Monday, March 2, 2009

A pinch and a punch for the first of the month

It seems the horizons have expanded for the ol' rant. First up i've been accepted as a writer for Beat Magazine and on top of that Al's Music Rant will be a formal part of The Elephant Room a news and information site, with a little bit of humour and a lot of love. Go check it (and moi) out.

Working on a couple of reviews and playlists at the moment, so here's a lil' something to tide you all over.

Chris Cornell used to be a powerful voice, both literally and figuratively, in the alternative rock scene – but the operative phrase here is ‘used to be.’ While his stint as frontman of Audioslave marked a high-point for the vocalist, he soon left in search of a solo career. Like most former singers of big rock acts that set forth on their own, his solo endeavours thus far have been a patchy affair.

Although gaining resurgence thanks to his rocking Bond theme song (You Know My Name), the resultant album, Carry On, sank all momentum with by-the-numbers tunes and some horrible missteps (including a ‘serious’ cover of Billie Jean, that the less said about, the better).

So how does Cornell address his flagging relevance? By going R&B of course. You read that right. Scream sees Cornell teaming with the pop crossover superproducer Timbaland to create a strange brew indeed. At first listen you could mistake it for another of Timbaland’s Shock Value productions – until you hear the former Soundgarden singer’s distinctive growl. Even then it’s occasionally neutered into a wash of harmonies and treated vocals.

In fact Timbaland’s signature sound is all over the record often battling with Cornell’s presence for space. While it does indeed contain his grizzled croon and rock guitars to the fore, they fight for space amongst the finely polished rhythmic backing. Where it should be a mesh of styles, instead it’s, well, Long Gone’s sound and lyrics say it best, “like oil and water we always clash.”

Elsewhere Climbing Up The Walls, Sweet Revenge and Time are probably the best examples of the genre hybrid that Cornell and Timbaland are attempting to create, but most of the rest of the tracks are muddy, confused affairs that either flit too abruptly or too plain dull to engage.

Redeeming the album are the intriguing segues that give a flow and consistency to the record. But if the best thing you can say about an album are the parts between the songs – then there’s been a horrible miscalculation.

If Cornell is attempting to find a new audience, he finds himself in an uphill struggle. His name is of little significance to the R&B/pop scenesters who will only discover this album through Timbaland’s name, and his glossy production sheen is a bit much for rock purists to take on. The album is stuck in a unique purgatory between the two styles, a place where only the curious and the blindly dedicated will tread. It’s good to see an artist like Chris Cornell try something different to shake up expectations, but it feels more akin to desperation than innovation.

Check out the title track:Chris Cornell - Scream (YouTube)
and the man's website: Chris Cornell

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