Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

For its first 59 seconds, Audioslave's self-titled debut sounds like a Rage Against The Machine record, propelled by Tom Morello's inventively chattering guitar and a dose of whomping riffery. Then Chris Cornell's blustery wail chimes in, and Audioslave settles in as (and settles for sounding like) the long-lost follow-up to Soundgarden's 1996 swan song, Down On The Upside. A curious idea from its inception, pairing Soundgarden's singer with Rage's musicians promises a unique alchemy it can't entirely deliver, obscuring the latter's politics and distinct sound. ("What You Are," for example, sounds unsettlingly like a collaboration of Cornell's old band and late-period Red Hot Chili Peppers.) But the disc is a godsend for Soundgarden fans who didn't care for the muted shadings of Cornell's underrated solo album: With producer Rick Rubin turning the knobs to arena-ready settings, subtlety isn't a top priority. Aside from the share-the-wealth anthem "Hypnotize" and the titular reference to the Apache chief on "Cochise," Audioslave rarely advances an overt message, but Morello makes his musical presence felt at times, soloing to memorable effect on "Bring Em Back Alive," "Shadow On The Sun," and "Like A Stone." Still, the album is most notable as a solid but unspectacular comeback vehicle for Cornell. Regardless of expectations surrounding the return and combination of two iconic bands, Audioslave mostly concentrates on rocking—directly, powerfully, and basically. As hard-rock pairings go, it's nowhere near Queens Of The Stone Age's inspired collaboration with Dave Grohl, but it's still a worthy chapter in the history of the acts that spawned it.


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