Soundgarden

Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path

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Mere months after Superunknown received an extravagant super deluxe box came Echo of Miles: Scattered Across the Path, a triple-disc collection of rarities from Soundgarden's prime. Divided into three thematic sets -- "Originals," containing stray songs and B-sides; "Covers," including B-sides, Peel Sessions, various live performances, and, strangely, things that popped up on Ultramega OK, and "Oddities," which contains more B-sides, remixes, and previously unreleased cuts -- Echo of Miles nevertheless plays like a clearinghouse, where it's imperative that the listener sorts out the gems from the dross. It is worth taking time to find the keepers, many of which do arrive on the first disc where the band not only indulge in thick, crawling sludge but don't hide their perverse sense of humor, a trait they often suppressed on their full-length records. That's one of the nice things about Echo of Miles: like many rarities collections, it gets to the heart of the group's character through its mess, through how it sets their impishness alongside their muscle. Originals is the best of the batch, particularly in how it illustrates their growth from malicious underground rockers into arena titans, but Covers has many of the same strengths: this is a band that pummeled funk into a paste ("Thank You [Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin]), tapped into the Satanic strut of the Stones' "Stray Cat Blues," tightened up "Search and Destroy," and then played "Big Bottom" and "Earache My Eye" without a smirk. If Oddities slows a bit -- the remixes in the back half meander and a lot of the earlier cuts are either instrumental or unformed (or sometimes both) -- the ragged ends nevertheless capture the restlessness that made Soundgarden a continually fascinating band.

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