Album Review: Chris Cornell – Scream




Never have more insincere words been uttered than, “That bitch ain’t a part of me.” Hearing them come out of Chris Cornell’s mouth, however — now that hurts. It’s hard to recall a more recent, drastic departure than from the bleeding sincerity of “Black Hole Sun” to the opening track here on Cornell’s third solo effort, Scream, but we’ll take suggestions. With Scream, Cornell’s new collaboration with hip-hop mega producer Timbaland pours on synths and drum machines, replacing the dark, trudging guitars and actual drumming of the past. It’s baffling, really. To make matters worse, these elements have seemingly stolen anything that used to be considered soulful in Cornell’s vocals.

To be fair, and with all negatives put aside for the moment, some tracks do have redeemable qualities to them. If you can escape the first, let’s say, four tracks, then the middle part of this solo endeavor becomes quite listenable.

“Ground Zero” is fairly catchy and finds Cornell at his bluesiest here. On the whole though, it probably would have worked better for say…Nelly Furtado? (Odds are she didn’t want it.) Next up, “Never Far Away” finds him calling back to a girlfriend and explaining, “Girl there’s no doubt/ my love’s real as it comes.” If that’s not enough of a bone chiller, he continues with, “So rest assured/ our love endures/ I’m never far away.” Now, do you see the problem in taking the new hip-hop Chris Cornell seriously yet?

“Take Me Alive” goes all middle eastern on us before a guitar kicks in and brings you back to the rock universe. Considering what we’ve heard up to this point, this is probably the best track yet. “Long Gone” regresses backwards musically, but Cornell’s voice leaves it a step above those early tracks. There’s also a lyric here that seems to mirror the album’s disastrous turn of events, “That’s why I’m long gone, long gone/ You need to let me fly alone.”

Title track and current lead single, “Scream”, is just catchy, but more in the vein of Kanye West. Regardless, Cornell’s screams, alongside Timbaland’s programmed beats, work surprisingly well here. Unfortunately, the sonic pain quickly returns once “Enemy” kicks in, and when he growls, “I am the enemy,” you’re likely to believe it.

“Climbing up the Walls” almost feels like they told Timbaland to get out of the room. It’s amazing how uplifting a track this is in pale comparison to the rest of the album. The real drums fire up, the guitars rock, and Cornell sounds as good as ever. It’d be nice if the album ended here, but it wouldn’t make for a cohesively mediocre album. Much like the tepid opener, “Watch Out” ends Scream on a sour tone that’s just, well, awful.

What’s important to note is how each track transitions from one to another. It’s very subtle here, allowing the old song to fade out as a new one chimes in. It’s a shame the same can’t be said for this quantum “musical” leap in Cornell’s career. Looking back on Scream, the ex-grunge rocker could have used a better transition to this new style, especially if it’s one he plans on following up.