Maybe there's a person out there waiting for the Kim Thayil solo record. As good as Chris Cornell's own solo debut is, you just know there's someone out there longing to hear the bearded guitarist from Soundgarden on tape, by himself. Not that Cornell isn't a decent guitar player or a strong songwriter. It's just that there's a frequent middle-of-the-road wimpiness to Euphoria Morning. This is a pop record of the rock variety, with more melody than muscle, closer to Cornell's side project with Pearl Jam, Temple of the Dog, than to Buckley, more than a stereotypical tribute. At one point Cornell even emulates Buckley's signature tortured falsetto. But it's not hokey. Cornell has the ability to pull it off. The song is a monster of emotion, not because of its raw power, but because of Cornell's restraint.
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That's not to say that there aren't a handful of tracks with a bit of the familiar Soundgarden roar. The second half of the record gets into the heavier feel. And when he really leans into a track with more vigor, such as "Disappearing One," the results are just as satisfying as on the lighter stuff. Building from a mellow clarinet and woodwind opening, the song is built simply on organ, acoustic guitar and elementary drums before kicking it into high gear for the hook. It's a standard grunge formula, quiet verse/loud chorus, but the dynamics are achieved by more than stepping on a distortion pedal. Cornell and his band (Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider of Eleven, the previous unit of ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers/Pearl Jam drummer Jack Irons) don't have the singular heavy focus that Soundgarden did, but they offer an eclectic mix, which is thicker without constant chug-a-chugging guitars. The trio gets plenty of use from keyboards, guitar effects, string samples and odd drum sounds.
What stands out most is "Follow My Way," which is a combination of Zeppelin-esque acoustic guitar and Cornell's powerful wail. As the guitar swirls and spirals, a fuzzed-out bass provides just the right depth for the singer to play against. The chorus erupts instantly with big drums, and Cornell matches the intensity, getting into the upper registers without losing any power. A psychedelic countermelody brings the song back down to its subtle, acoustic beginnings, and the vocals reverberate in echo. The song ends in a rumbling roar of drums and a stuttering electronic sound.
The downside to Cornell's ever-changing mood is "When I'm Down," a waltzing ballad. Piano and pained vocals? A bluesy guitar solo? Oh, Thayil, where are you when you're needed?
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