Audioslave only recently released their third studio album, Revelations, but most people who have followed rock music for a while know that the band is made up of seasoned rock veterans.
Frontman Chris Cornell led Soundgarden through the heyday of grunge, while guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford, and drummer Brad Wilk formed the core of rap-rock pioneers Rage Against the Machine. I guess these guys had nothing better to do after their bands dismantled, so they decided to form a rock group greater than the sum of their parts.
I liked Soundgarden a little, but I was a bit too young to really be a fan. Until the last few years, I knew “Black Hole Sun,” and that’s about it. Rage was a little bit more during my time, but frontman Zach de la Rocha was a bit off-putting, and I wasn’t really familiar with the rest of the band. I liked singles like “Guerrilla Radio” and “Sleep Now In The Fire,” and that was about it.
Audioslave, like Rage, has become a very political band, with songs like “Your Time Has Come” and now especially “Wide Awake” taking a very harsh view of the current political tone in the United States. Fortunately for me, I lean a little bit left politically, so I identify with some of their causes. I understand that’s not the case for a lot of people, especially people who run in the same circles I do, so listening to songs like that doesn’t have the same effect on them.
In the past year or two, I’ve been back and forth about whether or not I think Audioslave is truly an awesome band. On the one hand, Morello does some great guitar work, and Cornell writes some powerful songs. Still, their musical talent would probably be best described as “above average,” and that’s about it.
Audioslave’s songs sometimes repeat themselves thematically and musically, which isn’t always a good thing, but there’s enough substance there for me to consider them as part of my top 10 contemporary bands.
Here are my top 10 Audioslave songs:
- Your Time Has Come
- Be Yourself
- Like A Stone
- Doesn’t Remind Me
- Wide Awake
- Show Me How To Live
- Out of Exile
- One and the Same
I suppose the notable omission from this list is “I Am The Highway,” which many people liked. It was a hit single, but it’s only an average rock song to me. It fits well with the rest of the first album, but it’s not one of my favorites. It was hard to leave off “Gasoline,” and I’m still not sure what I think about “Original Fire,” so I left it off, too.
Also, I’ve had this debate several times, so I have to throw in something about which of their albums I like best. A friend of mine thinks the first album is far superior to the second, which I’m not sure I agree with. I like the second probably just as much as the first. Both tail off toward the end, but I think Audioslave sounds more like one band on that album than on their first. Another friend loves the most recent album, but I’m not sold on it yet (although I do own it). I think the quality of the rest of the album, beyond the first five songs and “Wide Awake,” is somewhat lacking compared to the previous two albums.
That was far more information than anyone really wants to know, but that’s really kind of a running theme on this blog. Oh well.
2 thoughts on “#8: Audioslave”
Back in the 90’s peak of Rage’s popularity, I often found myself thinking, “Wow, I would really like these guys, except for Ol’ Whatshisface’s vocals.” So I think that what you view as a weakness of the first album (that it largely just sounds like Rage, but with the singer from Soundgarden) is actually precisely what I found appealing about it in the first place. That’s not to say that I liked them better that way, but just that I didn’t view it as a bad thing.
Their second album grew on me quite a bit over time, although I still think I like the first one a little better. I think the high points of the second album are just as strong as the high points of the first one, but I really feel like the whole first album is pretty solid throughout, whereas the second one does, as you said, tail off toward the end.
I really think the new album is significantly inferior to the first two. (If the debut was a 9, and “Out of Exile” was an 8, then “Revelations” is a 6.) When I first found out several months ago that Audioslave had a new album out in September, I remember being surprised, because that was only 15 months after the release of their last one. I would hate to insinuate that “Revelations” might have been a little rushed, but, well, I think I just did.
I know we discussed this online, but I figured I’d post the jist of our conversation anyway.
I think I agree with all of your points. I could be persuaded to believe that the first album is better, but I prefer the sound they went for on the second one. The third is definitely inferior, though it has several good songs. The low points on Revelations are lower, and the high points aren’t as high. It definitely seems like the new album was rushed.