Album Reviews: Out of Exile by AudioslaveAudioslave's second album is aided significantly by the quartet's increased familiarity with one another. These veterans have carved out their own space now, independent from their pasts in Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden, even if they do borrow a trusty riff from the old Rage playbook now and then.
They remain, for better or worse, as apolitical as imaginable. There isn't much evidence that the years with three-quarters of Rage have changed Chris Cornell's worldview. In fact, there's little lyrical evidence that Cornell thinks about much other than himself and his inner circle (which increasingly, on songs like "Halo," seems to include a higher power as a member). He is most compelling when he's working in abstractions. When he veers into "you" and "I" territory, he often sounds like he's been writing on his refrigerator with a sackful of rock 'n' roll magnetic poetry ("Heaven's dead when you get sad / I see your wishes fly out of time"). Even one of the best old school, late-night riffs of 2005 ("Be Yourself") is marred somewhat by the public service announcement feel of the clumsily executed chorus.
All of that aside, Cornell still has a killer voice. It's been tempered somewhat by age and strain (and maybe some inner peace), but time has also added better range and a rustier edge. He and Tom Morello have grown to better complement one another, resulting in less time for Morello's signature flourishes, but more organic songs and clearer emotional arcs. Musically, Out of Exile aspires to be little beyond stadium rock with chops, although the band does sneak in some surprises, the best of which is the downright jaunty "Dandelion." It's an uneven album overall, and it certainly carries some dead weight. Still, there are enough high points -- "Dandelion," the title track, even the lyrically encumbered "Be Yourself" and "Heaven's Dead" -- to indicate that even if their finest hours are behind them, their finest hour as Audioslave may well be yet to come. And, yes, that's still something worth getting excited about. - Adam McKibbin
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