Audioslave

Audioslave (Epic/Interscope)

The debut record from former Soundgarden front guy Chris Cornell and the three Other Guys from Rage Against the Machine is here, the Rock Franchise finally rollin' out the new IPO and branding strategy. There was a lot of political music biz dickin' around while everyone figured out how they were eventually gonna slice up the pie; now it looks like it's time to finally rake in the dinero. Worth all the hoo-hah? Based on pure potential, sure. I've always thought bands should operate more like professional sports teams, trading members back and forth, picking up stray veterans off the waiver wire. Audioslave could be the prototype "franchise" rock band.

How's the record? Well, certainly closer to Soundgarden than Rage in terms of raw mechanics; lots of midtempo drop D tuning and loud/quiet/loud/quiet vocal histrionica, plenty of gnashing and wailing and trudging through the mud. Guitarist Tom Morello toggle switches minimal dots and dashes of dissonant harmonic noise the same way a clever DJ works a cross-fader, and this choppy-ass frenetic staccato style is working as an excellent counterpoint to Cornell's charismatic howl. A lot of the sounds Morello dials up elicit a "how-the-fuck-did-he-do-that?" response upon repeated listenings.

"Bring 'Em Back Alive" is as close as the group gets to any kind of political statement, Cornell singing, "I am a virus, I live in silence..." over and over again through a rotating Leslie organ speaker. Rubin probably borrowed the idea while meditating over an old Moody Blues record. Sounds good when you're out cruising Lower Greenville on a Tuesday night, anyway. I don't expect hard-core RATM fans will respond to this album in the same way Soundgarden fans will. They won't like Cornell's $200 haircut, anyway.

The artistic high point of the record is "Light My Way," which catches a great ass-shaking groove for a few measures before the bottom drops out and we're back and forth between the wash and the rinse cycle again. Apparently, this was the first song the band ever wrote together, and it actually sets a perfect tone for the rest of their material. It's way heavier than anything someone my age should be listening to, but since I can't hear anyway, I'll just stare at the CD booklet and nod my head when appropriate.

The last two songs on the record are considerably more sedate than the majority of the album. You may or may not be down with that. Rage Against the Machine fans will probably never get that far into the disc. That's too bad.

 
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