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Chris Cornell, and Why I Can't Let Go

Early last Thursday, I woke up and did my usual morning thing. Groaning as I plodded downstairs in search caffeine and a podcast for breakfast, deepening in the realization that I am not a morning person. Most mornings, I drag myself away from bed as Gollum would the One Ring. I hit the bottom of the stairs still in the morning autopilot.

Did you hear Chris Cornell died? My wife usually has better morning greetings for me than this. Having been asleep for the last six hours, I had not. The commute that morning was less than pleasant. Like many sad events in my life, I didn't stop to process this. I got in the car and drove to work as I would any morning.

Hey, you know anything about Soundgarden? My then-manager and now podcast co-host looked at me as though I were asking if he'd ever heard of vitamin C, comicbooks, or beer - the things life are made from. It was 15 years ago, and I was still a kid. A little too young to have been around for grunge and the ascension of the Seattle music scene, but not too old to remember watching the music video for Black Hole Sun on MTV1, and as many 11 year olds likely were at the time, going to bed that night a little creeped out by the visuals, and haunted by the preternatural sound of Cornell and Thayil. Though probably cliché now, the rotovibe and delay used on the verse of the song, coupled with the visuals in the video were positively surreal. Years later, I realize that though terrifying a younger me, they probably helped shape my view of music for years to come.

In 2017, Chris Cornell was the front-man for some of the biggest bands of the last 30 years. Soundgarden, surely a band deserving a spot on a Pike Place equivalent of Mount Rushmore, would be a difficult act to follow. After the band broke up in 1997, there wasn't much doubt that Cornell would go on and keep playing, though following an act like Soundgarden is something that most artists never accomplish. Forming with the wreckage of Rage Against the Machine, Cornell managed to fit into a band almost completely unlike his previous work, and seem to make all parts better for it. Trading the harsh, spitfire rhyming of Zach de la Rocha for Cornell, former Ragers Morello, Wilk, and Commerford initially found challenge in accompanying Cornell's melodious style. Of course, they overcame, and we got amazing music. Cornell was definitely not a remnant of a 90's sound, but an true artist. I can only glaze over his successful solo work, or his contribution to Temple of the Dog, and for that I'm sorry.

Having a long commute, the car ride was full of Chris's music. Attempting to belt out the high notes from Jesus Christ Pose prove clearly beyond me. I am not gifted with Chris's four octave vocal range, and don't possess nearly the talent that he did. I am not nearly so gifted. I spend the next few days alternating between watching a tribute or three or four, as well as many from the man himself. Clearly, Chris is an artist of caliber not often seen by this world, and his music touches many. Though I have been a fan, I'm not yet sure why I dwell.

Around fifteen years ago, my phone rings. I've recently purchased the latest in cell phone technology, and already I'm thinking Couldn't they just text?2

Hey, have you got a second? It's my brother. We don't call each other much, so I am not expecting anything good. After a short conversation, we hang up.

Is everything okay? My girlfriend, now wife, can tell that something is not. I shrug.

My uncle is dead. He hung himself. I give her a hug, let any feeling of this bury itself deep in my psyche, and go to work. It's a normal day.

This past Thursday after work, I read the details of Cornell's death. He had hung himself. It comes as a surprise to those that knew him. Bandmates will say that something felt off about Chris that night, and he was behaving strangely. His wife will say later that he was taking medication that she believes contributes to his suicide. It will be days of obsessing over this death that I make the connection to why it bothers me so much. I am not the type to greatly indulge in the parade of stories and look at me posts that come about when a celebrity dies, though I realize the irony of this in an article doing the very thing I claim not to.

I had grown up with my uncle for relatively few, but formative years. When I was ten, I went to live with him and my Aunt. My aunt did the lion's share of raising me, but with my father dead since I was six, and there not being a constant father figure in my life until I'm ten, I realize now that my uncle helped shape a big part of who I am, and my pre-pubescent identity gloms on to any masculine figure it can. For Christmas that year, after having been accepted into their home, I'm given a 286 computer. It's a little dated for the time, though not much, but it runs Wolfenstein, and Commander Keen, and if after some time tweaking config.sys and autoexec.bat, I get Doom to run as well. It's a hand-me-down from my uncle, and he helps get me started in what will prove a lifelong passion. I learn enough about computers to hooked. I take drafting classes in high school since he was a drafter, and even my handwriting for a time, a style after his - blocky, capital letters that you often find on a drafting board, though at the time he and my classes have moved on to computer-aided drafting. I start my first foray into programming, as he did in the early part of high school.

It's not entirely fair to remember things this way. It gets rocky from there and my uncle has his share of problems, putting it kindly. Though I take several traits and find many things in common with him, it's my aunt that takes care of my brother and I. She gets us to school, she makes us dinner. She does most of the helping with homework, though math is my uncle's domain. She puts up with more than her share of Teenage Angst™ and downright awfulness from me and my brother. I won't forget that.

But looking back, it's hard not to view my uncle with rose-colored glasses. Youth blinds us to the true nature of those around us, especially those we admire. It will be a decade before I learn the details of my uncle's death. I will spend that decade largely burying the question of it as is my nature, and occasionally wondering how someone I looked up to so much will come to this. I will fail to see this person important to my own identity simply as a person, flawed and struggling like the rest of us.

This is really hitting you hard. I've played Songbook about a million times in the last few days, and my wife questions it. Like I said, it's not a normal thing for me. I realize the connection now. Out of character, unfortunately, I tell her two sentences about why it resonates for me. I'll still think about it for a while and for now, I'll go put Superunknown on again.


  1. Insert your favorite joke about when MTV still played music here.  

  2. T9 is so bad, the answer is probably no. 

Joining us this week:

Bryce Summers

The Defenders

Marvel

Star Wars

It was almost BB-8 rolling up the ramp of the Falcon to go find Luke

Misc

TV

  • The Flash - Savitar’s identity has been revealed. Who’s prediction was right? Hint: it was Matt’s wife, and he really hates that shit.

Comic Books

Rasslin’

Joining us this week:

Ryan Bailey

X-Men Gold

Tech

Marvel

TV

Misc

Comic Books

  • Matt & Eddie discuss the Marc Guggenheim penned X-Men Prime and X-Men Gold -What does Resurrexion mean for the future of the X-Men?
  • Batman’s “I am Bane” story arc has concluded
  • “Superman Reborn” conclusion

Rasslin’


David Haller/Legion

Spoiler Warning: This post does contain minor spoilers. Major spoilers are hidden, but if you really want to know nothing about this show going in, close this tab. Here be danger.

The standout first season of Legion has just ended, and while discussed a little on the podcast, I can't help but take the time to opine at length. An ambitious blend of pure mindfuckery, sets and costuming that bathe in anachronism, Legion Season 1 will remain a yardstick with which to measure future entrants into the adapted from comics field.

Legion stars Dan Stevens, who although British born, plays an American who has been admitted to a mental hospital for schizophrenia named David Haller. Comic nerds will recognize the name from various X-Men titles - David Haller is a mutant codenamed Legion,1 the powerful psychic offspring of Omega-class mutant and founder of the X-Men Charles Xavier, and leader in mutant research Moira McTaggert. In Legion, Haller is adopted and his true parentage is left as an exercise to the watcher, no doubt due to some studio level licensing bullshit. Though comic readers will wonder if the show will ever reveal Haller's genetic tree, the show doesn't suffer for it. Matt and I wondered when the show was in development whether Legion would be able to find it's feet while lacking the various proper tie-ins to mutants and the X-Men, and the answer is a resounding yes.

Stevens's portrayal of Haller is almost overshadowed by Aubrey Plaza, who proves she's more than April Ludgate, and while April fancies herself a dark, brooding individual, she's got nothing on The Shadow King. Plaza takes malevolence to new levels, boring into the very psyche of David in ways that you haven't really seen before on screen. She manages creepiness in a way that will make your skin crawl, and sexiness that makes it crawl all the same.
Syd

The supporting cast, compromised of David's fellow mutant love interest Syd, matriarchal Dr. Melanie Bird in charge of overseeing the facility and David's safe-keeping, scientist-mutant with the weirdest identity crisis you'll ever see on screen Cary/Kerry, and rounded out by a mutant with a penchant for tommy guns and memory recall Ptonomy. A small assortment of villains and gray-characters also accompany our heroes, each of which is fleshed out very well given the rather short season. There really isn't a weak link among them, and screen time is balanced well. Each gets their moment to shine in a manner you'd hope for given the characters and their importance to the story.

Another thing I'd be remiss to not mention, the photography in the show is simply wonderful. Color is employed excellently, sometimes used to set a mood or accentuate a character in the story. It's also probably one of the shows that's least afraid to play with different color motifs. Even with the different motifs, Legion certainly has a unique palette and feel created by it. It's simply more bold in choice than its contemporaries. Color choice in each shot is deliberate and crafted to give a feeling unlike anything I've seen on TV. Wardrobes are chosen carefully along with backgrounds to create a contrast that add to the often surreal feeling of the show. The way that shots are framed allows nearly any single shot of the show to feel like artwork.

Music and sound design take center stage as well. You can't accuse Legion of having Marvel's curse of immemorable music. Even if only a few beats, I can clearly remember tones and sounds from Legion. The music in the show is eclectic and especially good and used so cleverly that it's almost seamless. Sometimes reminiscent of a Wes Anderson film with the way it incorporates music not original to the show, while the original music adds to the show's feeling of schizophrenic delusion, or utterly ominous villain-lurking-in-the-corner-of-your-eye feeling. There is a nice blend of experimental electronica, post-modern guitar rock, and all of the above fused with more classical strings, percussion, and wind more typical of film soundtracks.

Finally, the show is a sort of cohesive mash of experimentalism. Bridging between Fight Club-esque mind games, visuals that look like an Aronofsky movie, and the superhero genre is no small feat. It's probably fortunate for me that the show aired in a traditional format. Had it used the Netflix model of binge until real life can't be ignored anymore, I might no longer be gainfully employed.


  1. I don't recall the codename being mentioned in the show.