Audioslave, composed of members of the disbanded groups Soundgarden (lead singer Chris Cornell) and Rage Against the Machine (Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk), deliver the follow-up to their self-titled debut album; the success of which gained them a spot on 2003’s Lollapalooza tour alongside fellow rock legends Jane’s Addiction.
After Audioslave recently became the first American rock band ever to perform outdoors in Cuba, their new album, Out of Exile, seems aptly titled. Audioslave is no stranger to activism, and a statement issued on the band’s website explains the Havana performance was their way of “sharing with the Cuban youth the free expression of music that embodies rock and roll.”
Fans looking only for similarity to the first album may not be disappointed with the band’s sophomore effort. “The Worm,” which opens with a half-minute homage to the skilled instrumental abilities of the Rage refugees followed by Cornell’s signature raspy vocal growl, is a clear attempt to win back fans of “Cochise” from the first album. But “Out of Exile” contains the typical failings of the anticipated second album. Trite lyrics that try to appeal to the ubiquitous teen audience make the track “Be Yourself” hard to swallow. Clearly. Rage Against the Machine fans that appreciated the band’s in-your-face liberal political agenda are not Audioslave followers for Cornell’s lyrics.
All things considered, Audioslave is only a success because they are a “supergroup,” the brainchild of members of two great rock bands. They are what rock music always aspires to be — energetic drum beats, hypnotic guitar riffs and coarse, sensual vocals — but somehow their albums fall short of what they should — or could — be. Cornell’s throaty vocals lack the same passion he had as frontman for Soundgarden. And while “Out of Exile” is better than an album by supergroup Velvet Revolver, it is still uninspired background music.
But whatever cohesiveness the band lacks in the studio, they more than make up for in energetic live performances, which showcase the talent that somehow fails to fully surface during recording. For the Audioslave that lives up the term supergroup, skip “Out of Exile” and purchase tickets to one of their live shows instead — at least until Soundgarden or Rage Against the Machine get back together.