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Chris Cornell - Carry On

Chris Cornell, Carry On

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

THE second solo album from former Soundgarden man Chris Cornell is a really mixed offering. Occasionally good, sometimes bad and frequently just plain average it’s a frustrating affair that never really ignites as it should.

In the 10 years since Soundgarden’s much lamented split, Cornell has moved to France, sobered up, put out a critically-acclaimed solo album and formed the supergroup Audioslave. But he continues to be something of an enigma musically – a distinct presence (especially vocally) who continually struggles to realise his early potential.

Carry On offers 16 tracks that veer from the harder edge of No Such Thing and Poison Eye to the blues of Safe And Sound via the cinematic scope of You Know My Name and the much talked about cover version of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean.

But as that list suggests, it’s a very mixed bag. Billie Jean, in particular, stands out like a sore thumb. It’s a gritty take that strips away the dancefloor beats in favour of a slower build, almost ballad-style of lovelorn delivery.

You have to take notice of it – but you tend to scratch your head afterwards in bewilderment.

Cornell’s Bond theme, You Know My Name is also a strange offering and much maligned at the time of the release of Casino Royale. I’m all for trying something different but it needed to be harder.

Carry On is on much surer footing when it keeps things heavier. Album opener No Such Thing taps into the harder, more exhilarating edge of his Soundgarden and Audioslave days, featuring some crunching guitars and an equally emphatic set of vocals.

While Poison Eye continues the trend and suggests the album might be a blistering return to form. It’s steeped in the type of classic American rock values of bands like Pearl Jam.

But the tender, more commercial nods put things on the back foot, with Arms Around Your Love a surprisingly drippy offering that’s way too sentimental. The melodies seem to be reaching for a Californian sunshine vibe but there’s something about the “lovely” chorus that grates. It’s just not in keeping with the Cornell sound.

The blues guitar of Safe And Sound is a more interesting offering that seems to be taking its cue from contemporary Eric Clapton, while making its impassioned plea for world peace. It works – just.

As does She’ll Never Be Your Man, which hints at some R&B flavouring and heralds another interesting shift.

Skip the average Ghosts and you reach Killing Birds, another interesting experiment in alt-rock that finds Cornell resembling Eddie Vedder. It’s a slow-builder of epic scope that gets better with repeat listening.

But then you have to wait until Silence The Voices for the album to really catch your attention again – another epic slow-builder that emerges as a potential anthem for fans to embrace.

Cornell says of the album that he wanted to really stretch himself and experiment – and there’s plenty of evidence of him doing so.

But while the strength of its ambition is beyond doubt and it draws on some excellent talent – including jazz bassist Miles Mosley and legendary guitarists Gary Lucas and Brian Ray – there’s just a nagging sense that Carry On should have been a great deal better.

Perhaps Cornell is still haunted by his past success…

Download picks: No Such Thing, Poison Eye, Safe And Sound, Killing Birds, Silence The Voices, She’ll Never Be Your Man

Track listing:

  1. No Such Thing
  2. Poison Eye
  3. Arms Around Your Love
  4. Safe And Sound
  5. She’ll Never Be Your Man
  6. Ghosts
  7. Killing Birds
  8. Billie Jean
  9. Scar On The Sky
  10. Your Soul Today
  11. Finally Forever
  12. Silence The Voices
  13. Disappearing Act
  14. You Know My Name
  15. Today
  16. Roads We Choose

  1. I think that so far the new songs have shown promise. Soundgarden was a decade ago.. things will never be the same, but now better!

    lisa    May 28    #
  2. An interesting review but a bit of a self-contradictory one – you applaud the fact that the album is experimental and exploratory, but then criticise a song on the basis that “it’s just not in keeping with the Cornell sound.”. Do make up your mind, dear!

    Clare    May 29    #
  3. I think the album accuarately reflects the happier personal place that Cornell appears to now be in. The album is not as dark and brooding as past offerings but the voice and songwriting ability for me keep Chris way ahead of the game. Also – go see him live if you get a chance – he was truly stunning at the Astoria a few weeks ago.

    Ally Bally    May 29    #
  4. I don’t want Chris Cornell wrapped up in a pretty package and labeled. I LIKE that he is all over the music genre and impossible to pin down. You’ll never get bored with his sound and music that way!

    Tina    May 30    #
  5. Wow, I do not like the new album at all. I have loved everything Chris Cornell has done, but i am VERY disappointed with the album. I was so excited for it too. Hopefully the next album will make up for this one. Still love Chris, don't get me wrong, but a big let down for me personally.

    Mike    May 31    #
  6. Like Mike, I am also quite disappointed with the album. Unlike the reviewer, I think You Know My Name is excellent, but there’s little else on Carry On to get excited about. I think there are three Chris Cornell’s – the one that fronts a kick-ass rock band, the one that encapsulates an audience with an acoustic guitar and the one which tries to arrive somewhere in the middle and sounds MOR. I think Carry On is in the MOR category. Cornell is a genius and is responsible for some of the best rock songs of the 1990s and 2000s, but this offering just makes fans like me long for former glories.

    Andy    May 31    #
  7. I love how everyone is defending the new album by accusing the reviewer of being too attached to routine.

    Yes, it’s good that Chris is inventive and dynamic. But that doesn’t make a mediocre album good.

    hazy    Jun 1    #
  8. I am disappointed too. I find myself skipping over alot of songs between the first one and You Know My Name. Even the first one starts heavy and then drops into soft acoustic guitar strumming mode – his voice is not as grating as usual and the choruses of most songs sound like Chris has developed an artificial voice – if that makes any sense. Make no mistake – i follow his work because he is awesome. Arms Around Your Love works well. Finally: You Know My Name truly rocks (there is a better version not on this album ).

    Omar    Jun 1    #
  9. I agree with Andy, You Know My Name is great, but the rest of the album is not very interesting. I’d like Chris to do something a bit more ‘modern’, i.e. I’d like to see him get out of his 90s rut and incorporate a more actual sound (this doesn’t exclude experimentation).

    atn    Jun 2    #
  10. Interesting that so many people are queuing up to defend Know My Name now. It’s a bad song, everyone, and the ONLY bad thing about Casino Royale. The rest of Carry On, however, is great. Arms Around Your Love, No Such Thing, Scar on The Sky, love em all… Let’s not be negative, or put Chris off from continuing to stretch himself. Soundgarden was years ago – he’s moved on and so should you.

    Jade    Jun 2    #
  11. I can’t believe not more people haven’t picked up on Jack’s comments on Billie Jean. Surely, one of the oddest choices of cover tracks by an artist ever – and one of the biggest bodges. Chris, what were you thinking mate? You’re capable of so much better

    Steve    Jun 2    #
  12. I’m glad to see there’s been so many mixed reviews. I must admit that after everything ‘Cornell’ so far it never crossed my mind that his latest album would be anything other than great. I’m sad to report I was wrong. After many listens I was scatching my head as to why, and can only explain in terms of a feeling that there could have been so much more!
    After reading through it has helped. It is experimental- no doubt - and you can definitely see the direction he’s going in. But confusingly I find for every catchy riff or nice piece of instrumentalism (?!) we are only seconds away from something equally bland - from basic vocals to directionless chord changes.
    Sometimes it works, others it doesn’t, and in the latter case I almost feel that the songs suffered from too little (or equally too MUCH) work.

    At the end of the day, I think we can look back at his previous work and now and again fnd ourselves compelled to press play. However I feel that after the initial buzz this album will be more likely to be passed over.

    Ryan    Jun 3    #
  13. For us fans who listened to Euphoria Morning for months on end, and still listen to it, we rejoice in this record… because it will successfully shake off all the fans who thought Audioslave was the best thing ever… wave goodbye!

    ben    Jun 5    #
  14. Everyone keeps using the Soundgarden comparison when talking about Cornell’s former work, whether it is to say they are glad he is moving on from that, or to announce that they were the good ol’ days.

    I personally found myself comparing this album to Euphoria Morning when listening to it, which I assumed to be the logical point of comparison. And using that as my point, I have to say I was largely disappointed with this album. I was so excited to put it on and listen to it after I got it home, and after the first three tracks I was left feeling underwhelmed entirely.

    It wasn’t until Safe and Sound, and She’ll Never Be Your Man came on that I started to get my hopes up again. Alas, the album never delivered. It had potential, and it had a handful of great tracks… but it never reached the standard I would have hoped from a Cornell record.

    It’s not a bad album… it’s just, as someone else said, mediocre.

    Brett    Jun 6    #
  15. His voice alone is enough to buy the cd. It’s never been better. Very diverse offerings, and something for every fan.

    Jill

    hear4cc    Jun 7    #
  16. This album is amazing… his solo work is definitely among his best. Agree with Jill – he takes some risks, and it pays off in the form of an extremely diverse, catchy, well written record. Great to see him extending himself. Can’t wait to hear what he does next. Buy this album!

    Stew    Jun 9    #
  17. “It’s just not in keeping with the Cornell sound.”

    I think his sound is ever-evolving, it doesn’t have to fit into a certain box. That’s what is so exciting about this album to me. I love Ghosts for the optimistic and happy feeling it gives me. I haven’t quite had that reaction to a CC song before. Disappearing Act has more of the familiar melancholy feeling and is really beautiful. Poison Eye has a lot of great energy. I really love this album.

    silverbitta    Jun 12    #
  18. I agree silverbitta. I love that Cornell has evolved in such a way that I can listen to anything from metal to mellow. I am really enjoying Carry On! In fact, the more I listen to it, the more I like it. I am especially liking Poison Eye and Disappearing Act! Yay Cornell for adding another winner to your portfolio!

    TexasJen    Jun 23    #