AUDIOSLAVE

Audioslave

(Epic/Interscope)

Eponymous title edges out Whatever, the Album for supergroup's debut.

"Toward the end, it was clear that no musical risks were being

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CD Reviews

AUDIOSLAVE

Audioslave

(Epic/Interscope)

Eponymous title edges out Whatever, the Album for supergroup's debut.

"Toward the end, it was clear that no musical risks were being taken," Rage Against the Machine mouthpiece Zack de la Rocha told Spin shortly after their 2000 dissolution. "You could basically tell what a Rage record was going to sound like before you even heard it." Well said. Replace de la Rocha's scathing leftist flow with ex-Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell's apolitical household howl, and the predictability quotient reaches James Bond critical mass. It's no shock that the resulting curiosity known as Audioslave is an extended exercise in not only mediocrity, but worse, irrelevance. The union is at least appropriate in that, for all of his turntable-appropriating guitar virtuosity, Tom Morello's dinosaur riffs regularly nod to Jimmy Page, and Cornell's certainly no stranger to Robert Plant comparisons. So it's Audioslave, not Creed, laying claim to the coveted "21st-century Zeppelin" title, which is a good thing, right? This record delivers both inflated headbanger anthems ("Cochise," "Show Me How To Live") and pretty stoner meditations ("I Am the Highway," "Like a Stone") with the ease and efficiency of McDonalds delivering Big Macs and Happy Meals. Sometimes, Cornell's croon leaps off the deep end, as in "Exploder," which he closes with an unholy vocal union of Sammy Hagar and scat. For the most part, he sounds as sinister and virile as he did in the Badmotorfinger days, and the ex- Machinists rock as tightly as they did on their self-titled debut. Bottom line: nothing here will resonate like "Jesus Christ Pose" or "Freedom." ANDREW BONAZELLI

BUDDY MILLER

Midnight & Lonesome

(Hightone Records)

Another slice of soulful honky-tonk from half of Americana's first couple.

Last July 28, the very day Buddy Miller was capping the recording of his first solo record in three years, nine coal miners were rescued from Pennsylvania's Quecreek mine. Stop the presses! Hours later, Miller and collaborator/wife Julie recorded "Quecreek," Julie's minutes-old commendation to the men, and Midnight & Lonesome was complete. The gripping acoustic-and-fiddle waltz consummates the fourth album by one of country music's most ardent and ingenious artists, a soulful singer and sought-after guitarist who holds his trademark sound close to the vintage country vest ("Wild Card" is pure Hank Williams) but lets his musical diversity glisten this time around. Miller spins a soul groove (with Hammond B3!) on the late Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone," struts his tangy Texas twang through the Everly Brothers' "Price of Love" and the alt-country scorcher, "Little Bitty Kiss," and slows to a croon for "I Can't Get Over You," the delicious duet with Lee Ann Womack. But the pearl here is the would-have-been-a- '70s AM staple "When it Comes to You." Accentuated by the coquettish lyrical dare, "If you push the first domino/We'll be flying like a GTO," it was co-written with his wife and Jim Lauderdale, and pours from the speakers like a vintage Charlie Rich side. SCOTT HOLTER

DRIVE LIKE JEHU

Yank Crime

(Swami)

San Diego shriek-core professors get overdue encore in spotlight.

Remember that rogue Old Testament charioteer who purged Israel of its Jew-Gentile reign by ordering two eunuchs to throw Queen Jezebel off her balcony, trampling her with his chariot and letting dogs devour her mangled corpse? Sure you do. That was the eventual King Jehu, who went on to slaughter many more idol-worshippers in equally inventive, morbid fashion, and that's why Drive Like Jehu is one of the most unquestionably apropos monikers in rock history. Since guitarist John Reis was preoccupied with then on-the-rise Rocket From the Crypt in the mid-'90s, DLJ only cranked out two scalding, influential math rock masterpieces; this swan song was originally released on Interscope, a major coup for the time. They're the reason why Reis and vocalist/guitarist Rick Froberg's new project, Hot Snakes—a very stripped-down, linear reincarnation—has been generating so much buzz of late. Revisiting (or just now discovering) Yank Crime and three worthy b-sides—including "Bullet Train to Vegas," a glorious slice of incoherence that Hot Snakes covered on their recent national tour—is about as satisfying a hard-rock experience as one can enjoy in 2002. The crucified robin feedback that turns "Golden Brown" on its ear, the epic "Aloha! Suit up!" refrain of "Luau" (bolstered by Pinback frontman Rob Crow), Reis' sludgy guitar heroics on "New Math". . . Christ almighty, I'm breathless. What a necessary counterpoint to Nirvana's crass exhumation; Kurt inspired more, but Jehu inspired better. ANDREW BONAZELLI

 
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