- - Monday, November 12, 2012

King Animal


Seven Four Entertainment


It has been 16 years since their last record, but Soundgarden sounds more or less the same on “King Animal,” its grungy, guitar-driven reunion album.

Album cover for Christina Aguilera "Lotus".
Album cover for Christina Aguilera “Lotus”. more >

“I’ve been away too long,” Chris Cornell wails on the album’s first track, speaking for the entire band in a voice that has lost only a bit of its top end. If you want to split hairs, Mr. Cornell hasn’t actually been away — he released a handful of solo albums during Soundgarden’s hiatus, wrote the theme song for one of the “James Bond” films and logged six years as the frontman of Audioslave — but he never sounded as comfortable as he does here, matching Kim Thayil’s guitar licks with a voice that shrieks one minute and croons the next. Sure, he rasps more heavily than he did in 1996, but his voice holds up better than expected.

The guys experiment a bit, throwing some psychedelic turns into the trippy “A Thousand Days Before” and slowing down “Halfway There” to a heavy, midtempo grind. “King Animal” sounds best during the more straightforward moments, though, when Mr. Cornell and company serve up meat-and-potatoes rockers like “Non-State Actor.”

The highlight is “Bones of Birds,” a dark, minor-key song that packs a haunted punch. “Time is my friend,” Mr. Cornell sings, “until it ain’t … and runs out.” That’s a weighty line, delivered by a man who knows the speed at which a rock star can fall from grace, and it gives “King Animal” something that earlier Soundgarden albums lacked: a sort of compelling, real-world desperation.


Christina Aguilera



Christina Aguilera has one of the best voices in pop music. It’s a powerful instrument, capable of piercing highs and deep, rumbling lows in equal measure. So why does her newest album open up with the robotic-sounding “Lotus Intro,” a half-formed tune that replaces her smoky wail with an electronic, AutoTuned croon?

The song doesn’t really sound like Miss Aguilera, and it sets a precedent for the 16 tracks that follow. “Lotus” desperately wants to restore Miss Aguilera to superstar status and erase the memory of her previous album, the poor-selling “Bionic,” from public memory. In doing so, it also erases the things that make her unique.

Filled with self-empowerment anthems, thumping dance beats and glossy production, “Lotus” sounds like every other R&B album in 2012. There are some duets with “The Voice” co-stars Blake Shelton and CeeLo Green, too, lest we forget that Miss Aguilera is a judge on one of TV’s most popular shows. The whole thing feels calculated, and while a few songs allow her to unleash the full power of her voice, that can’t save “Lotus” from dying on the vine.

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