First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2007, Volume 14, #6
Written by John Metzger
Fri June 29, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
The title to Chris Cornellís latest effort says it all: Carry On. Ten years ago, Soundgarden, the outfit that brought him fame and fortune, disbanded, and Audioslave, the so-called supergroup with which he since has spent the bulk of his time, recently fizzled out in a haze of creative differences. The combination of these events subsequently has left Cornell with no options but to soldier onward through the fog by releasing his second solo set. Unfortunately, rather than returning to the restless energy that he brought to Euphoria Morning ó the endeavor that eight years ago earned him heaps of critical praise as well as a Grammy, even as it was met with an apathetic yawn by his fans ó Cornell did what every aging rocker with a wife, a kid, and a house in France would do under similar circumstances: He played it safe.
Throughout Carry On, Cornell adorned himself in a number of musical costumes that were designed not only to forge a connection to his past but also to move his music forward. He cops from Mobyís Natural Blues on Sheíll Never Be Your Man, fills Safe and Sound with an array of soul-imbued inflections, and turns his grungy roots into the Guns N Roses theatricality of You Know My Name, which also served as the theme to the latest James Bond flick. Elsewhere, he uses Stones-y guitar riffs to propel Your Soul Today, plucks a guitar solo from Robby Kriegerís playbook for Scar on the Sky, and crosses George Harrison with The Band on Finally Forever.
The problem, however, is that although Cornell casts a wide net, he never latches onto anything meaningful. Even when he does cut loose during the Soundgarden-esque grunge of No Such Thing, itís easy to see that his heart just isnít in it. As the drums crash and boom and the guitars chug and scream, Cornell unleashes the kind of powerful wailing that he could deliver in his sleep, but the gut-wrenching angst that ought to be there is noticeably absent. Itís inordinately telling that Carry Onís riskiest moment comes during his rendition of Michael Jacksonís Billie Jean, but although the dark, blues-y undercurrent that he unveils (courtesy of Mark Lanegan) is a tad unsettling, his interpretation of the tune still manages to fall flat. Lost and adrift, Cornell frequently sounds like he is caught in a time warp. He doesnít want to return to the raging, heavy metal fury of Soundgarden, but he also isnít sure how to translate his past successes into something that is befitting of his age. As the lackluster quality of Carry On proves, trying to advance without a clear-cut game plan is a recipe for disaster.
Of Further Interest...
Carry On is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box