Hands All Over

Composed by Chris Cornell / Kim Thayil

Song Review by

Soundgarden unleashes a walloping behemoth of a track, "Hands All Over," as a single from their major-label debut, Loud Love. The song combines an Eastern-tinged rock riff in an extended arrangement, as singer Chris Cornell airs out his impressive lung capacity while lyrically taking a stab at environmental politics.

Guitars chime on a single note amongst a wash of cymbals, Cornell doing his best Islamic call, the tension rising then exploding as the band smashes into the anticipatory bass riff, the drums hammering hard on the slithering grind, all instruments accenting on its last stinging note. The musical intro extends over a full minute, guitarist Kim Thayil foreshadows the vocal melody with a lilting lick. The groove is dampened slightly, making room for Cornell's vocal as he draws out the lyrics with a high-pitched wail: "Hands all over the Eastern border/You know what?/I think we're falling/From composure/Hands all over Western culture/Ruffling feathers and turning eagles into vultures/Yeah, into vultures." When questioned about the song's topical subject matter, Cornell has explained, "It's sort of an environmental thing. Not strictly environmental, but mostly. It's basically about how we humans tend to screw up everything that's good enough as it is, or everything that we're attracted to, we love to go and defile it." The riff shifts higher as he warns against killing mother earth -- "Got my hands around baby brother/Put your hands away/You're gonna kill your mother, kill your mother" -- repeating the last line with a pained howl before stating "And I love her." The music then dynamically bursts into an instrumental break, Thayil returning to his silky melodic hook over the raging guitars. For the last verse, the band expertly finds various counter-rhythms, guitars, and drums playing off each other before all rejoin the massive groove, bringing the song to a climax then returning to rising wash of sound, closing the same way the track opened.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Louder Than Love 1990 A&M 0:00
Badmotorfinger 1991 A&M 0:00
A-Sides 1997 A&M 6:02
Telephantasm 2010 A&M / Geffen 5:58
The Classic Album Selection 2012 Geffen / Universal Music 6:00
5 Classic Albums 2013 A&M 6:00