"Scream" by Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell
Scream

Mosley Music Group
2009

Review

Chris Cornell and Timberland. Read it again. Yup. It happened. There's proof. There's an album out. You know? Chris Cornell? Soundgarden? Audioslave? That James Bond theme song? I know, right? Sounds ludicrous, no? Well, it happened and here it is.

For some people, all I have to say to make up their minds about this album is that there are moments where Chris's voice is corrected using auto-tune...

...OK, for the few of you that are still here, this album is surprising to say the least. I mean, just from the liner notes where you see one "Timothy Mosley" you could have probably known that. I know, we got a taste of Timberland's Rock stylings from that Hives album that nobody bought, but this here is an entirely different beast. This album is Chris Cornell singing like Chris Cornell and Timberland producing like Timberland does. So what does that mean exactly? Well, to start with, I wasn't sure what genre to file this under. After some thought, I figured "Rock" seemed to me the right place. Although "Pop", "Electronic", "Dance" or "Soul" could have also been ok. This is an album that is first and foremost inspired by Rock music. Chris Cornell is a Rock singer and just because you give him a danceable beat doesn't mean he's going to transform into NeYo. I say inspired by Rock, that is also to say that it is popular music with a Rock sensibility. The cover art does a good job of setting expectations. On the cover, there is Chris Cornell, midair about to smash a guitar to little pieces.

I think that this album is going to see a fair amount of ridicule on the basis of the fact that you have a well regarded Rock and Roll singer partnering with the most commercial of the commercialists (remember Rivers Cuomo's sarcastic line from "Pork and Beans" about how he wondered about hitting the top of the charts with a little help from Timberland?) but let's not forget that Timberland is very good at what he does. I mean, he made Justin Timberlake sound more like classic Michael Jackson than Michael Jackson himself. So let's move on from the fact that this album is already in the realms of ridiculousness conceptually and try to see it for what it is which is an infinitely danceable Pop-Rock record created using more drum-machines than guitars. And it works! It really does. If you are willing to just throw your preconceptions out the window and go with it, I think you'll have a good time.

From the get-go, you know you aren't going to get a standard Rock record. I mean, if the smashing guitar artwork wasn't enough of a sign, the first track is already in full-on dancefloor-pop-rock by way of Michael Jackson - remember that Chris Cornell already covered "Billie Jean." It should come as no surprise that he and Timberland start things off with their own version (prequel?) of that song. It took me until about halfway through the album on first listen to decide that I was actually enjoying what I was listening to. It took me that long to start to think, "Ok, I get it, and I'm just going to go with it."

Going back to the Michael Jackson influence there is a definite nod to MJ throughout the album. The opening track and "Sweet Revenge" are good examples of that. Even the title of the album, I mean "Scream" was an MJ track as well. Thankfully the MJ influence is the danceable MJ and I think that it was a good choice considering how much the album is geared towards making you shake your money-maker.

The first track only hints at the goodness that can result from the synergy of the two. The second track "Time" perfects it. You have a great, Rock inspired Dance track that with loads of energy to it that acts as a great backdrop for Chris Cornell to lend his tremendous voice to. If you thought that Chris Cornell's voice wasn't made to get you to the dancefloor, just take a listen to "Get Up" so you can be educated. The single that has been chosen to represent the album "Long Gone" is also another example of this formula working perfectly.

For me, the only moments where the formula doesn't quite work are the tracks "Never Far Away" and "Take Me Alive." I think that these tracks just fall a bit flat and "Never Far Away" in particular sounds a bit generic and forced. But the rest of the album is effortless.

The album is one continuous mix of music and all I can think of when I listen to it is how fun and exhausting it would be just dance to the whole thing end to end.

Ok, look. Clearly, most people are going to sleep on this one. I happen to be a big enough fan of Chris's voice to give anything he sings on a chance. Also, while I may not always be a fan of popular music, I can appreciate popular music done well. And there is a reason why Timberland is as popular as he is. The man is good at what he does. Here you have an established Rock artist that is willing to commit 100% to lending his voice and energy over music generated by computers, samplers, and synthesizers rather than the usual drum kit and guitars (although there is a touch of guitar on nearly every track). It's that total commitment that makes the album work (I think the lack of commitment is what hurt Timberland's work with The Hives - two or three tracks wasn't enough to get the formula down). This album could have been a colossal misstep. But it isn't. And if you are at all able to accept popular music as being good when it is, then you're going to find a lot to love here. This isn't a 100% pure Rock and Roll record. I won't even say that this is the future of Rock and Roll. But it is a very well crafted crossover album that deserves the attention of those willing to take a chance on something different and who aren't afraid to let loose and dance once and a while.

Chris says it best himself on "Sweet Revenge":

Why they wanna cause me to trip
Why they wanna see me take a fall
They wanna get something for nothing
Wanna see me jumping and running
Let me talk to the fans
I ain't gonna stop doing this til I'm deep in the ground
I've come too far to give up now
Walk with me now

...well, walking or dancing, I couldn't agree more.

4.385 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. Part of Me (05:14) 4
2. Time (04:39) 5
3. Sweet Revenge (04:10) 5
4. Get Up (03:35) 5
5. Ground Zero (03:09) 5
6. Never Far Away (05:06) 3
7. Take Me Alive (04:35) 3
8. Long Gone (05:15) 5
9. Scream (06:14) 4
10. Enemy (04:35) 5
11. Other Side of Town (04:48) 4
12. Climbing Up the Walls (04:50) 5
13. Watch Out / Two Drink Minimum (08:07) 4