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Album review: Chris Cornell's 'Scream'

Cornell_240_ Baseball fans might remember the downfall of Rick Ankiel. The phenom pitcher led the St. Louis Cardinals to the National League division series in 2000, only to throw five wild pitches in one inning. He had mysteriously lost his ability to throw strikes, eventually ending his pitching career.

Timbaland is having a Rick Ankiel moment. Throughout the '90s and into the 2000s, the producer had the most revolutionary ideas of anyone in hip-hop and pop music. But since producing Justin Timberlake's fantastic "FutureSex/LoveSounds," he's proffered a lukewarm solo album, a treacly OneRepublic remix and the most unremarkable M.I.A. song to date.

His shepherding of former Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell's new solo album, "Scream," is a fascinating but heartbreaking document of how many wrong decisions one can make in writing and performing a record.

The idea of Cornell's sex-god wail over Timbaland's mechanized funk is appealing. But "Scream" draws out the worst tendencies in both of them. The icy remove of Timbaland's third-string beats here makes Cornell's lyrics like "Pain and suffering. Will come to those. When I get even." feel cartoonish, while Timbaland's vocal processing sucks the elastic virility from Cornell's voice. "Never Far Away" somehow indulges the grievous ballad excesses of both Akon and Daughtry simultaneously. Only the slinky "Ground Zero" arrives at incendiary friction.

After a recovery in the minor leagues, Ankiel made a successful return as an outfielder. Fans of inventive pop and rock music can only hope that both Timbaland and Cornell have similar comebacks in them.

--August Brown

Chris Cornell

"Scream"
(Interscope)
One star

 
Comments () | Archives (47)

I pretty much disagree with almost everything you said here in your review. I have long been a fan of Cornell and have been long awaiting his full return, granted I miss the days of SoundGarden and even Audioslave to a lesser extent, if for nothing else because I despise anything Zack does with the rest of the RATM guys, but in regards to the new release I feel it is a great mix of both Cornell's vocals with Timbaland's mixing and producing. I've fully enjoyed every single song off this record so far and find myself humming the songs in my head throughout the day.

What a tragic musical turn of events because this album is simply awful . I think that I had a similar but slighty more visceral reaction to "Scream" than you: http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=54747273&blogId=470529792

I disagree with everything you said. Chris Cornell is amazing and he does it again with Scream. Some people will never get past the Soundgarden days,,,

C'mon; did you actually listen to the album? I agree with some of the points, but in actual fact there are many great and interesting songs. I hope Cornell will return to his rock roots and crank it to 11 on his next CD, but this is a rewarding one-off creation for anyone that approaches it with an open mind.

This album is an experiment gone bad. I applaud Cornell for stepping out of his comfort zone, but this over-produced R&B concoction is ultimately unlikable. I wish Timbaland had shown a little more restraint, but his overblown orchestration, drum machine beats and dense multi-tracking obscure the purity of Cornell's great voice and drain the life out the album. It's noisy and weird and packed with too many musical ideas. A pity, because both Cornell and Timbaland are tremendously talented, but their collaboration leaves me cold.

Can you say "Close-minded'? I grew up with the 80's hairband explosion and as I got older I was wanting something new. And then along came "grunge" and it was the like an explosion of everything I was wanting different in music. I could only take so much Warrant, Winger, GNR, blah blah blah, but I could not get enough of the new Seatlle scene. After listenting to Cornell's voice in Soundgarden I thought music will never be the same! This guys vocals are amazing. He continued his music career making music the way it should be...evolving into something new! Not like this cookie cutter garbage we hear today! After I heard Cornell's version of Michael Jakson's "Billie Jean" I knew he was reinventing himself as an artist. He made that song his own! What a genius! Now teaming with producer, Timbaland, he has done it again...making music what it shoud be...original! Sit back, close your eyes , and open your mind.

I listen to all kinds of heavy stuff (my drummer was on a Dying Fetus album!). I'm listening to it right now and the way every song mixes into the next is pretty genius.

for many reasons I've never heard an album like this and I doubt there will ever be another, that's pretty good for the Timbaland catalog as well.

I am a huge fan and I am so sad to say that the CD is a joke. Cornell jumped the f-in shark!

This review really misses the point of the album. Simply put, this is a really different direction. Its a creative departure for both Timbaland and Cornell and in a time of so much uninspired music, the fact that they even tried to make this album should be applauded. Although they are completely different artists and its in reverse, it reminds me a lot of the risk Trent Reznor took with Saul Williams on "N***y Tardust". Definitely worth a few listens all the way through.

I completely disagree with everything you said. How can anyone listen to this album and deny the sheer genius of it?! The combinaton of Chris's commanding voice and Timbaland's instrumental wizardry make for a compelling listen all through, and the transitions from one track to the next are simply amazing! Admittedly, this might be a bit too on the R&B side for hardcore Chris Cornell fans, but any music lover will absolutely love this. Please, if you care to, mention one album of recent times that has displayed such an eclectic blend of both the Rock and R&B genres.

I bought it because it was only $3 even though all the singles sucked. I swear that I gave it an honest shot because I like a like more genres than just hard rock and the best I could do was not hate 2 or 3 songs. This comes off not as trying something new, but a serious need to be radio friendly and be popular to a new generation. He has a twitter account now? Come on. I think he has the greatest voice in history and wrote fantastic lyrics in the past. Now we get, "Pick it up, pick it up, watch out, now pick it up". This is the guy who did Jesus Christ Pose, mind you. These songs and their lyrics could have easily come off a Fergie album if he would only spell out a word or two, it's that bad. I still think he has the greatest voice and still look forward to whatever else he puts out in the future, just as long as it's not Scream II.

this review is worthless, you obviously listened to 30 seconds of each song at most....this is an amazing album...couldn't stop listening today to it...so new and like nothing else out there....i have always been a cornell fan with Euphoria Morning being my favorite album but this shows how creative of an artist he truely is, pushes the envelope and ignores the narrow minded mainstream critics and listeners who think they are smarter than they truely are

And did your little baseball player ever try his hand at football? How about hockey? No? You mean he stuck with the same sport the whole time? Not able to cross the line? I mean he was an athlete right? Maybe he was just afraid of failing. See where I'm going here? Good.

Scream is definitely different, but it is good. Aside from Robert Plant, Chris Cornell has got the best voice in music. He can sing anything and make it sound great. It doesn't always have to be hard rock to be good. Chris started heading in another direction even while still with Soundgarden (on the Down on the Upside album). Ground Zero is an awsome song. As are Time, Take Me Alive, actually the whole album is good and I can't wait to see him in NYC in April! Have to mention; how beautiful is Chris Cornell, my God that man is doubly blessed. That wife is one lucky lady!

Huge Cornell Fan!

BS!!! This album is far better than Cornell's last two solo efforts. It actually picks a direction (albeit a strange one) and sticks with it. I wouldn't call SCREAM the best use of his vocals, but there are quite a few good songs here, and the album has a good flow to it. It's different and it succeeds. The critics that don't get it fail for having closed minds. At the end of the day Badmotorfinger, Superunknown, and Audioslave Self-Titled are the only Cornell works that surpass this quality expression.

This review is myopic, as if Cornell's options are limited to either rehashing Soundgarden or doing nothing. Scream is upbeat, fun and dynamic; I wouldn't have described Cornell's last solo album as any of those. Songs like "Enemy" and "Watch Out" would tear up radio if given a chance to succeed. The industry doesn't reward stretching out of the box; they'd rather Cornell and Timbaland keep repeating themselves. Give Scream a chance, listeners.

I was really excited when I saw he was coming to the Vogue in Indianapolis and yes it sold out quickly. When I received the album online with the tickets I was fired up but when I listened to it I thought it sounded a little Madonna like. I will admit some of the songs have grown on me but a little too pop like for my taste. My only hope is he will play some of his old tunes at the show.

This album is an absolute tragedy. Not sure why Chris or Timbaland would think it would work. Doesn't take a genius to know that it will fail miserably and only alienate old fans. I highly doubt it will attract many new ones. Rock is dead and has been for a while. The last thing we need is rock gods like CC making this god awful pop techno hell, whatever it is, leave it to Timbaland. He looks like he's auditioning for NSYNC. If Chris decides to come back to reality it would be great.

The truly disappointing part is that Cornell gave Timbaland way too much freedom on this album. You can sometimes catch some pretty good music and vocals hidden in there, but it's just so massively over-produced that it gets lost. There are so many bells, whistles and tin cans clanking about, that you can scarcely hear the talent. Almost every song has a sort of "cut-away" section that just doesn't have any reason to be there. That kind of diversity in a track can be appealing, but only if it's good. These are just boring, don't blend well with the rest of the music, and needlessly add length to the songs.

If you listen really close, you can almost hear the rock in the background, usually during the choruses. This could have been a truly great album, if only there were more Chris and less Timbaland. They didn't "mesh well" on this album. Timbaland took it over.

The last 25 seconds of the song "Long Gone", however, is actually an intro to "Scream", but done in rock-style, and it's infinitely better. I cringe every time it ends and the real "Scream" starts in TimbaChris style.

Chris, why? Why didn't you record "Scream" like the last 25 seconds of "Long Gone"? If you had, you could have made all those new fans you seem to desparately want, and actually kept your old fans too.

Cornell may make some new, younger fans with this album -the kind who forget about you when the clubs stop playing you- but he's going to lose most, if not all, of his prior fans. The only song his rock fans might even remotely like on this album is "Two Drink Minimum", and that's a bonus track.

The truly disappointing part is that Cornell gave Timbaland way too much freedom on this album. You can sometimes catch some pretty good music and vocals hidden in there, but it's just so massively over-produced that it gets lost. There are so many bells, whistles and tin cans clanking about, that you can scarcely hear the talent. Almost every song has a sort of "cut-away" section that just doesn't have any reason to be there. That kind of diversity in a track can be appealing, but only if it's good. These are just boring, don't blend well with the rest of the music, and needlessly add length to the songs.

If you listen really close, you can almost hear the rock in the background, usually during the choruses. This could have been a truly great album, if only there were more Chris and less Timbaland. They didn't "mesh well" on this album. Timbaland took it over.

The last 25 seconds of the song "Long Gone", however, is actually an intro to "Scream", but done in rock-style, and it's infinitely better. I cringe every time it ends and the real "Scream" starts in TimbaChris style.

Chris, why? Why didn't you record "Scream" like the last 25 seconds of "Long Gone"? If you had, you could have made all those new fans you seem to desparately want, and actually kept your old fans too.

Cornell may make some new, younger fans with this album -the kind who forget about you when the clubs stop playing you- but he's going to lose most, if not all, of his prior fans. The only song his rock fans might even remotely like on this album is "Two Drink Minimum", and that's a bonus track.

I don't understand how you consider Timbaland's album "lukewarm"- The 2 singles are the most viewed YOUTUBE videos EVER and he is still one of the most important producers out if you ask anyone that listens to hip hop (which I assume you don't). As one Blogger to another, I understand you want controversy, but at the expensive of you sounding like you don't know what you are talking about, gives this review very little credibility .

This is like the worst album ever. It seems like Chris Cornell is trying to pull a Gwen Stefani by coming out with a dance album. Unfortunately for him he is not half as sexy as she is and his album is not half as good either. Will he have the Banzuke Boys show up in his videos?

I'm a fan of Chris but the album ain't very good. Stick to rock man.

This review is laying it down lightly. When I heard the first leak of Scream, I first thought that it was the music industry's counter-offensive pimp slap to piracy by scrambling things up or just outright tracks from miscellaneous artists...and then the actual album debuts and I give it a listen, and nothings changed! Its as if Chris Cornell got drunk one day and wandered into a flea market and picked up one of those cheap Yamaha organs and started singing with a tape recorder. If he were a MLB pitcher, he'd be rushed to the hospital for Tommy John surgery. In the context of Cornell and even experimentalism, this album gave my ears diarrhea and now I can only communicate through sign language.

GREAT review. Pretty much dead on interpretation of how badly this collaborations sounds. Maybe cornell has completely lost the ability to (throw a strike) rock. These things do happen. Great rock music is made by young people, not overblown Hollywood types likes cornell/timpyland. Let's hope this is the first and last time these two nimrods make horrible tunes together.

 
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