One of the 90s’ most enduring songwriters and a true alt-rock legend, Chris Cornell releases his fifth studio solo album
If you have even a passing interest in alt-rock then you’ll know the name, and if you’re a child of plaid shirts and ripped jeans he’ll need no introducing. One of the pioneers of grunge as part of Seattle band Soundgarden, Higher Truth is Chris Cornell’s fifth solo album and his first fully acoustic record.
Recent single Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart opens with a feel that’s folky, rootsy and full of warmth. Breaking somewhat from the standard format of lovelorn tales, Cornell talks of forgetting how he came to feel in a sense of decay, pressing on with life before remembering that the “little cut where the blood pours out” came from love. Despite its raw content it can’t help but feel uplifting and serves as a reminder that life does go on.
Cornell’s ability to marry an uplifting melody to frailty and uncertainty carries through elsewhere, with the Rubber Soul lushness of Worried Moon in stark contrast to his admission that he’s “afraid of what’s to come.” That’s not to say that there aren’t moments of sadness. Before We Disappear is a folk-rock number to be hummed deep into the autumnal draining of colour, and the piano line of the title track taps into the Elton John school of solemnity.
It’s not by accident that Cornell has carved such an enduring dent in rock’s history. His tenderness, elastic voice and pop sensibility have separated him from his peers and all these qualities remain. Let Your Eyes Wander displays his tenderness, Murderer Of Blue Skies that elastic vocal and Circling his classic pop songwriting. He also still has the abilility to surprise. Quite apart from releasing a fully acoustic album – though he does cheat slightly by adding the odd fuzzy guitar line – who’d have thought that the man behind Outshined was a Dylan fan? The man who wrote Only These Words, that’s who.
After more than 30 years making music, you might think that Chris Cornell would have run out of ideas. However the move into a more folk-infected direction has paid dividends, with the songwriting on his fifth LP consistently strong, to the extent where the bonus track Wrong Side is one of the album’s best songs.
Higher Truth is a folk-rock record for someone who’s been burned by love’s fierce fire, though, not for those who are pulling apart the wound and crawling inside their pain. Still carrying the scars of heartbreak, it occupies the moment when you are able to rise and rest the burden over your shoulder, dusting yourself off and heading off into the sun, even if all you “ever get is burned and blind.”
Verdict: Chris Cornell’s move into folkier tones pays off handsomely