Chris Cornell - Scream
Record Label: Interscope
Release Date: March 10, 2009
Chris Cornell must have been listening to Rivers Cuomo, frontman for Weezer, last summer when he sang, "Timbaland knows the way to the top of the charts / Maybe if I work with him, I can perfect the art." After all, the R&B guru has assisted Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake -- amongst scores of other pop megastars -- reach multi-platinum sales, so who wouldn't desire to have him produce your work?
Cornell, who has famously supplied the vocals for Soundgarden & Audioslave, was born a rock star -- and it doesn't just show in his appearance, but also in his tailor-made pipes. Perhaps that's why his third solo effort, Scream, comes across rather haphazardly, a concoction of two men dropping their certified talents for new horizons. Timbaland has been open about wanting to produce a rock record, and there is no denying the man is a genius -- however, it's in R&B and pop that he is most successful, and on Scream, he is unable to fling his crutches to the ground for Cornell's bluesy voice to feel inspired.
You had to expect Justin Timberlake and OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder to make appearances here, and it simply reiterates the fact that Cornell is no longer a rock star -- he is "KISS Gone Disco." The moment when an artist great at one thing turns their back to make something more dance-oriented rarely turns out to be a smooth ride (wave hello to Jewel), and despite Timbaland's attempt at bringing some new blood to Cornell's flimsy solo career, it's one hour of awkward experimentation. Hell, the opening notes of "Part of Me" sound like will.i.am is going to break out with some sort of Obama-themed flow before an array of creepy noises pour in. While Scream is never boring, it does take some patience to understand what the thought process was behind all this.
Fueled by electronic beats, "Part of Me" runs on Timberlake-energy from what feels like a guest starring role by Cornell. "That bitch ain't a part of me," he eloquently purrs on the chorus, perhaps presenting an allegory to this turning point in his career path. "Sweet Revenge" would be a jagged-edged knife wound to the industry if it weren't veiled by Cornell's vocal restraint and "Get Up" wants to be a jungle-beat club anthem, however, it's not fit for the man singing it. "Watch Out" is a whacked-out hunting-trip seduction, and "Enemy" sounds like a battle between bagpipes and discotheque, making for the strangest song on the record.
"Time" has a natural atmosphere to it, and it's one of the first half's best tracks, along with "Never Far Away," which shines over a sparkling acoustic rhythm. "Take Me Alive" (with backing vocals from Timberlake) basks in its Bangladesh-melodies, as an anthem of hope & confidence for getting through whatever has kept you down. Cornell's voice still sounds magnificent, but Timbaland works it over back beats that make Scream resemble a remix album -- less rock, more dance? An EP would suffice, because once "Long Gone" ends, the rest of the disc suffers from sounding too busy and beat-driven (check out the last two tracks).
Give credit to Cornell for always switching it up on his solo releases. His first album was straightforward alternative rock (mellower than we had known from him back in 1999), and his last effort, Carry On, contained soulful tracks inspired by blues & country. As much as the symbolic album cover for Scream wants to smash the guitar from Cornell's musical past in favor of some groove, let's hope he follows in the footsteps of Justin Timberlake next time and places his boots into a disco ball instead.
Though I haven't heard the album (shit, I didn't even know it was coming out), this is a nicely written review. Being a child of the 90's, I loved Euphoria Morning, but I couldn't get into Carry On at all. I'll have to check this out soon.
Totally agree. This whole thing just feels awkward as if both of them are pitted against each other rather than working with each other. It almost appears as if Cornell is trying to come off as a new young gun but he can't escape the fact that he's 40+ and trying to make CHR/Pop friendly music. Of course, if it was EXECUTED well, this would be more enjoyable.
That being said, at least this experiment was interesting (even though it falls flat most of the time). Carry On was just such a M.O.R bore.