IOver the course of its first two albums, modern-rock supergroup Audioslave has loudly suggested that the two bands it posthumously cannibalized were more than the sums of their parts: It seems that without Zack de la Rocha, Rage Against The Machine might've been just a tight manufacturer of average grooves, and without his weirder Soundgarden bandmates' contributions, Chris Cornell is just a dude with a really great voice and some seriously classic rock-influenced sensibilities. Since they've gotten together, neither side has passed the bar set by their former projects.
Audioslave's third full-length, Revelations, continues the trend, but shows both compositional improvement and a budding interest — particularly on the part of guitarist Tom Morello — to do some more fucking with the formula. After the tepid opening title track and limp funk of "One and the Same," the jagged throb and guitar-sound experimentation of "Sound of a Gun" sounds positively inspired. The same goes for album highlight "Jewel of the Summertime." Maybe it's just the fact that the preceding "Shape of Things to Come" is so watered-down, but the thump and execution of "Jewel" finds the entire band firing on all cylinders.
Elsewhere, there aren't many, ahem, revelations to be found — the disc is packed with the same sort of pseudo-ballads and by-the-numbers rhythmic rockers that populated Audioslave's first two albums. It's not a great release. Compared to its positively tedious predecessors, however, Revelations shows this ensemble transcending its workmanlike default setting with promising frequency. 2.5 stars —Scott Harrell
The Maximum Black EP
THE MOONEY SUZUKI
Originally sold only at shows and on The Mooney Suzuki's website, The Maximum Black EP is being re-released with five bonus tracks. On its inaugural outing, the band was still trying to find its footing. Comparatively more garage-y and less refined even for this band, the songs on Maximum Black — stylistically and production-wise — sound similar to some of the grittier tracks on Nuggets. The first six songs are raucous and fun and hold up to repeated listens. Meanwhile, the bonus material is tepid and not terribly engaging. Fans of The Mooney Suzuki will enjoy hearing an early example of the band's sound, but first-timers should start with 2002's Electric Sweat. 3 stars —Brian Johnson
Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian
What, I've often wondered, sets Bill Frisell so far apart from the jazz-guitar pack — besides his inimitable watery tone, sonic escapades, genre-hopping and depth of melodic and harmonic ingenuity? The answer, as far as I'm concerned, is quite simple: Frisell brings far more emotion and mood to his playing than his contemporaries and most of his forebears. When he performs Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome, I Could Cry," which closes out this trio album, the guitarist renders it as the genuinely sad song that it is. When Frisell and his legendary mates — drummer Paul Motian and bassist Ron Carter — tackle "On the Street Where You Live," it's with a dose of whimsy and lighthearted swing. While last year's double live set displayed the many sides of his eclectic musical personality, this one hews closer to jazz, albeit through Frisell's fisheye lens. (The disc will never be confused with Wes Montgomery.) Frisell loves to take material regarded as schlock and plumb for beauty and depth. This year's model is "You are My Sunshine," which the trio imbues with a languid sense of melancholy; the guitarist sprinkles in cagey dissonances, not for irony's sake, but to show that such a tune can be given a measure of gravitas. Most of the 10 selections (including Monk's "Misterioso" and "Raise Four") skew to slow to medium tempos. Motian's loosey-goosey drumming provides the trio plenty of room to roam, while Carter's bass brings a distinct muscularity. Frisell judiciously sprinkles in loops and effects, which easily transcend gimmickry; his phrasing is at turns fluid, contemplative and bracingly choppy. Frisell's playing is devoid of stuntwork, all but free of showiness — this is a musician of the highest order whose instrument happens to be the guitar. 4 stars —Eric Snider
Sunny Day Real Estate's morose former front man returns a decade after Return of the Frog Queen with a second solo outing. Better-produced than its predecessor and with more interesting instrumentation, World Waits should be a leap forward. Unfortunately, Enigk revels in stylized sameness throughout. While Frog Queen was an interesting Beatles-inspired departure from Sunny Day, this album becomes bogged down by mood. Every song is somber and the lyrics are substantially less interesting than his previous stuff. His breathy, whiny voice becomes exceedingly irritating halfway through the album. A handful of tunes break out of the mold, but this doesn't quite compensate for this being an average album from an above-average musician. 2.5 stars —BJ