Soundgarden, ‘King Animal’

"King Animal" is not so much a roaring comeback for Soundgarden as it is a pleasant return. There's nothing bad about these 13 tracks, but nothing remarkable either. It's been 16 years since singer Chris Cornell, guitarist Kim Thayil, bassist Ben Shepherd, and drummer Matt Cameron applied their combined talents to new songs, and while the old chemistry sounds intact (though can we get more from the drummer, please?) the material is not particularly combustible. Soundgarden picks up where it left off, meaning more polish and less menace. On the lead track "Been Away Too Long," Cornell ponders the band's relevance all these years removed from the grunge glory days, and nothing that follows renders the point moot. This collection conjures the band's breadth — there's the trippy "By Crooked Steps"; the riffage of "Blood on the Valley Floor"; lean 'n' sinewy "Attrition"; and the haunted mid-tempo rock of "Black Saturday" — but overall is a pretty tame animal. (Out now)

Essential "Non-State Actor"


Soundgarden performs Jan. 20 at the Orpheum.