Published Nov 25, 2014It was only a matter of time before Soundgarden started cashing in on grunge nostalgia, which is totally reasonable considering their classic albums have aged better than those of most of their contemporaries. The band's reformation has also been surprisingly vital, resulting in a not-too-terrible first album in 16 years, an excellent super-deluxe reissue of their 1994 masterwork, Superunknown, and generally helping us to forget that Audioslave was ever a thing. The three-disc rarities collection Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path, however, is an entirely unnecessary addition to the Soundgarden catalogue. Other than a handful of new B-sides and a couple of lost covers, nearly all the material has been released in some form, and a bunch of it has actually been reissued within the past 12 months as bonus tracks on Superunknown and Screaming Life.
That being said, the collection's curator, guitarist Kim Thayil, has still managed to unearth a few nuggets. Early out-of-print efforts like "Toy Box" and Badmotorfinger-era B-side "Cold Bitch" capture the quintessential Soundgarden groove, while the straight-ahead No Alternative cut "Show Me" and a jaunty cover of the Rolling Stones' "Stray Cat Blues" showcase the band's pop sensibilities. While it's convenient to have so many of the original rarities in one place (namely, disc one), too few of the covers that comprise the second disc really live up to Soundgarden's legacy. Still, their take on Black Sabbath's "Into the Void" is positively crushing (no duh), and the silly set closers from Louder Than Live, "Earache My Eye" and "Big Bottom," are worth revisiting.
Highlights from the third disc are limited to the shape shifting Down on the Upside-era B-side "Karaoke" and the brilliant doom-metal original version of "Fell on Black Days" ("Black Days III," which, again, was included in the Superunknown reissue). With a remastered Ultramega OK on the way and an inevitable 25th anniversary edition for Badmotorfinger in 2016 — both of which will likely include their own bonus tracks — Echo of Miles just seems like a holiday season stopgap for superfans who've already worn out all five discs of the Superunknown box set. (Universal)