“Boot Camp” by Soundgarden

Rock bands have a tendency to, shall we say not be overly fond of the powers that be. And they all have their own respective ways of expressing this sentiment. And on “Boot Camp”, Chris Cornell presents himself as someone who is accordingly repressed. Or put differently, he is compelled not to be a dreamer – or enjoy his life in general – in the name of conforming to the status quo.

And as we noted in our analysis of “Nothing to Say” (which is one of Soundgarden’s very first songs), even when they are dealing with a deep subject like this one, this band isn’t necessarily the type to get wordy about it. And this is one of such cases. In other words, there is arguably more going on underneath the lyrics than there is on the surface.

For instance even though the vocalist uses powerful metaphors such as being “like babies on display” and “angels in a cage” to describe himself and his ilk, it is never elaborated why they are so. Nor is it stated who has relegated them to such a state. So it is up to the listener’s imagination, if you will, to put two and two together.

The Oppressed and the Oppressor

And the reason we have interpreted this as a scenario of oppressed versus oppressor is because, if nothing, what does come forth is once again this sentiment of the vocalist being against the machine, so to speak. No, the authority figures who have instituted this condition are not defined. But the implication is that they must be comprehensive and powerful enough to have so effectively destroyed the dreams of the narrator and others. 

Indeed the term “boot camp” is never mentioned in the lyrics. But we all know what it alludes to nonetheless – this concept of being regimented to conduct one’s self a certain way, no questions asked. And that’s clearly what the vocalist is going through.

So the song concludes with him fantasizing about getting “far away from here”, i.e. wherever it is this narrative is set. For he deems that there “must be something good far away”, out there in the world at large – freedom from his aforementioned repression. 

So if nothing else, it is apparent he does not perceive there being any hope in his current situation. He’s not desiring to rage against the machine, as there isn’t any actual sentiment of hostility present in the lyrics. Rather, he wants to get away from it altogether. But all of that noted, he doesn’t appear terribly confident that he will actually be able to accomplish that goal.

"Boot Camp" Lyrics

Quick Facts about “Boot Camp”

This is the 16th and final song on the playlist of the standard edition of Soundgarden’s fifth studio album, which would be 1996’s “Down on the Upside”. And whereas “Boot Camp” was never released as a single from that project, it has become sort of a fan favorite nonetheless.

The track actually came out with the rest of its album on the date of 21 May 1996.

This song was written by the late Chris Cornell (1964-2017). He was the frontman (i.e. lead singer) of Soundgarden until, surprisingly to many, the singer took his own life in mid-2017.

Meanwhile the entire band, as a singular entity, is credited with producing this track, accomplishing that task alongside Adam Kasper.

Boot Camp by Soundgarden

“Down on the Upside” and Soundgarden

The aforementioned “Down on the Upside” was the last great album Soundgarden put out, having peaked at number 2 on the Billboard 200 in addition to going double-platinum in their homeland of the United States. 

The following year the group broke up and did not get back together until 2010, shortly thereafter releasing what proved to be their final studio album, “King Animal” (2012), to relatively mild success. 

And in the wake of Chris Cornell’s death they went on to disband once again, seemingly for good, in 2019. Soundgarden did release a live/video album and EP, respectively Live from the Artists Den and Essentials, both during 2019, neither of which really caught on. And their last official single dates back to the King Animal days, that being 2013’s “By Crooked Steps”, which did manage to reach the pinnacle of Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart.

The members of Soundgarden at the time this track came out where the same four musicians that more or less founded the group, that being the following:

  • Chris Cornell
  • Kim Thayil (guitarist)
  • Hiro Yamamoto (bassist)
  • Matt Cameron (drummer)

2 Responses

  1. Stickler says:

    Love this song! Great info. One thing though – Ben Shepherd was the bass player at this point in the band.

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