Chris Cornell Returns with Concept Album
April 1, 2009
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No press is bad press, and if anyone is a Chris Cornell fan like a I am, or..let me rephrase that…Chris Cornell addict, you probably have read numerous reports and articles about his latest release SCREAM.
The third solo album by Chris Cornell, produced by Timbaland in Miami, Florida, has been loved with open arms by some, and burned like a witch at the stake by others. I will admit, when I first heard about the project a year ago I was very hesitant, and had my diva moment, “What is Chris doing? This isn’t the hard brooding rocker from Soundgarden and Audioslave. I hope he doesn’t start dancing…” Once I began to read more about the creative process, my curiosity grew, and I decided to resubmit my faith in one of my favorite singer/songwriters of all time. And apparently, Chris Cornell knows his fans pretty well. “At this point, it’s all theory. It’s like when I got together with the Rage Against the Machine guys for Audioslave and there was all this talk about how it was sacrilege from Rage fans, Soundgarden fans…Maybe I’m an optimist or just an idiot but I really think the fans will come around to the concept.” said Cornell recently in an interview with Rolling Stone. Well, Chris Cornell was right, and SCREAM is some of Chris Cornell’s best work yet.
Chris Cornell’s SCREAM consists of 13 tracks, and each track demonstrates a different musical influence, spanning from decade to decade, and genre to genre. The beginning tracks sounds like the music of the new millennium like Justin Timberlake, Madonna, and Missy Elliot with a mix of 1970’s disco as if from a flashback to Studio 54. The middle tracks sample some similar sounds from indie influences like Peter, Bjorn, and John and grooving pop/R&B romantics One Republic, and alternative/experimental art rock from the 1990’s like Bjork, Radiohead, and the infamous Tom Waits.
The later tracks on the album come straight from the club scene (think Lady GaGa and Rihanna amidst collaboration with blues legend B.B King).
On international releases SCREAM has various bonus tracks, and they should also be noted. “Two Drink Minimum” might just sound like another “club” song judging from its title, but it’s the furthest from that. It’s a raw and emotionally-charged blues song about heartbreak. “This open promise fades/And the sun forgets to rise/I’m lonely and I’m thirsty/But it’s better I stay dry/No more than two drinks away from crying.” The other bonus tracks display just as much musical diversity as the rest of the album. “Lost Cause,” “Ordinary Girl,” and “Do Me Wrong” span the sounds of pop, punk, classic rock, and bluegrass.
Now listen carefully, there is just as much happening between the tracks as on the actual tracks themselves, so don’t miss anything. The songs are fused together with layers of rock guitars sounding like the heavy riffs of 1970’s Rush, 1980’s metal band Anthrax, and 1990’s/new millennium’s Rage Against the Machine. The eclectic rhythms create constant activity from song to song, ranging from drum machines, to hand clapping, to a generic drum kit, to a marching band drumline.
In an interview with NME magazine, Chris Cornell commented, “[Timbaland] He’ll make a beat out of anything – banging on a wall, hitting a box. In the second day in the studio, a bunch of people came in with pots and pans and spatulas from the kitchen and we set them up with amps and stuff. That ended up on the album.” SCREAM channels additional influences from classical composers Beethoven, and Mozart, and spiritual sounds from the Far East.
Although SCREAM has influences from other artists all over it, don’t get the wrong impression. If you look and listen closely, there is Chris Cornell all over this album. Some stand-out tracks comprise of the dark, moody, and visually stimulating lyrics that Cornell has built a 20-year career on. “You got a pint of blood/You got a losing hand/You put a house of cards/On a hill of sand” (“Get Up”), “It’s been a long and lonely road/I didn’t know which way to go/You made my blood run cold/And filled me up with sorrow” (“Take Me Alive”), and (my personal favorite) “Every time the blood runs to my head/I hear the ring/Something to remind me I’m not dead/Or caught in between…Taking my time to untangle the wires/And stare into my sanity/Dropping the hammer and pulling the trigger/I know now the bullet is me” (“Enemy”). Lastly, the album also features the greatest musical asset Chris Cornell has: his voice. Cornell’s never ending melodic range is on every track; yes-under some heavy studio effects, but it’s clearly very much his.
So, yes, I love this album, but what about all of the haters? Well, I think everybody should jump on board. I think all of us in the music community are about to witness one of Chris Cornell’s most famous tours and musical moments in his career…I would like to call it his “Dylan moment”…Why? Remember Bob Dylan’s transition from acoustic folk/pop to electric guitar rock in 1965? His fans were outraged. They called him “a traitor” and “Judas” for turning his back on the folk community. Well many similar things can be said about Chris Cornell and the idea of him turning his back on his “grunge/Seattle” roots. He has since traded up for a house in Los Angeles, and a beautiful flat in Paris, France. Regardless, the loyal support from many of Chris Cornell’s fans seems to be strong enough, debuting SCREAM in the top 10 on the Billboard charts its first week.
On the surface SCREAM is a pop/R&B-infused hip-hop, dance record that might be played on the usual Top 40 stations, underground dance parities, or raves. However, listening more closely, and from very beginning to end (as instructed by Chris Cornel himself), SCREAM is a true journey, and firmly demonstrates that the concept album is a lost art (cite Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon).
To find out more information about Chris Cornell, SCREAM, and his upcoming tour visit http://www.chriscornell.com, http://www.twitter.com/chriscornell, www.amazon.com.
Chris Cornell will be playing both old material (Soundgarden/Audioslave) and solo stuff (from all three records) during his latest tour. The U.S. tour started Saturday, Mar. 28, in Dallas, Texas and ends Sunday, May 3, in Los Angeles, Calif. Check the links for more information!