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Volume 68, Issue 62, Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Arts & Entertainment

Audioslave isn't full of rage, just big dumb rock

By Ed De La Garza
The Daily Cougar

There's something comforting about hearing Chris Cornell scream like a banshee.

He hasn't really done it since Soundgarden broke up in 1997. On his solo effort, Euphoria Morning, Cornell was more concerned with doing everything he'd wanted to do in Soundgarden r&b, blues, folk and pop. So the best voice in rock music has been pretty silent for more than five years.

With Audioslave, Cornell gets to bust his chops with Tom Morello (guitars), Tim Commerford (bass) and Brad Wilk (drums), formerly of Rage Against the Machine. But the new band isn't really a supergroup as some have suggested.

Brad Wilk (drums), Tim Commerford (bass), Chris Cornell (vocals) and Tom Morello (guitar) make up the newly-formed band, Audioslave.
Danny Clinch/Epic Records

It's not Rage with Cornell as lead singer instead of Zack De La Rocha. You won't find any politically conscious lyrics on the band's self-titled debut. About the closest you'll get is a message in the liner notes that reads "For saving the world, fighting the power, etc.: (see Web site)."

It's equal parts big dumb rock, bass-driven rap-metal and power ballads. It's an odd mix to be sure, but Audioslave doesn't make any apologies for it. When it rocks it'll throw you against the wall with a non-stop sonic assault of feedback and drums.

The first single "Cochise," having little to do with the Native American warrior, gives listeners an idea of what the band's about and not to take the lyrics too seriously. "I'm not a martyr/ I'm not a prophet/ And I won't preach to you" sound like Cornell's attempt to differentiate his words from De La Rocha's.

"Show Me How To Live," "Set It Off," "Exploder" and "Light My Way" help give Cornell more life than Kim Thayil ever could in Soundgarden. This time around, it sounds like Cornell's actually having fun pretending to be Robert Plant.

But Audioslave is at its most surprising when it turns it down a notch.

On "I Am The Highway," Morello's noodling mimics Cornell's guitar from Euphoria Morning. It's a classic power ballad: a slowly building melody that leads to crescendo. There's none of the "Bulls on Parade" wah-wah that turned the song into Rage's first real hit. It's at that moment you realize it's not Rage Against The Machine II.

The best ballad (yes, there's more than one) is the album closer, "The Last Remaining Light." Cornell seems to drown in his own words while Morello's guitar, sounding eerily like carnival music, shifts in and out before Commerford and Wilk come back in. No one person is allowed to carry the band.

It's not Rage and it's not Soundgarden. But at least it rocks.

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