Thirteen years ago, I had the pleasure and honor of witnessing one
of the greatest frontmen of my generation annihilate Longview Lake
at Lollapalooza '96. That man, of course, was Chris Cornell
and he was on what would be the last tour with Hall of Fame lock Soundgarden.
Cornell's range and vocal power was like few, if any, other singers
in the genre of hard rock. When he sang, you knew exactly who it was;
listen to the entirety of Soundgarden's masterpiece Badmotorfinger
and tell me that the band wasn't made up of hard rock savants.
Well, my dear friends, something has gone desperately wrong. Chris
Cornell is no longer great. Hell, he isn't even good, and his latest
Scream proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt. There was a time
when Cornell was part of a six headed grunge monster that ruled the
Alternative Nation; the beast, draped in worn out flannel and sporting
the heads of Cornell, Cobain, Layne Staley, Mark
Arm (Mudhoney), Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees)
and Andrew Wood (Mother Love Bone) laid waste to all
in its path with its punk rock attitude and riffs lifted from Hendrix/Zeppelin/Sabbath
or Blue Cheer, depending on the band. That was then and this
is now and now, at least in Chris' world, is a musical apocalypse.
The decline has been steep and fast. His first solo offering since
leaving the 'Garden was Euphoria Morning, an okay record with
the promising single "Can't Change Me." Next came the "super
group" Audioslave. Though there were some good tunes to
be had with that group, Chris' once powerful pipes always sounded
a bit strained to me, as though his heart wasn't in it.
But none of his past miscues compare to the giant waste of plastic
and aluminum that is the Timbaland-produced Scream.
I understand, to a point, what Chris and his label Interscope are
trying to do with this record; they are attempting to reach a younger,
hipper demographic than the 30-somethings like me that once bowed
before the almighty Cornell. But I think he's gone about it the wrong
way. He has turned his back on rock and roll and embraced recycled
hip hop beats and duets with Justin "SexyBack" Timberlake.
Why, Mr. Cornell, do you feel it is necessary to forsake your faithful
few for a generation that thinks music is a 10 second ringtone?
Many, many things are wrong with this record. Let's start with the
production. Timbaland may be a decent producer when it comes to R&B
and used samples, but he don't know shit about hard rock. His work
washes out the vocals to the point that they are a sad shadow of what
was. And do we really need autotune with Chris Cornell? Autotune is
used with people that can't sing
like Britney Spears.
Next are the lyrics. I will not quote any here because none are worth
quoting. The man that once took Jesus Christ poses, held burdens in
his hands and fell on black days is reduced to writing tunes about
flowers, people wanting their piece and smoking up the tires.
Writing this review is making me tired and sad for a fallen hero
of rock. Please Chris, don't even think about making another record
like Scream. Is it a midlife crisis? A deep seeded longing
for your youth? Or has the creative well finally run dry?
The cover of the album is a photo of Cornell smashing a guitar. But
with Scream the only thing that got smashed was his legacy.
-Danny R. Phillips
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