When it comes to Chris Cornell's solo career, there's a giant strobe-lit elephant stinking up the room. That would be 2009's Scream, his third album that reimagined the grunge survivor as a Timbaland-produced pop star with woeful results. It was bad then - it's even worse now.
But what if we lived in a world where Scream didn't exist? One where Cornell had a second life as a cruisy but broody balladeer, someone who writes enjoyably catchy acoustic jams that make the most of his grunty, grunge-addled voice without stepping too far out of his comfort zone?
Higher Truth is exactly that. It's the solo album Cornell was threatening to make before he mucked up with Scream, an extension of his underrated 1999 debut, Euphoria Morning, which combines truly great songwriting with the feeling that Cornell is in the room playing right in front of you. Like Worried Moon, an effortless ballad that wraps you up with in its homely chorus, or Dead Wishes, a foot-stomping pub-rock workout of the best kind.
He's still capable of intensity - the title track is a cinematic ballad so epically overwrought it could be a Bond song, while Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart feels like something Fiona Apple could angst up for her next album. And Higher Truth's centrepiece, Murderer of Blue Skies, is a deceptively dark break-up song with the sweetly sung chorus, "I can't wait to never be with you again." It's bound to be a highlight on Cornell's upcoming New Zealand tour.
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Yes, there are occasional touches of cheese - Josephine is a stab at a wedding song that adds unnecessary strings, while Before We Disappear includes the corny lyrics: "I love it when it feels like we will live forever." But Cornell gets away with them, because there's not a mirrorball, sub bass or Timbaland in sight. So it's agreed: we can collectively forget about Scream and give Cornell the solo props he's due.
Because Higher Truth proves he's moved on - and it's about time we did, too.
Artist: Chris Cornell
Album: Higher Truth
Verdict: Soundgarden guru finally finds his voice