|By Zach Patterson||Monday, 13 Aug 2007|
This album is terrible. I can’t come up with any better way to put it. It’s a manipulative album that has been expertly built by a record company to sell copies based on the name without really having the semblance of an album. There are essentially 3 songs on this album: the stereotypical rockin’ opener to lure in the Soundgarden/Audioslave fans, the cover of “Billie Jean” (which, while nothing too special, is listenable), and then the previously released Bond single, “You Know My Name”. Everything between is filler.
Now, this can work for some artists. You build an album on 3 big songs and put a lot of decent to mediocre stuff in between and it works out okay. Chuck and I discussed this fact over some drinks at the bar on Saturday night, and how many 80′s bands did this and found fans and commercial success. However, even the big 3 songs on this album are not solid, so the rest of the product’s deficiencies are even more glaring. For example, the opener, “No Such Thing”, is a bit more rock than I expected, but that doesn’t mean it is very good. It has a very dull, unmemorable riff and a very forgettable guitar tone. When taking in the guitarists from Cornell’s past (and even his last solo album), this is a massive disappointment.
Speaking of Cornell’s other solo album, that might as well have been a lifetime ago now. This album has none of the same musicians and sounds completely different. I was slightly encouraged seeing Gary Lucas’ name as a musician on this album, seeing as how he was a large direct influence on Jeff Buckley and Cornell was close with both of them, but it really just doesn’t mesh all that well. The feel of the album is so mishmashy. It starts off with a hard rockin’ song, touches on some R&B, has some really slow ballads, has a lot of ‘adult contemporary’ feel songs (ugggghhhhh), and then ends with an oddly placed rock song. I can’t really say it is one type of album or another. So really, it’s just not good. Most of it sounds like a guy in his mid-40′s trying to write music that is not his forte, but yet is afraid to truly buy into his own vision, so he threw some safe songs on the album that would attract more buyers. That just doesn’t fly with me, man. Get an idea for an album and sell that to me. Don’t try to solicit an album to me on false pretenses.
All this is enough to irritate me, but the real crime here is how truly awful the lyrics are. I mean, Chris Cornell is not exactly a master lyricist, but suffice to say, he’s made a lot of songs with pretty good lyrics that were very memorable (some of the stuff from the prime Soundgarden years provide pretty good examples). Well, for a solo album where the album is lacking musically, his lyrics would really have to take precedence, and you can plainly see here that they are just wretchedly bad and lame. I don’t care what context it is in a song, the chorus of a song should never start “Can I visit your arms?/Can I visit your legs?”. Seriously, that’s the best you can do? It’s pathetically lame, and it sounds more like a bad Rod Stewart or Bryan Adams song.
Then there is the bafflingly stupid “She’ll Never Be Your Man”, where Cornell laments “She can be your lover/She can be your friend/She can be your vision of a mother like the one you never had/She will know your troubles better than I can/But she’ll never be your man”, which, I can only hazard a guess, seems to be taking the stance that this woman he addresses the song to may be able to find happiness and understanding and love in another woman, but who cares!! SHE’LL NEVER BE YOUR MAN! What does that even fucking mean? At best, it’s an immature comment, and at worst, it can be interpreted as a strong anti-gay message. I don’t think that’s the case, but regardless, it’s still shitty song writing and the song is nearly unlistenable because of it. Other songs like “Poison Eye” have awkward word choices that don’t make sense, and “Arms Around Your Love” has overly sappy sentiments that make it hard to take seriously. The rest of the album is pretty much full of similar complaints in more forgettable songs.
The two previously mentioned songs that at least bear mentioning are “Billie Jean” and “You Know My Name”. “Billie Jean” is slowed down and has very minimal accompaniment, and while at times it borders on a little overwrought, it’s kinda neat to hear it in a different light than the Jackson original. Then there is “You Know My Name”, which is probably the closest that Cornell comes to sounding like his previous solo album, and is highlighted by some high production values. The problem is, this just screams “tacked on”. The obvious album ender is track 13, but then we get the easy single at the end to sweeten the deal, even though it really doesn’t fit the feel of the album at all and sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s not a great song, but it’s pretty good, it’s just a shame the rest of the album didn’t sound more like this. More false advertising.
To say this was a massive disappointment is an understatement. I was always a fan of his first solo album, even though I felt it took awhile to really appreciate. This album just has no semblance of that. I’ve tried to like this album for weeks, and it’s just not sinking in. There are a few songs that could have had potential (I think “Ghosts” is a decent, if unspectacular, pop song if you try to separate it from the rest of the album) but are marred by very incomplete, rushed-sounding music and awful lyrics and a completely aimless album concept. I would perhaps give this album just a “Poor”, but after finishing this review, I’m not sure I’m ever going to have the urge to listen to it again. To me, that’s a terrible album. And so it goes.