If you think about it, Soundgarden wasn’t much more than a skinnier, younger Bad Company, and singer Chris Cornell is Paul Rodgers incarnate — the booming melodramatic croak, the omnipresent chest pubes, the swelling ego, the blatantly careerist strides, the affected arena moves, the preening homoeroticism, etc. And like Rodgers, Cornell suffers from Arena Rock Frontman Disease, which is this: Do the gazillion-selling band (Soundgarden) and then bail. Next, offer up the patented take-me-serious-as-an-artist solo record, which, of course, tanks. Then, just as the gushing money fountain slows to a trickle, do the super-group hustle (three Rage Against The Machine wank-musos plus Cornell = Audioslave), which guarantees much head from MTV and platinum plaques.
On this, Audioslave’s second, we get a similar chuckle-free, histrionic din that, a decade ago, made Soundgarden a sound track to every chainlink-and-cinderblock existence that whiffed of bathtub meth, days-old Happy Meals and state-assisted desperation. There’s lots of jizz-splatting riffs that would’ve done Grand Funk Railroad proud (dig the Mel Schacher bassline on "Drown Me Slowly"). Even when corny Cornell chirps pop melody (see "Doesn’t Remind Me") he’s still a titillating narcissist whose screeched, oh-so-deep personal revelations come off as if his are more important than yours, as if he feels things more than you do. Maybe he does; he is an "artist," after all. Truth be told, there ain’t nothin’ like a millionaire rock star mook taking the tack of a condescending asshole. To be kind, we imagine his a desperate howl for redemption, a howl to be free of the alpha-maleness of his creepy, pompous man-in-black, Paris-hipster-meets-Paul Rodgers deportment. And of Paul Rodgers? He’s supergroupin’ it again as Freddy Mercury’s fill-in (just call it Bad Queen).
Brian Smith is the music editor of Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.