The following was originally published in our Buzz or Hype section.
Review by Dan Grote
When you hear the word supergroup, many
names come to mind: the Traveling Wilburies, Temple of the Dog, Damn Yankees.
All these bands have one thing in common; they release one overhyped album
and then quickly fade away (or Roy Orbison dies, in the case of the Wilburies).
That being said, Audioslave is the first supergroup since Temple of the
Dog to… feature Chris Cornell. The former Soundgarden frontman returns
to the radar after a three year hiatus and a barely noticed but ridiculously
under appreciated solo album (1999’s Euphoria Morning). This time, Cornell’s
brought friends, or at least high profile bandmates, in the form of the
three non-Zach de la Rocha-members of Rage Against the Machine, in an attempt
to form the ultimate 90’s rock revival coup.
So let’s do the math here: Cornell’s howlin’
soul vocals, plus Tom Morello’s guitar-as-turntable art, plus Tim Commerford’s
set-destroying antics, plus Brad Wilk’s… eerily well flat-ironed hair equals…
Soundgarden 2: Even Louder than Love.
The truth is, the punch in the face that
is “Cochise,” the lead track/single off Audioslave’s debut, is a bit misleading.
What “Cochise” would lead you to believe is that Audioslave will feature
Cornell screaming like it’s 1991 and that Morello will still be using his
guitar as everything but a guitar non-stop for fourteen tracks. Not entirely.
With the exception of a few songs, namely “Cochise,” “Like a Stone,” “Set
It Off” and “Bring ‘em Back Alive,” Morello tends to downplay his legendary
skills. In fact, there are quite a few songs, such as “Show Me How to Live”
and “Shadow on the Sun,” wherein Morello, Commerford and Wilk sound much
more like Thayil, Shepard and Cameron.
Even scarier, “Like a Stone” and “I am
the Highway” contain moments where the band appears to be drifting off
toward the middle of the road, with mellow acoustic strumming and mid-vocal
range white man soul that we all know Cornell is better than.
However, all is forgiven on “Set It Off,”
which, much like “Cochise,” still captures the spirit of the original bands,
with Morello’s video-game wa-wa pedal fading out to reveal a low-voiced
Cornell growl. Then there are surprises like “Explode,” where Cornell closes
out the song with a scat routine that appears to reveal some secret love
of Aerosmith. Meanwhile, the album’s blusiest track, “Getaway Car,” seems
like a watered-down leftover from Cornell’s solo album, while “The Last
Remaining Light” most reflects Cornell’s post-Garden/pre-slave sound.
VERDICT: It’s hard to think of Audioslave
without examining the body of work that led up to its inception, albums
like Superunkown and Evil Empire that helped form the soundscape of 90’s
rock. It’s good to hear new work both from Cornell and Morello, and while
the comparisons to Rage and Soundgarden will be made, and the band will
most likely fizzle out from its own hype, there are some great moments
on this album, like there were on the Temple of the Dog and Mad Season
(another supergrunge group) albums. “Cochise” is one of the most legitimately
hard-rocking songs on the radio right now, and what follows it is not a
disappointment by any means, it’s just different for the parties involved.
Show Me How To Live
What You Are
Like A Stone
Set It Off
Shadow On The Sun
I Am The Highway
Bring Em Back Alive
Light My Way
The Last Remaining Light
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