Fuck you, Sach O won’t do what you tell him. Motherfucker.
Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled debut is the best rock album of the 90’s. OK, it probably isn’t but that’s not nearly as ridiculous a statement as some of our more “tasteful” rock-crits would have you believe and it’s certainly less of an exercise in revisionism than some of the recent nigh-Orwellian cred-shoring that’s been going on in those same circles. Insider baseball aside, people listened to Rage, loved Rage and for the most part continue to do so. Yet no matter how liberal the vegan crunk night, you’ll never meet a self professed arts or media type that’ll cop to liking them, even as a teenager. Too loud, too brash and most damningly not cool enough.
To be fair, the band probably never even considered making an overture for that audience. Drawing inspiration from the fertile and bombastic wells of 80’s Hardcore and 70’s Hard rock instead of post-punk or the emerging indie scene, Rage aimed to be as noisy as they could without alienating a mainstream audience, a no-no among tastemakers who prefer their music obtuse to the point of frustration or subtly pleasant. If the band’s marriage of lumbering Zep-n-Sabbath heavy rock riffs to speedier punk attack wasn’t bad enough, De La Rocha’s shout rap lyrics were the band’s cardinal sin: everything from ICP to Limp Bizkit can be traced back to Rage’s rap rock and they were never forgiven for it, unlike the rehabilitated Beastie Boys. Said Beasties were a great example of how to do it right by the way: they dropped the metal pretty quickly and their rap-rock fusion was witty and laid back. The Beasties were cool bros, Rage were the skater dudes that ACTUALLY got into fights with cops and harshed everyone’s buzz.
Still, you’d think the band’s politics would be enough to get them by right? After all, De La Rocha spits more venom than my university’s organic vegan Co-op when a new McDonalds opens AND they did it on a fairly major label. Somewhat hypocritical sure, but weren’t people into irony? Apparently too much so, De La Rocha’s straight faced and bumper sticker ready sloganeering was apparently a bit too much for a crowd still enraptured by Michael Stipe’s mumbling and apparently “power to the people” is only fun if the people don’t actually understand what you’re talking about. Godspeed You Black Emperor and Rage can share politics but dammit what are all these mullet heads in Iron Maiden T-shirts doing at this Rage gig? I bet you they never even went to ONE SINGLE anti-government rally! As if they really know how to empower the people, bunch of poseurs! Let that sink in.
It’s too bad too because the music on Rage’s first album is actually quite radical and far funkier than you’d think. Bass lines skip and don’t chug, Tom Morello’s solos are as inventive as guitar mags would claim, the drumming is miles ahead of say, Dave Grohl’s at the time and reductive lyrics or not, it’s STILL fun to sing along to these tunes nearly 20 years later. In the end though, I suppose Rage never needed critical acclaim from “the right” crowd: they collected plenty of accolades from hard-rock mags, went triple platinum and if even one mullet-headed listener went on to protest the Iraq war then the band probably achieved its goal. In any case, I fondly remember listening to this tape while hanging around with my friends in the 90’s and that’s more than what I can say for fucking Pavement, that’s for damn sure.