Sound — 7
For those of us who grew up with the early, grunge-fueled days of Soundgarden, you're about to be in for a shock. Many of us know that Cornell has been branching out toward a more radio-friendly sound since splitting with Audioslave back in 2007, but the singer's latest effort is a huge leap into unfamiliar territory: dance music. Scream, Cornell's 3rd solo studio album, is rooted heavily in synth, sampling, and dance grooves. It's a logical result, considering that Cornell chose Timbaland (the man behind many Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado songs) to act as one of the main producers of the album. Long story short, the best way to go into listening to Scream is with a completely open mind.
Listening to the 1st track on the record, I seriously thought I had put in the wrong CD. There were no crunchy guitars, or even acoustics for that matter. The song Part of Me begins with majestic horns (or at least samples) and soon after a crazy and indecipherable voice that sounds like a cross between a robot and a demon. It's not really the way you expect a Cornell album to kick off, and it's not necessarily a bad thing - just extremely unexpected. After the elaborate intro, Part of Me morphs into what is essentially a dance song. Drum beats and samples drive the song, and it is actually infectious in a clubgoer sort of way.
The dance/R&B vibe stays consistent throughout, and Timbaland certainly has a way with creating some unusual mixes. Between the Middle Eastern vibe and rich vocal harmonies of Take Me Alive to the computer-like synth solo of Sweet Revenge, the creativity isn't lacking. Scream, which has a title that begs for some musical insanity (possibly of the metal kind), is actually one of the most laid-back songs on the album. Once again, Cornell knows how to raise a few eyebrows.
In the latter part of the album things tend to get a little repetitive. Granted, club/techno hits often rely on choruses that repeat the same line over and over again, and given the content on Scream, that's probably what Timbaland and Cornell were going for. If you're a fan of a more stripped-down sound that gets back to the basics, you'll have to wait until the final track. Two Drink Minimum is a bluesy little number co-written by John Mayer, and while it's still a far cry from Pretty Noose or Loud Love, it's nice to hear instruments in their raw form come through the mix.
Lyrics — 8
When you compare the lyrics on Scream to Cornell's past works, it definitely seems like many of them been written to fit the dance genre. Part of Me is a prime example with lines such as, I love the girl, I'm lovin' the dress she wears; She's got a hold, got a hold of me neck, oh yeah. Not every tracks is as quite as superficial, and there are a few that are more emotionally driven. In Long Gone Cornell sings, I used to watch your flowers grow; Now it's raining and all your petals turns to stone; I've been praying; I turn around and see my rose. The lyrical content may not be quite as strong as what we've heard in some Soundgarden songs, but in comparison to the music it's nothing too out of the ordinary.
Overall Impression — 7
The cover photo for Scream couldn't be more fitting: Chris appears to look as if he's about to smash the living crap out of his guitar. I may be reading too much into it, but it certainly does seem to relay a message that you don't always need a guitar as the centerpiece to create a quality song. If you don't like the idea of dance music fueled by funky samples and drum machines, you may be quite angry with the direction that Cornell has chosen. When compared with his last release Carry On, you do have to give him credit for being more innovative. Having Timbaland as a producer could guarantee him success with a whole new audience, and those listeners will likely be the most receptive to Cornell's new club-driven repertoire. For those who are still mad that he went to a softer style of rock in Audioslave, Scream might be the final straw.