Audioslave and Payola

I recently bought Audioslave's new CD Out of Exile, and have been enjoying it. It's a very solid effort, though not, perhaps, quite as jawdroppingly, mindblowingly, cansmashingly, portmanteau word-makingly brilliant as the first CD from three years ago. Though Out of Exile debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts back in May, the reviews have been mixed overall, and the Audioslave fan site is pretty quiet.

Tom Morello's guitar work continues to impress, and the songs "Doesn't Remind Me" and "Man or Animal" are the real deal. The latter in particular has that particular bonecrushing, knucklebleeding quality that inspires bloggers to coin new words to express their enthusiasm. But several of the songs sound like technically proficient loud "rock," without sounding particularly personal or meaningful. Rock depends a fair bit on the Romantic image of personal struggle or vision. Here, despite Chris Cornell's well-publicized bout with addiction/rehab a couple of years ago, there isn't much that goes beyond the abstract. And the effort as a whole feels a little too "professional," which is not a good sign.

Then again, sometimes what you want is just something loud and rocking (besides Led Zeppelin) to listen to in the car, and in that vein I'm still happy with my purchase. And I would still take Audioslave or the Foo Fighers over The White Stripes and My Chemical Romance, any day.

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Today I learned that Audioslave's record company Sony BMG, has admitted to 'Payola'-type practices -- effectively, bribing radio stations to play their label's songs with money for radio station giveaways, free electronics, and vacation packages for DJs. One of the bands (but by no means the only band) Sony was trying to promote in particular in this particular scandal was Audioslave.

It's a surprising twist, to say the least, for a band whose guitarist is an outspoken socialist and anti-war activist, formerly of the radical/revolutionary band Rage Against the Machine. Payola, the peak of corruption in an otherwise blithely capitalist entertainment industry, does not exactly jive with the philosophy behind Morello and Tanakian's Axis of Justice...

There is no indication that Audioslave was itself involved with the Payola scandal. But still, it's got to be a little bit embarrassing when your record label sends around emails like this to commercial radio stations: ""WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET AUDIOSLAVE ON WKSS THIS WEEK?!!? Whatever you can dream up, I can make it happen."