Rage Against The Machine
"Rage Against The Machine"
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die
The idea of “protest music” wasn’t a new one when Rage Against The Machine took to the studio to record its self-titled debut in 1992. The “problem” was that most of the earlier bands took gentle approaches to the problem, encouraging listeners to vote the change in. Rage was done speaking out against the machine. Most bands emulated Martin Luther King in their quiet protests, but Rage represented the Malcom X (although both civil rights leaders are praised in the album’s “Wake Up”) element, dramatically radical.
The band’s radical leanings are largely represented by vocalist Zach de la Rocha’s truly rage-filled lyrics. Although every song is a blast against political, social and economic inequality, the two most in-your-face refrains express de la Rocha’s attitude best. “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me,” from “Killing in The Name” and “Why stand on your silent platform? Fight the war, fuck the norm,” from “Township Rebellion.”
Although the lyrics will always best define Rage, guitarist Tom Morello was also one of the most innovative guitarists in the last several decades. He’s not necessarily the most talented of guitarists (his acoustic work as The Nightwatchman leaves something to be desired), but his experimentation with effects and picking styles makes for exciting stuff, such as the Nintendo-esque solo in “Know Your Enemy” and the loopy bridge from “Fistful of Steel.” The latter also showcases his ability to lay down heavy and catchy (if simple) riffs.
The band also is a ray of hope for the often critically-panned rap-rock genre. The style would later be typified by mainstream weight room rockers like Limp Bizkit, but Rage represented a connection between metal and the edgy world of underground hip-hop. The pronounced bass lines of Tim Commerford only heightens the relationship.
Some of de la Rocha's radical rants might not sit comfortably with the average listener, who will understandably be less inclined to revolution. Focus on the passion over the politics, and any rock fan can respect this release.
INTERESTING FACT: As of 2009, the best selling mp3 single in the UK at Christmas time had been by the winner of “The X Factor,” Britain’s version of “American Idol,” for four straight years. A Facebook movement that year urged fans to buy Rage’s “Killing in The Name,” at that point 17 years old, to deny the number one position to that year’s “X Factor” winner. It worked, to Simon Cowell’s displeasure.