"I knew it was gonna be a masterpiece soon as I heard [Cornell's] first words over my track" – Timbaland
Like you, I woke up yesterday to the tragic news that yet another pillar of the grunge-cum-classic rock generation passed away. Vast chasms of the world blasted "Black Hole Sun" in requiem. Other, niftier corners put on some of the cooler, more SST-material of his most famous band's career. The good people at once-peerless tastemaker Pitchforktalked up his later work in Audioslave, a band they used to make fun of. But you know what nobody was talking up? Scream, Chris Cornell's third album as a solo artist and, most notably, produced and co-written with Timbaland, one of the two or three producers entirely responsible for the sound of the last decade. How did such a masterpiece take form?
By 2009, Timbaland's decadewas almost over. Missy Elliot, Timbaland's original muse, was branching out, telling journalists in 2005 that "Both of us came to a spot where we didn't know where to go with each other." Timbaland's beats were barely present on The Cookbook and Missy Elliot hasn't recorded another album since. In her stead, Timbaland recorded FutureSex/LoveSounds, the album that made JT a serious pop star. Basking in that success, JT turned away from music and began repeatedly hosting Saturday Night Live. Timbaland was still making mad crooked beats but who was going to sing them? Madonna? Bjork? Duran Duran? All respect to the boys who made "Hungry Like the Wolf," but these were all people who just wanted to add that Timbaland "Get Ur Freak On"-touch to their well-established sound. What Timbaland needed was somebody who wasn't fronting. Somebody who was willing to dive in the deep end of Mosley's funky grooves, somebody who knew there was some untapped soul sitting at the bottom of that sea.
Cornell, on the other hand, had just broken up Audioslave, the arena-playing supergroup consisting of him and everybody from Rage Against the Machine who wasn't Zack de la Rocha. At the time, he toldRolling Stone, "there's a lot I want to do and I don't want to juggle that with a band." The solo album that followed, Carry On, was a curious affair. Written off by critics as a soft-spoken go at Dylan territory and mostly remembered for the Casino Royale-theme song packed at the end, it also included such stuff as an earnest go at MJ's range (covering, what else, but "Billie Jean"). There was soul shimmering underneath the hammy guitar solos and clapped-on prog drumming. Cornell just needed someone to get it out.
A lifelong rockstar, Cornell was drawn to Timbaland precisely because of how important a hiphop producer, particularly one of Mosley's caliber, has in crafting a sound. "He's somebody who's also a musical genius and a songwriter," Cornell told MTV, "[He] comes in with actual musical ideas." At first, Cornell had the same idea as many—give the weirder elements of Carry On a funky touch, tune down the rock band. Timbaland refused: original material or nothing. Scream was written and recorded in six weeks. There's like one feature and it's JT.
"That bitch ain't a part of me, no that bitch ain't a part of me," Cornell emphasized on "Part of Me." In the emotional space of the jilted lover motif, Cornell discovers the trance-like allure of dancefloor bangers. In the music video, which features a Method Man-cameo, Cornell sits and watches people dance in San Jaun, EL Paso and Queens.
"I don't think there was any reference for [Scream] at the time," Cornell toldRolling Stone years later. Built out of an hour-plus of pulsing and trance-like hums, Scream had more in common with some of the '90s house music from across the pond that Soundgarden used to compete with than with anything happening at the turn of the last decade. This was the age of "Boom Boom Pow" and "I Gotta Feeling" on one end and "Sex on Fire" on the other. Skrillex was practically still making bad post-hardcore punk. Dance was dead.
But Cornell was dancing. In the music video for Scream's second single, "Part of Me." Cornell sits, contemplatively attractive, while he watches couples in cities like El Paso and San Juan energetically dance with each other, their legs dizzily moving like thatches on a ripped up plaid. The cities chosen, notably, are historically more diverse than Cornell's hometown of white-bread-eating and dancing-in-place Seattle. Musically and visually, Cornell positions himself as the sexy interloper, hoping his mouthwatering good looks will get him into the party. "That bitch ain't a part of me, that bitch ain't a part of me," Cornell clamors on Mosley's bubble-popping beats. In the single's three minutes and change, Cornell says this between ten and twenty times. There is fear in his voice.
Scream's savvy melding of hip hop texture with the intensity of rock and roll operatics would feel less out of place next to something like Khalid's American Teen or even one of the last two Frank Ocean records.
Elsewhere, more women who've done him wrong intermingle with the anxiety of closed spaces; "You've got no breathing room," warns the beginning of "Get Up." Unlike, say, Jack White, Cornell's interest in the former is purely aesthetic, Cornell was, by all account, happily married since 2004. The jilted lovers that Cornell plays in Scream are the kind that yearn out of the old Otis, the old Robert Johnson, they are punching bags for Cornell to flex his vocal muscles. Compared to the Roger Plant-esque lyricism of "Black Hole Sun," Cornell's work on Scream can sound almost mawkishly contemporary: "I don't want to start talking shit," he threatens on "Sweet Revenge." The ultimate appeal of the album was between these two worlds, Cornell's penchant for the small-scale but thunderously grandiose rendered into pop meditation, the hard thump of Timbaland's beats demanding more than Cornell's loud/quiet/loud rock star roar. The agitation in Cornell's voice felt intimately real as he crushed it into something starkly beautiful.
For most critics, of course, Cornell's voice has always been more interesting than what it was saying, the famous '70s yowl, the scream that Cornell was self-consciously references in the album title. The beats Timbaland and longtime Timbaland-collaborator J-Roc were throwing at Cornell forced him to modulate his voice into shapes you won't ever find on a Soundgarden record. On "Time," Cornell turns it into a hard bop, as if dodging synthpop bullets. Elsewhere, it is cut into sampled yips; on "Climbing Up The Walls," he anticipates the 'urban sounds' Chris Martin would claim to have explored in order to deliver his band's late-career masterstroke, Mylo Xyloto.
Scream, J-Roc would later claim, was ahead of its time. One of its most significant aesthetic effects, the way each song flows into another, a longtime but waning fixture of alt-pop (see: Since I Left You), was a precursor to Timbaland's later work, namely The 20/20 Experience, the album that successfully relaunched JT's musical career. Scream's savvy melding of hip hop texture with the intensity of rock and roll operatics would feel less out of place next to something like Khalid's American Teen or even one of the last two Frank Ocean records.
Scream, on the other hand, was not widely spoken in lauding tones. The conflation of hip hop and rock, in the post-Limp Bizkit era, was alienating and few critics were willing to begrudge offending either fanbase; Pete Cashmore, at NME, wrote: "it's neither rock enough to rock nor hip-hop enough to, well, make your hips hop." More jarring, on a personal level, perhaps, was the criticism of fellow '90s icon Trent Reznor, who, in a since-deleted tweet, asked: "You know that feeling you get when somebody embarrasses themselves so badly you feel uncomfortable? Heard Chris Cornell's record?"
Time has been kind to some of the forgotten R&B classics of the era, Kanye's much-panned 808s & Heartbreak has become a retroactive classic, gaining reference points to acts that followed. Time has been less kind to Scream. Back in 2015, Tom Breihan of Stereogum slammed it as "a disastrously awful combination of post-grunge yarling and club-pop thump that effectively derailed his entire career." And even the rush of Cornell's obituaries, populating across the web as they do in such times, refer to it in hesitant terms, trying as hard as possible to applaud the effort and not the work; Rob Harvilla at The Ringer eased around it by calling it "very brave and very strange," a sidehanded compliment if I ever heard one.
Well, as is often the case, they're all wrong. Scream is great. Rock to it.
Andrew Karpan is counting down his grunge superheroes and is down to his last few fingers. He is beginning his long essay on why Eddie Vedder's Ukulele Songs was the last decade's acoustic masterpiece. Stay safe, Eddie. And follow me on Twitter.
More rocking, more roll:
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Bare-chested and Scottish, BIFFY CLYRO are back
|Studio album by Audioslave|
|Released||November 19, 2002 (2002-11-19)|
|Recorded||May 2001 (2001-05) – June 2002 (2002-06)|
|Singles from Audioslave|
Audioslave is the eponymous debut studio album by American rocksupergroupAudioslave. It was released on November 19, 2002, by Epic Records and Interscope Records. The album features the hit singles "Cochise", "Show Me How to Live", "What You Are", "Like a Stone", and "I Am the Highway". The album was later certified 3x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in the United States. "Like a Stone" was nominated for a 2004Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance.
Audioslave was formed after Zack de la Rocha left Rage Against the Machine and the remaining members were searching for another vocalist. Producer and friend Rick Rubin suggested that they contact Chris Cornell. Rubin played the remaining Rage Against the Machine band members the Soundgarden song "Slaves & Bulldozers" to showcase his ability. Cornell was in the writing process of a second solo album, but decided to shelve that and pursue the opportunity to work with Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk when they approached him. Morello described Cornell: "He stepped to the microphone and sang the song and I couldn't believe it. It didn't just sound good. It sounded transcendent. And... when there is an irreplaceable chemistry from the first moment, you can't deny it." The quartet wrote 21 songs during 19 days of rehearsal and began working in the studio in late May 2001.
Songs from the album were first heard when thirteen rough rehearsal demo tracks were leaked onto various peer-to-peer filesharing networks on May 16, 2002, six months before the official release of the album, under the name "Civilian" (or "The Civilian Project"). According to guitarist Tom Morello "it was very frustrating, especially with a band like this, there is a certain amount of expectation." He also said that the songs were not in their finished form and that in some cases "they weren't even the same lyrics, guitar solos, performances of any kind." In an earlier, July 2002 interview with Metal Sludge he spoke more explicitly about the incident, blaming "some jackass intern at Bad Animal Studios in Seattle" for stealing the demos and putting them on the Internet without the band's permission.
The band was nearly derailed before the album's release. Cornell was going through alcohol problems and a slot on the Ozzfest tour was canceled. During this time, there was a rumor that Cornell had checked himself into drug rehabilitation. He later confirmed it in an interview with Metal Hammer that was conducted from a clinic payphone. In a San Diego CityBeat article, Cornell explained that he went through "a horrible personal crisis" during the making of the first record, staying in rehab for two months and separating from his wife. The problems were ironed out and he remained sober till his passing in 2017. The band toured through 2003, before resting in 2004 to record their second album.
This album was released ten years after Rage Against the Machine's (Morello, Commerford, and Wilk's former band) debut album was released on November 3, 1992.
The album cover was designed by Storm Thorgerson (with Peter Curzon and Rupert Truman) – who, as leader of the group of artists known as Hipgnosis, was best known for his cover work for Pink Floyd. "We knew we were going to set this idea of the eternal flame, the graphic flame, in Lanzarote, a volcanic island, since volcanoes suited the brooding menace of Audioslave," Thorgerson recalled. An unreleased version of the cover, shot elsewhere at the same location, features a naked man looking at the flame. "We so nearly used it," said Thorgerson, "but we were not entirely sure of the nude figure."
The album was released on November 19, 2002 and entered the Billboard 200 chart at position number seven after selling 162,000 copies in its first week. It was certified gold by the RIAA less than a month after its release, and by 2006 it had achieved triple platinum selling status. It is the most successful Audioslave album to date, having sold more than three million copies in the United States alone. The album spawned hits such as "Cochise", "Like a Stone" and "Show Me How to Live".
Despite its commercial success, Audioslave received mixed reviews. Some critics lambasted the group's effort as uninspired, and predictable.Pitchfork Media's reviewers Chris Dahlen and Ryan Schreiber praised Cornell's voice, but criticized virtually every other part of the album, calling it "the worst kind of studio rock album, rigorously controlled-- even undercut-- by studio gimmickry." They described Cornell's lyrics as "complete gibberish" and called producer Rick Rubin's work "a synthesized rock-like product that emits no heat." Jon Monks from Stylus Magazine had the same opinion. He considered Rubin's production over-polished and wrote that "lacking individuality, distinction and imagination this album is over-produced, overlong and over-indulgent." On the other hand, other critics praised the supergroup's style reminiscent of 1970s heavy metal and compared it to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, saying they add much-needed sound and style to contemporary mainstream rock music, and have the potential to become one of the best rock bands of the 21st century. In 2005, Audioslave was ranked number 281 in Rock Hard magazine's book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time.
The track "Shadow on the Sun" was also featured in Michael Mann's 2004 film Collateral.
All lyrics written by Chris Cornell; all music composed by Audioslave.
|2.||"Show Me How to Live"||4:38|
|4.||"What You Are"||4:09|
|5.||"Like a Stone"||4:54|
|6.||"Set It Off"||4:23|
|7.||"Shadow on the Sun"||5:43|
|8.||"I Am the Highway"||5:35|
|11.||"Bring Em Back Alive"||5:29|
|12.||"Light My Way"||5:03|
|14.||"The Last Remaining Light"||5:17|
The album was included among a group of 15 DualDisc releases that were test marketed in two cities: Boston and Seattle. The DualDisc has the standard album on one side, and bonus material on the second side. The DVD side of the Audioslave DualDisc featured the entire album in higher resolution 20bit 48 kHz sound, as well as some videos. The higher resolution DVD side of this disc has been termed a demonstration quality audiophile release.
Connected bonus track
For a limited time the CD could be inserted into a CD-ROM and be used to access the ConnecteD website. Here, the user would be able to download bonus videos, interviews, photos, and a bonus track "Give".
- Produced by Rick Rubin, co-produced by Audioslave
- Mixed by Rich Costey
- Recorded by David Schiffman and Andrew Scheps
- Additional engineering by John Burton, Floyd Reitsma, Thom Russo, and Andrew Scheps, assisted by Chris Holmes and Darron Mora
- Digital editing by Greg Fidelman, Thom Russo, and Andrew Scheps
- Album production coordinator/wrangler – Lindsay Chase
- Mastered by Vlado Meller, assisted by Steve Kadison
- Album cover by Storm Thorgerson and Peter Curzon
- Art direction by Storm Thorgerson, assisted by Dan Abbott and Finlay Cowan
- "Flame" logo by Peter Curzon
- Photography by Rupert Truman
- Band photos by Danny Clinch
- Sculpture made by Hothouse
|US Billboard 200||100|
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