How the mighty have fallen. Chris Cornell, former lead singer of Soundgarden has hit rock bottom. And I’m not talking alcoholism or drug abuse rock bottom. No, I’m talking about artistic bankruptcy rock bottom. For those not “in the know,” Chris Cornell has recorded his new album Scream with the help of uber-urban street cred studio guru Timbaland. The results are piss-poor at best.
Now I realize that since Soundgarden called it quites back in ’97 Chris hasn’t had the most illustrious career. His post SG solo record Euphoria Morning was a decent offering but didn’t exactly set the world on fire (not including the underrated “Sunshower” from the Great Expectations soundtrack didn’t help things in my opinion). And his collaborations with the former-now-current guys from Rage Against the Machine in Audioslave, though lucrative, didn’t match the heights of Soundgarden. Part of the problem is that Cornell was either unable or unwilling to let loose with his fantastic metal wail, the way he would in classics like “Outshined” or “Rusty Cage.” The whole project seemed so laboured compared to the cathartic nature of Soundgarden’s best work. This resulted in a band, one that could have been a real creative standout on rock radio, instead opting to simply be another angry band with a pretty-boy lead singer. The only thing that separated Audioslave from those ass-hats in Creed was the group members’ former glories.
When looking at Cornell and his career it’s hard not to compare it with his peers from early-90s Seattle. Unlike Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley or Eddie Vedder, Cornell always seemed destined for bigger things. He had the looks the body and the voice (Mudhoney figured this out early on and wrote the song “Overblown”). And regardless of where his career leads he was fortunate not to follow the paths Cobain and Staley chose. Still from leading one of the the early-90s most loved and respected bands to writing sub-par One Repbulic rip-offs is a leap worthy of Rod Stewart when he abandoned his Mod, blues-rock roots in favour of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” panty-waving excess. It’s worse when you juxtapose Cornell with Vedder. Vedder was the grunge poster boy, the one on the cover of Time Magazine, and Pearl Jam were the genre’s bread winners. By all rights, they should be the ones desperately trying to hold on to relevance in a rapidly changing cultural landscape. But instead they chose to forge ahead on their own path. It seemed tenuous at first (does anybody else remember the first time they heard “Who You Are“?) But in the process the group garned a new-found respect from their detractors, the kind that of respect that builds careers, not hit singles. They still get played on the radio (how awesome was it to hear “World WIde Suidcide“) and Vedder received some of his highest accolades for his soundtrack to Into the Wild.
Anyways, I guess what I’m trying to say is this Christmas do everyone a favour and buy your teenage neices and nephews copies of Superunknown and Badmotorfinger and keep the dream alive. And while your at it, maybe buy your single aunt a Faces record…you never know…