Mar 7, 2009

Scream For An Ice Pick

When Chris Cornell’s name is brought up, I think of Soundgarden. I think of Audioslave. I think of grungy greatness. Cornell has a solo CD coming out March 10, titled Scream, attempting to go the way of Kanye West and reach outside his comfort zone to try something new and maybe gather a new following. Cornell’s goal: produce an album with Hip Hop mogul Timbaland and all of his rap connections. Well, Chris Cornell’s a big name, and I’m sure Timbaland and his friends (Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic fame, Justin Timberlake, Jim Beanz, and more) were eager to jump on the chance. Being gracious enough to give his fans the opportunity to try before they buy, Chris Cornell put his entire album up on his myspace (link directly below) so I decided to give it a go.

1) “Part of Me” – 1 ½ *’s. Trying to look past the initial shock of the style of the album, I’m trying to look at this on the same standard I would look at any great rock legend having his raw power remixed to a rap beat, such as Linkin Park and Jay-Z, Aerosmith and Run-DMC, or Anthrax and Public Enemy. This song is just lacking so much. Let’s break down the chorus “No, that bitch ain’t a part of me” [and repeat]. I’m not sure whether I’m supposed to be looking at Cornell’s expletive as a trendy hip-hop phrase or a rebellious rock phrase, but that’s okay because I don’t think Cornell knows either. This song epitomizes what I’ve thought of ever since that last Audioslave album – Chris Cornell is suffering a serious identity crisis these days.

2) “Time” – 2*’s. Honestly, I thought someone was playing “What Is Love?” from Night At The Roxbury’s in the background of Cornell’s somewhat-improved-from-the-last-track vocals. Maybe worthy of a bottom rate dance
club? Personally hoping it doesn’t make the radio. The only thing I like about
this track is that the lyrics seem like the album might be headed back in the
direction that made Cornell famous – deep thought, questioning values, and a
reflection upon life.

3) “Sweet Revenge” – 2*’s. A nifty hip hop beat and Cornell seemed like he was trying to sing to the tune for once on the album but I can’t buy into this new alter-ego. If this was sung by maybe Lupe Fiasco, T-Pain, heck, 50 Cent or someone, I may bump it up to 3*’s or more, but Cornell needs to know his limits. I don’t hear this and empathize at all. Nothing about it says sweet revenge. And it’s four minutes long. How do you stretch something this crappy into four minutes?

4) “Get Up” - 3*’s. On the CD’s own merit, I wouldn’t be offended if this song made it to the radio as things really gel. The beat is funky, Cornell keeps in time with it, and he manages to maintain his lyrical integrity by having a purpose to the song, which is all about doing something with your life. Unfortunately, while Chris Cornell gets a pretty rad guitar solo toward the end with some Rolling Stonesque primal screeches now and again, he then finishes off the song with what sounds like an African tribal bongo-drumming verse.

5) “Ground Zero” 2 ½ *’s. It might make for an overplayed mediocre pop song, but while Cornell decided to sit down and put his mind to his lyrics, Timbaland and his dirty backpackers seemingly decided to go to the other side of the country as Cornell, write their own song, and then try to breed the two together to produce this monstrosity. Cornell’s part is the only thing keeping this song holding onto the ledge of no return.

6) “Never Far Away” 4*’s, because I really wanted to like something on this
album. While I was by no means a fan of what I was hearing in the chorus, due
to the big jump away from the tempo the rest of the song set, it wasn’t hoping-for-brain-damage awful. There was something almost reminiscent to Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” about it. Every time I hear that song, I think of the fantastic beat and how well it played to the movie The New Guy where DJ Qualls walking away from a burning school statue as he puts his sunglasses on. Well thing song as a similar BAMF-walk style to it.

7) “Take Me Alive” 2 ½ *’s. Very mediocre and probably the only reason you would listen to it is because you have the CD and don’t want to feel like you wasted your money. Cornell falls flat on his face in this one with monotonous lyrics about nothing and is only being kept alive by the trippy India-inspired beat that Timbaland seems to love. The ending of the song definitely helps its legitimacy however, as it’s hard not to look at these lyrics as a Chris Cornell fan and hold any disbelief he wrote them:
“Baby, I used to watch your flowers grow....

Now it’s raining and all your petals turn to stone”

8) “Long Gone” – 2 ½*’s. It has become clear by now as I have suspected, in dire hopes of getting the listener to actually listen through the entire album, one track’s ending will always be the opening to the succeeding song. So the lyrics quoted above actually in truth belong to “Long Gone”. It’s unfortunate however that neither the beat or Cornell’s vocals really deliver on this song as they should. If Cornell brought out the “Show Me How To Live” scream goods, or if the beat hadn’t seem like it was a completely separate project, then maybe the song would have been radio-worthy. It’s fortunate for the fate of this track that Cornell typically knows lyrical writing, which may earn this song a cheesy romance movie soundtrack slate.

9) “Scream” (the album’s single) – 4 ½ *’s. It’s about time. When you hear this song you can actually go “Oh yeah, Black Hole Sun, Fell On Black Days, Like A Stone, Be Yourself, I know this guy”. Cornell sabotages his entire album for the gimmick of producing with a hip hop artist just to get this one track right with its grunge sound reaching into other demographic markets. Here’s what’s bogging down the ½ * though – the chorus. I don’t get the word choice in the least. “I said ‘hey, why you keep screaming at the top of your head?’” [and repeat]. A-wha?

10) “Enemy” – 2 ½*s. Destined for a low budget action film soundtrack. Semi-aggressive and provoking lyrics, but with a rap delivery by a long curly haired white guy who’s not named Weird Al. What’s Vin Diesel doing now-a-days?

11) “Other Side of Town” – 3 ½ *’s. Where Chris Cornell is given a lot of freedom with Scream, Timbaland took the reins on this one and rocked it. Definitely the official dark horse of the CD that sadly won’t make it to radio because the higher ups are too busy picking the crap off the track and hoping to make it popular with the right promotional tools. Cornell actually comes off as a participating member of the hip hop community in this track. Rap fans might actually be interested in downloading this one as it’s really an interesting ear-food. Like audible calamari.

12) “Climbing Up The Walls” – 1 ½ *’s. Even for an attempt at a pop song, this one just feels abysmal. This fairly high speed tempo song was wearing me out and wanting to put me to sleep. Just one more nail in this album’s coffin.

13) “Watch Out” – ½ *. Someone needs to get curb stomped for this abortion of music. The message of the song – “lol, bad women drivers.” Add to this insightful theme potentially the most annoying chorus since Rihanna’s Umbrella (which I liked as a song for the record).

My Highlight: Scream has to be one of them, as it’s the album’s single, but honorable mention to “Never Far Away” and “Other Side Of Town”

My Judgment: 2.5 *’s. For me, especially in this economy, I wouldn’t waste my money. Maybe download My Highlights if you’re looking to try something new and, I’m hesitant to use the word, original. A lot of this call comes from me being a Chris Cornell fan hoping when he’s inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, those of us dedicated enough to his career can say with glory that we were there through his highs and lows. My basic opinion of the album after listening to all of it is that I want to grab Timbaland by the collar, smack him in the face and ask him "do you know who Chris Cornell is? Then, I want to grab Chris Cornell by the collar, smack him in the face, and ask him "DO YOU KNOW WHO CHRIS CORNELL IS!?"

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