Sunday, 16 August 2009

What do you MEAN you've never heard...

Rage Against the Machine??

Their 1992 self-titled debut is surely a musical rites of passage for teenagers everywhere - I've met surprisingly few people who didn't grow up with this album. Tom Morello and the band's relentless alt.metal riffage assault must work in tandem with the most explicitly anti-authority lyrics any 14-year-old was/is likely to come across. So RATM was the perfect hormonal release, and at that age not much thought went in to the Zack De La Rocha's words beyond 'shit, he's got some problems too...'. It's funny, because in school this was the only music anybody could universally agree on, it spoke to that barely-suppressed torrent of teenage angst. Kids had problems with bullies, parents, puberty, and this album always did the trick - people went mental when RATM came on.
So what can I say about this album in the 'sober light' of adulthood? Hmm. It's been a good few years. It gives me kicks of a different sort now, which manifest themselves in much the same way - hyperactivity and indignation. I've come full circle in terms of my worldview and, this being something of a manifesto of left-wing sloganeering clearly written to be screamed on the street, RATM ticks all the right boxes. One can't escape the knowledge that this debut album (at the very least) should have been de-licensed for free distribution amongst the populace once the group broke up, but it hasn't been. Hopefully this full-quality download (with artwork scans) will make a notch in some blowhard bank accounts... yeah, right!

So you've got the rage there, clearly. Rage against capitalism, exploitation, suppression, greed, religion, inequality and the general population's booze 'n' lard-fed apathy in the face of it all. It's a direct challenge to mainstream beliefs of the time (and now); very much a product of the disillusioned underground swell that bubbled under the surface of Reaganite Bullshit America. Bill Hicks spoke to that youth with comedy and reason, Rage with music and reason.
And musically? Sure, RATM almost single-handedly kicked off the vogue for rap-metal as a means of delivery, and this might understandably send retrospective shudders at that culmination of hip-hop's influence on metal: 'nu-metal'. But nu-metal this ain't. This is the best underground hardcore punk and metal of the 80's, condensed, fed through a Jimmy Page cookie cutter for catchy-ass riffs, and infused with the political activism of Public Enemy. Morello's guitar is more 'metal' on this, but shows early signs of the hip-hop/electronic sound it would later assume, and the occasional flourishes of slap bass are rather anachronous... but all is forgiven as it's heavy as fuck and never misses a step. RATM doesn't pretend to be the answer all wrapped up in a neat little package, but it's such a forceful and compelling wake-up call you'd need to be completely beyond the McPale to not sit up and listen.

If you missed out on jumping around a room and throwing chairs to 'Killing In the Name's final refrain (you'll see what I mean), then you should jump on board right now and see what you done missed. And don't pretend you're too highbrow for it, because we both see through that smokescreen. Testosterone booster strictly optional.

Origins of the artwork
Bonus wisdom


Marilyn Roxie said...

YEAAAAAAH, this is a great album! Them getting lumped into 'nu-metal' is ridiculous(their tag cloud on Lastfm is a bit scary), which they were/are certainly far above. And this was one of my Mom's fav bands in the 90s and that's how I heard RATM :D

Molecules said...

haha, I think the coolest music my mum played was either NEIL DIAMOND or the 'American Civil War Songs' cassette picked up on hols... that had some anti-war classics still! 'Bullet in the head' is really impressing me at the momet; stupidly it never occurred that 'in-house drive by' meant TV! I feel sorry for people that don't have this record... thus postidge