Many are the rock fans who still find the 44-year-old former frontman of grunge-era heroes Soundgarden pleasant to look at. But if you didn't think his Gen X take on Ronnie James Dio was goofy enough musically in that band, Chris Cornell undeniably has been morphing into Spinal Tap's David St. Hubbins ever since, starting with his misguided attempt to reinvent himself as Jeff Buckley on his solo bow "Euphoria Morning" (1999), continuing through his lame James Bond theme and the cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" on "Carry On" (2007), and building to his ill-fated stint fronting Audioslave.
Now comes "Scream," Cornell's third solo disc and an audacious bid to redefine himself, salvage his career and/or conquer whole new worlds with that histrionic four-octave wail. Worthy ambitions, perhaps. But this psychedelic dance record crafted by superstar R&B and hip-hop producer Timbaland, featuring tracks co-written with Justin Timberlake and Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic and boasting a cover image of the singer smashing a guitar (lest anyone miss the point) fails so miserably in every way, you'd swear it was some sort of postmodern parody, if only our hero wasn't infamous for having no discernible sense of humor or any ability to laugh at himself.
As Timbaland cements his sad decline from cutting-edge sonic genius to lazy purveyor of soulless, generic dance-pop full of cliché-ridden electronic grooves and pointlessly percolating synthesizers, Cornell layers electronic effects on his voice and spouts lyrics that, when they aren't merely inane ("I should've looked back some time alone," "I should have left that side of town a long time ago," etc.), often are downright offensive ("No, that bitch ain't a part of me," he sings again and again in the opening track presumably because, well, every hip-hop-flavored album has to have a few anti-woman tracks, right?).
"Pick it up, pick it up, watch out, now pick it up," goes the endlessly repeated and endlessly annoying chorus of the closing track, "Watch Out"; if only the words had been "Put it down, put it down, watch out, now put it down," we could at least commend the artist for warning listeners away from this mess. No such luck, however, so this review will have to suffice. (And I'm going with half a star versus none simply because of the slim possibility that this really is all a put-on; I know I laughed a lot more while listening to this disc than I have during any comedy I've seen in recent memory.)