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Rage Against the Audioslave
2005-06-12 11:42
by Scott Long

Rage Against the Machine was one of the best bands of the 1990's, but when they called it quits in 2000, it seemed like an appropriate time, as they seemed to have explored almost everything they could do in the rock/rap genre. It was exciting news when guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerfold, and drummer Brad Wilk announced they were reforming with Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell as the "supergroup" Audioslave. At a point when Creed and Limp Biskit ruled the rock radio airwaves, Audioslave's eponymous release gave these stations some needed quality.

If you could go into a laboratory to create the perfect hard rock singer, the result would be Cornell. The mix of his majestic pipes and heavy metal god-like looks, makes him the perfect choice to front a hard rock band. From the beginning, the name of the band and the CD cover art, made me a little queasy about Cornell's influence, but the music won out, as Audioslave's first release was one of the best of 2002.

The video to the first single, Cochise, was how a hard rock video should look and it didn't hurt that the song kicked harder than Ray Guy. Tom Morello's unique guitar style was abundant all over this release, especially on "Gasoline". The great rhythm section of Commerfold and Wilk were in fine form bringing their funky thud all over the record, while on "Light My Way", you got to hear what Rage would have sounded like if Cornell were just a hired gun. The former RATM members showed they could even provide a great backbeat to Cornell's bluesy ballad, "Getaway Car".

Considering that I felt the first Audioslave release was one of the best of 2002, I decided to go out and pick up their newest release, the first day it came out. Now I did have some trepidation about doing this, as the first single, "Be Yourself", I had listened to on MTV2 a few times the week prior, and was taken aback by how power ballad-ish the music was and how the lyrics seemed influenced by a Dr. Phil episode. Despite this initial reaction, I figured it was just a bad choice for the initial release.

Unfortunately, most of Audioslave's "Out of Exile" follows the "Be Yourself" example. From the cover art, which resembles a Ronnie James Dio album to the ridiculous lyrics which endlessly go over the sun, the waves, the clouds, it would appear that Cornell is in full control of the project. Black Hole Sun's and My Waves were great back in grunge era Soundgarden, but it's time to get past obsessing about the earth's elements. All the blame is not on Cornell, though, as the rest of the band rarely brings anything new to disc. Only some great licks on "Drown Me Slowly" and the dramatic passion displayed in "Heaven's Dead", saves this from being a snorefest.

Isn't it time to bring former RATM singer, Zach de la Rosa out of exile? Despite threatening a solo record since they broke up, only one movie soundtrack tune has hit the public from de la Rosa. It's like he's been hanging out in some rock and roll witness protection with Axl Rose. Isn't it ironic that when the band stops raging, the US undergoes a right-wing blast from Bush and his phony-crony crew. Just when the band would seem to be most needed, Zach is nowhere to be found and Tom is playing power chords behind "Be yourself is all that you can do." The first Audioslave release was a great change of pace, but guys, it's time to fight the powers that be.

Stepping into the void left by Rage, has been System of a Down. Coming out the week after "Out of Exile", System of a Down's "Mesmerize" just magnifies how weak Audioslave second release is. "Mesmerize" is the first of what will be 2 new releases in 2005 by SOAD and it just happens to be the best CD from start to finish, since Green Day's "American Idiot". The band manages to do something very difficult-- take on social and political issues, while still making dynamic music.

If you haven't heard System of a Down, before, listening to them is like hearing a mix tape scattered with early Metallica, Frank Zappa, Queen, and Primus. Kind of like a reuben sandwich, the ingredients don't seem to fit well together, but somehow, their merging flavors leave something delicious to consume. The standout song, "B.Y.O.B" is a brilliant mix of ideas, with a great anti-war message. Not since Midnight Oil's "Beds are Burning" has a tune been so catchy and subversive at the same time.

Overall I would rate "Mesmerize" an A, while "Out of Exile" gets a C-. In today's world of downloading, it's rare to have a need to purchase a whole disc, but System of a Down's "Mesmerize" is one of the exceptions.

2005-06-13 08:38:28
1.   Todd S
Scott, thanks for the reviews. There are still those of us who are behind the times and are buying CDs only, so I appreciate you looking at the entire album. I just added the 2002 Audioslave and System of a Down, Mesmerise to my perpetual Amazon list. I was predisposed to buy American Idiot, but the reviews here cinched it.
2005-06-13 10:22:37
2.   Vic
Nice post, Scott. "Cochise" was a great song, but most of Audioslave's subsequent output has been depressingly subpar, considering the prodigious talent its members bring to the table.

I think I'm the only person I know who's pretty disappointed with the new System album. Nearly every review I've read hails it as a rollicking, blistering, unrelenting masterwork...which perfectly describes the band's 2002 release, "Toxicity." Perhaps it's due to the quasi-double-album concept, but I couldn't help but find "Mezmerize" somewhat slapdash in comparison to the heights the band reached on its previous album (though "BYOB" definitely rocks). Still, it's encouraging to see such an adventurous and diverse band achieve success in the Linkin Park/Good Charlotte/etc. morass that passes for mainstream rock these days.

2005-06-13 10:55:12
3.   curioso
"Isn't it ironic that when the band stops raging, the US undergoes a right-wing blast from Bush and his phony-crony crew."

Give me a farking break. You think anyone with half a brain gives a rat's ass about what some two-bit corporate "anti-corporate" rock band says about politics?

Or, for that matter, what some blogging kid who's probably never held a mortgage says about politics?

The fact is that the entertainment world's impact on politics is exactly what it should be: Nil.

Stick to baseball. The juvenile ("phony-crony" ... that's some hard-hitting analysis), half-formed political rants really diminish the appeal of this blog.

2005-06-13 17:16:48
4.   Scott Long

Listen up jerky, I'm a guy who's had a mortgage for over 10 years, not that makes me better than someone who doesn't, but I'm guessing in your delusional world, you believe everyone's a neoconservative that does have a mortgage.
Do I take everything musicians write as fact---no, but I respect when they put some time and thoughts into their lyrics. RATM was far too leftist for my belief system, but I think different voices from different fields, make for a more interesting world. I can guarantee you that System of a Down has affected more 16 year old minds, than anyone on Fox News or CNN has.

I'm sure you were one of the people saying going into Iraq was a slam dunk decision, but even some Republicans, like Chuck Hagel and Lindsay Graham have called the way we have went about it, dumb.

Considering you have stated a bunch of half truths and use the word "farking", I'm not really too concerned about what you think of my writing. In regards to the stick to baseball, guess what, there are plenty of other places to go if you just want that. What makes this site unique is that our main topic is baseball, but we also have other topics to discuss. I think it makes the site better than most, as we have some really intelligent discussions, with a love a baseball being our common thread.

2005-06-13 19:36:31
5.   Indefinite
I think it's Zach de la Rocha.

In the lead up to the 2004 election, there were a series of "protest songs" released mostly as one-offs by several groups. Some of them were Chumbawumba "Jacob's Ladder"; Loudon Wainwright "President's Day"; Beastie Boys "In A World Gone Mad"; Zach de la Rocha w/DJ Shadow "March of Death". Zach still had it.

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