October 1, 2017

TEST SPIN | Matt Cameron — Cavedweller

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After nearly 30 years of working alongside the likes of Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder, Matt Cameron has decided to venture out as a solo artist. Cameron rose to fame in the early 90s as the lead drummer for both Soundgarden and the grunge supergroup Temple of Dog. He continued on with Soundgarden through their 1996 release of Down on The Upside and the group’s dissolution soon after. He was picked up by Pearl Jam to sign on as their new drummer, a gig he holds to this day.

Throughout the years, Cameron always focused heavily on songwriting, despite being overshadowed by two of the greatest singers of all time — Cornell and Vedder. He contributed lyrics and music to Soundgarden’s ground breaking Superunknown and suave vocals to Pearl Jam’s “Sirens” from their 2013 album Lightning Bolt.

Recently, Cameron has been a touring force with Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog. These groups’ tours have brought the angst of grunge to the modern day; their music is speaking to a new generation that is just as pissed off at the establishment as the motley crew of fans that raged with them in the early 90s.

Cameron’s world changed earlier this year when his long-time friend Chris Cornell tragically took his own life after a Soundgarden concert in Detroit. Cameron somberly expressed his gratitude that he was able to share his body of work with Cornell before his passing: “I played some of it for him last March. …He really liked it. He was always very supportive of me writing music for the band and kind of going for it. That was great.”

Cavedweller, which features artists like Mark Guiliana and Tim Lefebvre (who both worked with David Bowie on Blackstar) is the perfect release to spark a solo career. It strikes an incredible balance between songs that we typically associate with Cameron (“Fresh Tendrils” and “Black Hole Sun”) and experimental material.

The album opens with a heavy stomper, “Time Can’t Wait,” which is infused with a psychedelic twist that calls to mind the Syd Barrett days of Pink Floyd — this isn’t surprising considering Cameron frequently relates just how important Syd Barrett’s music is to his creative process.

Another standout moment is “Through the Ceiling,” a California surf rock track that brings to mind the music of Sheryl Crow; it’s interesting and fresh to hear something like this from Cameron, especially given his musical background.

While Cameron’s vocals may seemed drowned out and washed at times, it seems appropriate, as if he is paying homage to one of the most beautiful voices in rock, Chris Cornell.

One of the only blunders on this album comes with tracks 7 and 8. How do I put this lightly? The series of songs “Into the Fire” followed by “Real and Imagined” sounds like something you would hear play over the speakers in the mall dressing room as you were trying to get unstuck from a pair of designer jeans that are too tight. Other than that, there really is nothing to complain about.

Cavedweller is a collection of messy rock and roll that suits Matt Cameron’s persona in every way imaginable. Listening to this album brought back memories of the golden era of Soundgarden, when their music commanded the youth and helped so many people deal with problems of the day. The only thing that comes to mind when I think about this work as a whole is how proud Chris Cornell must be, whereever he is.


Peter Buonanno is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at pfb48@cornell.