Rarely can there have been such collective pant-wetting among rock fans than when it was announced that Soundgarden‘s Chris Cornell and Rage Against The Machine‘s Tom Morello, Timmy C and Brad Wilk were planning to work together in a band called Audioslave.
2002’s eponymous debut album was never going to be able to meet the unreasonably inflated expectations. However, its blend of Led Zeppelin-influenced hard rock shapes and mellower moments had much going for it, while in Cochise and Gasoline Audioslave had two bona fide star songs that were able to cover over any musical sins elsewhere.
Unfortunately, initial impressions of Out Of Exile were diametrically opposite to those of its predecessor. One spin of the disc revealed no stand-out tracks and what seemed like a multitude of sins. Thank the Lord that I listened to Out Of Exile again, else I may well have made a fool of myself and wanted to be swallowed by a black hole (sun)…
No, Out Of Exile is not perfect. It’s not even great. However, there’s still plenty here that’s worthy of interest, even if the blatantly adult rock vibe is unlikely to win Audioslave too many new, younger fans.
Out Of Exile certainly opens Audioslave up to accusations that the instrumentalists who once created the explosive soundtrack, nay Bombtrack, to LA’s riotous, imploding, racially sensitive South Central district have gone soft and middle-of-the-road. Whilst it’s true to say that some of the slower numbers here are a tad ennui-inducing and don’t seem to go anywhere (Heaven’s Dead, Yesterday To Tomorrow), Out Of Exile can also lay claim to being a more flexible, wider encompassing record than self-titled.
There’s still plenty to rock to, in the form of Cochise-styled opener Your Time Has Come; the strongly chorus-ed, almost funky title track; the grungey and surprisingly Soundgarden-ish The Worm; and the fast and energetic Man Or Animal.
However, there are also surprises that come with the bonus surprise that they work on repeated listening. For instance, on the face of it, Be Yourself is a straight-up, commercial pop/rock track, yet it has a tune that slowly burrows itself into your consciousness, helped in no small part by the echoing harmonies during the chorus. Doesn’t Remind Me is another departure that flits from playful, jaunty verses into more conventional “classic rock” choruses. And Dandelion even inserts summery “ooh-oohs” in order to enhance its summery, lackadaisical but oh-so-tuneful air.
There are one or two complaints that do linger after several playbacks. Tom Morello does seem to insist on putting in bleeps, squelches and scratching that, whilst very clever because they’re made with a guitar alone, are often completely random in the context of a rock song (Drown Me Slowly, Man Or Animal). And Chris Cornell’s lyrics do continue to border on the ridiculous – “Leave the feathers on the chicken / Peel the leather from your skin” being just one rather obvious example.
However, Out Of Exile is still a good album from a bunch of musicians who may have left their setting-the-world-alight days way behind but continue to know their way round a rock tune. In any case, at gigs they’re now playing Spoonman, Outshined, Bulls On Parade and Killing In The Name Of. Now those songs really do cover over a multitude of sins…