If you had told the teenage Chris Cornell – or even the end-of-original-era Soundgarden-fronting Cornell that he would one day release an album of Designer-Hippie doggerel called Higher Truth he’d have laughed at you, possibly hit you…but that Cornell also didn’t know he’d release a truly horrific R’n’B/dance/rock-crossover/load of shit called Scream. So, to even have a career after that he’s doing well enough.
He has, in a rather nonchalant-seeming way, worked rather hard to repair the damage that awful album made – a Soundgarden reunion, a few one-offs too, even fronting up for something approximating a Temple of the Dog reunion, and those great live shows he does as acoustic jukebox, trawling through not only his own back-catalogue but reinterpreting legacy hits of others that had some perceivable influence on him.
Higher Truth is not great, nor is it necessary, and the lyrics are most certainly not the strong point. And it doesn’t start well with the pluckily haughty Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart. But Dead Wishes is calmer, easier to take – at best it’s a highlight of when he debuts new material during a show where everyone just wants the career-highlights.
Worried Moon is a slight slip back towards Nearly’s pretensions as is Before We Disappear: “Somewhere past the storm/Lies the shelter of your heart” – Bob Dylan it ain’t. But there’s some charm here, even if we just keep remembering that this is most definitely a) not Scream and b) putting more distance between when Scream was released and whatever Cornell is up to now.
Through The Window is an example of when Higher Truth is at its best, when Cornell is in fact seeking no such thing and is mostly putting that huge voice in behind a deftly picked acoustic, some soft strings to frame.
He does that well. And does it in his sleep – both tenets have never been more obvious.
At 16 songs it’s about seven too many – and there’s no real variation here, no real journey for these songs, just dirge-verse and dirge-chorus following one another, circling, ploughing on.
It’s by no means embarrassing. And Cornell fans tend to fawn.
But I preferred his earlier solo work. There he appeared to actually be not only trying, but trying something. This is auto-pilot/by-rote ploughing. And plough on he does. And presumably will…