Given Tom Morello's history as a political provocateur with Rage Against the Machine, it's not surprising that "Cochise," the first single by his new band Audioslave, was named after an Apache chief in the late 1800s. The cunning war strategist declared war against the Southwest United States and pillaged and plundered after members of his family were tortured and hung by the U.S. Cavalry.
But there's little in Audioslave's "Cochise" to suggest the song was politically motivated. The track combines angular granite-heavy riffs — a Rage Against the Machine specialty — with Cornell's howling melodic vocals, and the lyrics — which include the chorus, "Go on and save yourself/ Take it out on me," and the line, "Put the blame on me so you don't feel a thing" — seem to be more about shirking responsibility than about mass revolution.
The rest of the album, out November 19, seems equally unburdened by political content. Like much of Soundgarden's output, Audioslave are concerned not with social revolution, but personal revelation. And judging by many of the bitter and disconsolate lyrics, it sounds like the songs were motivated by a considerable amount of personal pain.
On the dusky ballad "I Am the Highway," Cornell sings, "Pearl and swine bereft of me/ Long and weary my road has been/ I was lost in cities alone."
The slow, lurching "Bring 'Em Back Alive" seems to address the confusion of being a former multiplatinum star in a new rock climate: "I was on my way to the center of the sun/ When I lost my wings and I fell into a crowd/ And they carried me to a hole in the ground/ And they buried me where no one could see and no one would be around."
The most pointed songs on the record address false promises and failed relationships. On the abrasive "What You Are," Cornell moans about a past romance that's left its acrid aftertaste: "When you wanted me I came to you/ And when you wanted someone else I withdrew/ Asked for light I set myself on fire/ And if I go somewhere far away I know you'll find another slave."
And on the weary, jazz-inflected "Getaway Car," he addresses a significant other who's giving him gray hair: "Settle down I won't hesitate to hit the highway before you lay me to waste/ And saddle up and I'll help you find something to drive before you drive me insane."
Musically, Audioslave is pretty much what you might expect it to be. Rage members Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk latch into one surging rock groove after another, and Morello's skewed, skittering solos continue to push the boundaries of six-string exploration. But instead of promoting a hip-hop-based agenda, Audioslave blend Rage's rock characteristics with the atmospheric, surreal rhythms of latter-day Soundgarden, glazing it all with Cornell's powerfully emotive vibrato-laden voice, which will be instantly familiar to anyone who's played air guitar to Superunknown.
While Audioslave's influences are surely recognizable, the band also roams new turf. "Like a Stone" features a shuffling beat, simple, ringing guitar and weary vocals, bringing to mind a hipper U2. "Shadow of the Sun" starts with a textural guitar passage and bobbing bass similar in tone to a Red Hot Chili Peppers ballad, and the soulful scat vocals of "Exploder" sound like Aerosmith.
And for those who miss the shimmying thunder of Rage, there's "Show Me How to Live," "Gasoline" and "Set It Off," which all provide the band's heralded attack in a new vocal framework.
Audioslave are currently coordinating a full tour, according to their management.