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Album review: Chris Cornell's 'Scream'

March 9, 2009 |  5:48 pm

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

One star