Temple of the Dog is a band from Seattle, Washington that formed in 1990 as a tribute to Andrew Wood, the lead singer of Mother Love Bone after his death from a heroin overdose. The members this band included Chris Cornell from Soundgarden, drummer Matt Cameron, Stone Gossard from Pearl Jam, Mike McCready from Pearl Jam, and Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam. The band released its only album, a self-titled release, on April 16, 1991. However, the album didn’t garner a lot of mainstream attention until after Pearl Jam became successful in 1992. The album has been certified platinum by the RIAA in the United States.
The album opens with “Say Hello 2 Heaven,” which was released as the second single; the single peaked at number five on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks. Chris Cornell wrote this song to help him cope with Andrew Wood’s death. Musically, it’s a melancholy song, with is punctuated with Chris Cornell’s wails in the chorus; Chris’ feelings and emotions are very evident when you hear his vocal performance. The next song on the album is “Reach Down,” which Chris Cornell also wrote to deal with the death of Andrew Wood. It’s the longest song on the album, clocking in at eleven minutes and eleven seconds. There’s a heavier bassline on this song in comparison to “Say Hello 2 Heaven.”
The next song is “Hunger Strike,” which was the first single from the album; it peaked at number four on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks. It was written by Chris Cornell, and performed as a duet between Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder. Chris Cornell says that the lyrics of the song express “somewhat of a political, socialist statement.” The themes in the song include stealing bread to give to the poor, and protesting via a hunger strike after seeing injustice with food distribution. For me, this is my favorite song off of the album.
“Pushin Forward Back” was released as the third single from the album. The lyrics were written by Chris Cornell, and the music was co-written by Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard. Eddie Vedder provided backing vocals. Musically, you can hear the influences from Led Zeppelin and the original Alice Cooper band. The next song is “Call Me a Dog,” which really slows the pace of the album down, especially with its placement right after “Pushin Forward Back.” Lyrically, it’s a song about a relationship where the speaker is talking to their significant other; it appears the significant other is having regrets about the relationship.
“Times of Trouble” is another slower song on the album. Lyrically, the speaker is talking about a friend who’s going through hard times; there are also references to drug use in the lyrics. The next song on the album is “Wooden Jesus.” Musically, it’s a midtempo song; lyrically, the song seems to have the speaker wondering whether or not they’re misplacing their faith. “Your Saviour” picks the tempo of the album back up. Lyrically, the speaker of the song sees themselves in someone else, but is telling that person that they don’t want their savior; if I had to make an assumption, the “savior” is probably a reference to drugs.
“Four Walled World” is another slower song on the album. Lyrically, the song has the speaker feeling as if they are trapped in their situation, and it also references a significant other who wants to move on. The album closes with “All Night Thing,” which does not sound like something you would have associated with Soundgarden or Pearl Jam or even the “grunge scene” in general. The percussion sounds like it has a jazz influence, and it sounds like there’s really not much guitar on it, either. With this musical arrangement, it works best to close the album with it, since it sounds so different from the rest of the album.
Overall, Temple of the Dog is a solid album, and it flows together rather well. It has gone on to become one the classic albums from the “grunge era” of the early 1990s. After you listen to it, you can understand why it has become such a classic.