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Chris Cornell
Scream
Interscope Records
www.chriscornell.com


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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