Afternoon Baseball

Common-sense ruminations on baseball and culture.

The answer to the above question?
Right now, yes, although probably not by the end of the year. But just like Incubus’ much-underappreciated Crow Left of the Murder, it deserves the hype because of its intricate skill and consistent high points over the course of an album -- something rarely seen from bands nor often rewarded in the charts.
So without further adieu...

Audioslave's debut album was anticipated as the stuff of legends -- the supergroup was from the smoldering ashes of Rage Against The Machine and the wanderings of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell -- but it turned out to be a thud. Now, don’t misinterpret; their self-titled debut was a solid rock piece and had highlights. It featured a few dynamite cuts, such as the first single “Cochise,” the sounds-like-it’s-name “Exploder,” and an offbeat but wicked ballad “Like A Stone.”
But this album also suffered from a clear lack of bonding and familiarity between Cornell and the Rage guys, who all seemed to be in a competition to see who could be less assertive musically, in essence taking the farthest back seat possible to Cornell’s vocals, particluarly in the drumming -- Brad Wilk’s slow and oh-so-bored drumming destroyed momentum in a way not seem since Lars Ulrich and the Load/Reload sessions.
Granted, those vocals were something ridiculous -- “Getaway Car” is something so deliberate and groovy that neither Soundgarden nor RATM could have pulled it off. Cornell launches a gravelly sonic assault not only there, but also “The Last Remaining Light,” “Shadow on the Sun” and virtually every track, for that matter. While his early Soundgarden voice is long dead, this new growling, window-breaking, and far-ranging beast was something insanely addictive.
So what does all this rambling have to do with the new release, Out of Exile? Well, it’s the first time Audioslave has been a band, and not just a supergroup. RATM always had the annoying habit of seemingly taking songs off; even Tom Morello fell into this trap. Well, not on this album. The RATM guys decided to stop sounding like any other rock band and just do their thing, and they mesh with Cornell much better than you’d expect. Cornell and Morello deliever on every song, and compel their bandmates to rise to the occasion.

First track: “Your Time Has Come.” Little Morello riff at the beginning, and then, wait...whoa, some actual drumming. The riffs are pretty much the standard Audioslave riffs, but they are propelled by the drumming because Wilk decided to stop his intensive study of the high-hat for at least one album. The big, fat distorted bass of old is all over this album, too, by the way, here supremely backing up the in-control solo.
The next track is the title track. Again, very much like several of the slower riffing songs from the previous album, but backed up with good drumming and more innovative (and audible) bass work. And wait, is the rhythm section pulling out some sick fills? Damn, we have a band that’s back on track.
By the way, for a nasty bass opening, check out “Yesterday To Tommorrow,” which for some reason reminded me of “Eye of the Tiger” with the way the song starts out. In a good way, not the outdated way. Some great moves from Mr. Commerford also in “Drown Me Slowly” and “Man or Animal,” not surprisingly tracks where the drumming comes through as well.
The solos? Well, Tom Morello busts out all the effects, all the speed, and doesn’t care if he has to take 30 or 40 seconds to get his point across. Too many songs to mention, and not always where you’d expect them. You’ll just have to listen for yourself.
Cornell’s vocal abilities and top range continue to deteriorate at a rate not seen since Robert Plant. But he seems to learn more about singing each album, so that even here, he turns in fantastic vocals on several songs. He might have consciously reined in his voice, also. After all, on Audioslave his voice was like an explosion of color, but it shoved everything else out of the picture.

I’m gushing over this album, I know. But it’s that good, and it’s as close to Soundgarden or Rage that you’re ever going to get -- not psychedelic, not rap-rock, but music with that takes bigger chances and has greater consistency. Great rock from great musicians near the top of their games all working together. That’s what music is all about, baby.
And if you still don’t believe me, check out “Number 1 Zero.” At all different points there’s subtlety, rhythm spotlighting, some bluesy feel, and oh yeah; it also knocks you off your chair. That’s a mission accomplished. (And God, I desperately hope the Foo Fighters’ new double-album can do the same)

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