCready bends some delicately sad notes á la fellow Seattle native Jimi Hendrix. True, the band has a propensity for shapeless jams, but when they focus on writing cohesive songs, they sound like they’ve been together for years. (Columbia)