Album Spotlight: Chris Cornell – Euphoria Mourning

Some 16 years ago, Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell put out his debut solo album, Euphoria Morning. The record was Cornell’s first away from alt rockers Soundgarden, with further solo albums surfacing in 2007, 2009 and one more next month. Now, though, Cornell has reissued his debut album and changed its name to the one he’d wanted to use all along – Euphoria Mourning. Thanks to our friends over in the UK, we’re now able to shed some more light on the reissued version of Euphoria Mourning as part of the first ever Album Spotlight feature. As part of this feature, we’ll be taking a classic album (or reissue) and reviewing it as if it only just came out. Read on for more.

Euphoria Mourning opens on the strummed riffs and oriental
sounding rhythms of Can’t Change Me, which make way for Cornell’s recognizable
vocals. “She’s going to change the world, but she can’t change me” he sings
during the chorus, opting for a rather demure vocal tone to accompany the minor
chordal progressions which underpin the whole affair. It’s an early highlight
on the record, one which will likely help cement Cornell’s status as frontman
and solo artist at the same time. Flutter Girl (supposedly an outtake from
Soundgarden’s 1994 album Superunknown) follows at a slightly more upbeat pace,
with whammy guitars and jangly melodies intertwining alongside Cornell’s demure
vocal tone. The interesting utilization of guitar effects and stop/start
glances help the song progress nicely, making way for the balladry of Preaching
the End of the World
. “I’m 24 and I’ve got everything to live for” sings
Cornell during the first verse, the rest of his lyrics pondering on topics of
loneliness and false optimism. As more instruments join in on the proceedings,
the song builds up in progression by means of emotional intensity and layering.
Follow My Way proceeds to introduce itself with some sprawling acoustic
guitars, which lead into another slow burning rocker that leans more towards
Cornell’s early Soundgarden days. “You’re just looking for a boy” he proclaims
halfway through the track, whilst a waspy synth/bass line underpins his vocals.
When I’m Down presents itself as the third slower song in progression, perhaps
adding just a bit too much of a depressing undertone to the record thus far. A
contrasting piano line takes the lead here, with other instruments joining in
throughout the course of the song. Some parts of the song sound almost as if
Cornell is murmuring inaudibly, yet this is made up for when the piano picks up
in pace and sees Cornell wail emotionally.

Mission trudges along nicely in typical Cornell fashion, with his inquisitive sounding vocals and obscure guitar lines adding a sense of absurdity to the record. It’s something which wouldn’t be out of place on an Audioslave B-Sides compilation, with the guitar work leaning heavily towards Tom Morello’s effects-laden mastery. Wave Goodbye (a tribute to the late, great Jeff Buckley) uses wah-wah chords and a slight Tom Waits wail to prove its point, with the song sounding ever so emotional thanks to its downbeat mood and sad lyrics. It’s followed directly by the euphoric sounding Moonchild, a track which equal parts is trudging as it is anthemic. In the end, you just have to accept that this is what Cornell does best, and that you shouldn’t expect too much variation from a man who is deeply embedded within the alt rock world. “Lost the grace of the hands that hold you” he sings on Sweet Euphoria, which is another three minutes of Cornell-by-numbers balladry. It’s perhaps one step too far, as it now means that roughly half the album is made up of alt rock ballads. Disappearing One opens with a funeral march procession of woodwind instruments, something quickly vaporised by Cornell’s vocals and a Hammond organ, transporting the listener back to the good old days. It somewhat works, with the chorus just as anthemic as it is depressing. Penultimate track Pillow of Your Bones is somewhat more refreshing, with a solid bassline holding the more upbeat track together. Here, it’s worth mentioning that Eleven members Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider played a big part in the completion of the record, both musicians co-writing five tracks and helping play the tracks with Cornell. Pillow of Your Bones is the best example of their input, and it’s also the best track on the whole record. Euphoria Mourning comes to a close on Steel Rain, opening with subdued acoustic guitars and climaxing in a wave of wailed vocals = and manic guitar lines. It ensures that Euphoria Mourning receives the dark and twisted ending it’s been working its way towards over the course of the whole album, something which only Chris Cornell knows how to do best.

Had the album been released in 2015, though, would it still be the success it was back in 1999? Probably not. But will its legacy live on regardless? Definitely. However much or little of a household name Chris Cornell is, he’ll still be regarded as one of America’s most pivotal rock musicians ever. And that’s for all the right reasons.

Euphoria Mourning is reissued on CD today (14 August), and on vinyl at the end of September (25th).