Out of Exile Interscope/Epic Music •••½Sound ••••½
It's difficult to say whether the band or the producer should get more credit for this solid sophomore album. Sure, Audioslave is a perfectly fine hard-rock outfit, playing looser and with more swing than parent groups Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine. But Rick Rubin's production - or really, lack of production - turns Out of Exile into something special. His love for 1970s rock has been clear since he recorded the Cult, but this may be the warmest and most organic sound he's achieved. The bass sounds like a bass, drums don't overwhelm, and there's an inviting rehearsal-room ambience. (You can even hear the rhythm guitar drop out when Tom Morello takes a solo.) Rubin has also gotten Chris Cornell to forgo his usual shouting to the rafters and sing in a more direct, personable style. Arena rock with heart is what it's all about, and so goes the best of Audioslave's material - like "Your Time Has Come," with its chunky riffs and anti-suicide message. Even the more intense Rage/Soundgarden moments in the disc's second half are convincing, though Rubin neglected to tell Morello that making worm noises on guitar during "The Worm" wasn't the sharpest of ideas.