PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Chris Cornell: Carry On

Cornell lays off the hard rock and turns up the pop, resulting in a delightful second solo effort.

Chris Cornell

Carry On

Label: Interscope
US Release Date: 2007-06-05
UK Release Date: 2007-05-27

Chris Cornell is so much better off alone. Really.

Take, for example, his first go-around with Seattle grunge-rock mainstays Soundgarden in 1984. While riding the coattails of what turned out to be just another fad in the ever-so-frivolous world of music, Cornell’s first band was enshrined in the mundane world of plaid-rock with such memorable sleepers as “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman”.

Then came the all-star gala that was Temple of the Dog. While this project combined the limited talents of Cornell, Eddie Vedder, Matt Cameron, and Stone Gossard (any Seattle kid’s wet dream), it never found its way out of obscurity and into any teenager’s empty heart, or record collection for that matter.

And finally, there’s Audioslave. Again, something of a modern-rock supergroup forming in 2001, though it looked awfully good on paper, the combination of Cornell’s crooning and the Machine’s talents never quite lived up to what every alternative rock-music-listening junkie ever hoped for.

Really. Chris Cornell is better off alone.

Even his first solo release, 1999's Euphoria Morning, peeked at hints of greatness and actual intrigue at times. Songs like Temple’s “Hunger Strike” and Soundgarden’s “Pretty Noose” couldn’t hold half of a candle to Morning lead single “Can’t Change Me”’s eerie feel and odd time signature. The performance itself simply felt much more liberating than anything any of his other projects have ever produced.

Which is perhaps why he opted to leave the world o’ modern rock group again with his second official full-length solo release in almost a decade, Carry On. Here, Cornell shines brighter than ever by ditching the watered-down sound of modern rock and giving the nod to something a little more accessible, and a lot more interesting.

“She’ll Never Be Your Man” is a pleasantly confusing love-torn tale that proves to be indicative of Cornell’s choice to pop things up throughout his latest effort. As the acoustic guitars and tambourines color in the backdrop, the almost-kind of twang-y hook and Cornell’s half-snarl suggest that a tiny bit of southern rock probably influenced this track, if not the entire record.

Then, songs like “Finally Forever" and “Killing Birds” prove to be how good everyone wanted Soundgarden to be. Two of only four tracks on Carry On that feel like they could have fit on a Soundgarden release, these two songs showcase the man’s powerful vocal ability in front of the lackadaisical guitar work that made Cornell’s first band so popular.

But Carry On is at its absolute best when Cornell visibly sheds any aforementioned desire to continue as a hard-rock artist. “Arms Around Your Love”, the best piece of songwriting Cornell has ever been a part of, is a three-and-a-half minute pop-rock single that needs to be everybody’s favorite guilty pleasure. The blatant pop-rock acoustic guitar backdrop and catchy electric hook make this song a damn good play for pop-radio domination. While he has never seemed any more generic, he has never sounded any better.

The only blemish throughout this colorful painting comes when Cornell tries something he obviously wasn’t sure he should do in the first place: A crack at Michael Jackson’s super-duper-mega-hit “Billie Jean”. While the performance itself feels forced and stiff, Cornell’s arrangement is sobering at best. It simply never picks up, making the song a harsh reminder that, yes, he can still be humdrum.

But one slip-up out of 14 opportunities really isn’t bad. Even songs like the predictable “Safe and Sound” and the Audioslave throw-away “Poison Eye” aren't just not bad, but really kind of good. Before “Safe and Sound”’s balladry qualities become watered down, Cornell surprisingly takes a hold of the performance and commands attention with what turns out to be a shockingly soulful performance (the horn section helps too). “Poison Eye”, a song that may have fit better on his latest band’s second release, is more than tolerable and certainly more advanced than what Rage Against the Garden was ever going for. It keeps Cornell’s aggressive side intact enough to not override the idiosyncratic maneuvers his band displays.

And maybe that’s his secret. The common denominator in all of Cornell’s solo ventures lies within the limitations he puts on his insistent qualities, and that’s a good thing. Because with Carry On, an effort that shows exactly how simple and light Cornell can go, he proves that sometimes being alone isn’t all that bad.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.