OAAR: Audioslave - Audioslave (2002)

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There is an interesting concept out there called a "Supergroup" or, in other words, a band made of extremely talented members of other bands that get together and have a big sonic baby (no, not the fast blue hedgehog type). Apparently there have been several bands put together that could fall under this category, but two particular ones jump out at me from the modern music perspective: Audioslave and Velvet Revolver. Each band brings together a unique set of flavors from each member but while Velvet Revolver was highly touted, it probably wouldn't have been as popular if it weren't for the success of Audioslave.

When Audioslave came on the scene with the self-titled album, Audioslave, the combination of members being touted was some of the best group of individuals I could have put together short of the members of Tool. After the success of political rap-rock group Rage Against the Machine and subsequent departure of Zack de la Rocha, guitar god Tom Morello and the other two members of Rage didn't really have much going on. They decided they'd continue to play together but needed a new frontman. Fast forward a bit and you'll come to the point where ex-Soundgarden singer, Chris Cornell, enters the fray. Bringing in some great vocal history to mix with the instrumental focus of Rage Against the Machine turned out to be quite a winning combination for a few years.

Audioslave starts off letting you know, for the most part, who the players are. Starting off with "Cochise" is the unmistakable sound of Tom Morello's guitar effects, then layers in some drums, and finally adds in the familiar raspy voice of Chris Cornell. This is a fantastic way to introduce you to a new group of individuals, to the key players and probably most importantly of all, to make sure you realize that this is something new instead of a rehash of past musical lives. While "Cochise" is a great song, it's the second track, "Show Me How to Live," that really defines how a supergroup should sound. Cornell's vocals in this song are top notch (especially the thing Cornell does with his voice at the end) and so are the incredible things that Morello does with his guitar. It's the perfect mix of insanely unique artists.

This whole album is an incredible collection of music, but there are definitely a couple standouts a bit later in the album. "Shadow on the Sun" is a great melding of clean guitar with the bass lines overlaid behind Cornell's controlled vocals followed by the heavier chorus. Of course, Tom Morello throws in a really unique sounding, very tasteful, solo that doesn't overpower or take anything away from the track. Even the screaming at the end of the track doesn't take away from the perfection of "Shadow on the Sun" which is a tough task to accomplish. The last track that really stands out to me is the smooth jam, "Getaway Car." As we've seen throughout the entirety of Audioslave, Chris Cornell has an incredibly powerful and versatile voice, but in "Getaway Car," he pulls back to give his voice a certain purity that isn't found on other tracks. All this and more makes Audioslave one of the top all around modern rock albums and is well worth the 65 minutes you'll spend enjoying this auditory delight.

Author: Jake

The debate over "supergroups" is like the debate for the perfect woman.  You never quite get everything you're looking for, and every positive trait carries with it one that might be regrettable later on down the line.  Want perfect curves?  She's a vegetarian.  Want a highly intellectual professional woman who exudes sexuality (and I do: apply within)?  She's probably a Vikings fan with daddy issues.  How about finally getting Metallica to do a 'supergroup' album?  They pick that piece of shit Lou Reed to team with and make you question your manhood.  Somehow, though, Audioslave has managed to entirely circumvent all of the attachment caveats.

Rage Against the Machine is/was at times great, often good, but too often barely tolerable with their overt political messages.  Soundgarden has always been out of place in the grunge scene, at least according to my musical pallet, and their song construction style has always resembled A Perfect Circle more than Nirvana or Alice In Chains.  But when you take the best parts of both and mash it together into a single band, Chris Cornell's awesome vocals mix with the tight, simple, melody-driven rhythm section of RATM so seamlessly that you begin to wonder why no one thought of this before.  And, in fact, simplicity is the key to the success of Audioslave's self-titled debut.  Cornell's vocals would probably be just as comfortable on a new Soundgarden album, and Morello's collection of one-note melodies could easily be layered under Zack de la Rocha whining about George Bush or lack of public subsidies or whatever.  Instead, they're together, here, on this album, in what is the sneakiest aural orgasm (aur-gasm?) you'll ever be a part of.  This album is top notch from front to back, aided in large part because the tempo of almost every song is the same (a possible nod to AC/DC) and thus the listen is very smooth.

The album's top singles, "Cochise" and "Show Me How To Live", are catchy tunes that showcase Cornell's ability to weave between a pleasant tenor and screaming staccato phrasing and have understandably endured.  The best display of talent and songwriting comes near the disc's end, however, as the straightforward rock of "Light My Way" is succeeded with the tastefully simple chord progression that drives "Getaway Car".  The scoresheet above shows that I've littered Audioslave with 4s and a couple 5s.  The 2 for experience, however, is in fact a reflection of the album's success.  It is so smooth and even from open to close that you find yourself wishing for a straightforward thrasher just so that particular song can stick out like a sore thumb.  But overall, if you can say you go about your business in an "Audioslave" mood you're probably leading an enjoyable life...and your girl/guy is probably a 14/10.  You lucky bastard.
Author: Pete

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