photo & text by nacrowe
when THE BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES (EPIC, 1999) record came out i was a sophomore in high school at a boarding school in MASSACHUSETTS. it was an event i distinctly remember because unlike the first two releases, this was the first RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE album i was anticipating in advance. their debut was something special my brother had found and bought in ROME on a family trip long after its release and the second album just announced itself on MTV when we were back stateside staying with relatives. for me this third album was an event since the first two were so REVOLUTIONARY in terms of CONTENT and PRESENTATION.
and i think that is where this album fairly or unfairly doesnt live up to the first two releases. its similar to my gripe with THE CLASH in general. they had HEARTFELT, WELL-INTENTIONED LEFT-WING POLITICAL SCREEDS coupled with MIDDLE-OF-THE-ROAD music. i know for some that is blasphemous but oh well. with RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE from the get-go, their OUTSPOKEN and UNAPOLOGETIC revolutionary POLITICAL STANCES (courtesy of the their SINGULAR frontman ZACK DE LA ROCHA) were met with the most UNCONVENTIONAL and INNOVATIVE ALTERNATIVE ROCK guitarist of his generation, TOM MORELLO. never mind the fact that they had one of the premier rhythm sections ever in TIM CUMMERFORD and BRAD WILK. in other words, their INTENSITY of their politics was more than matched by the IMPACT and POWER of their music. but by the the time THE BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES comes out it feels very much like the first time the band is RETREADING past glories. its a more-than-COMPETENT album with STANDOUT tracks like "CALM LIKE A BOMB," "TESTIFY," "BORN OF A BROKEN MAN," "SLEEP KNOW IN THE FIRE," "WAR WITHIN A BREATH," and "GUERRILLA RADIO", but it comes off more like an ITERATION instead of an INNOVATION.
and DE LA ROCHA picked up on that early in the production of the album apparently and perceived that the band had become COMFORTABLE in its songwriting process. given that the band was a bit of a high-wire act throughout its existence, this COMPLACENCY seemed antithetical to the ethos of the group in his reported opinion. it makes sense that THE BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES is the last studio album by this ICONIC group. in the intervening years the band has only grown in STATURE and their has been this push-pull dynamic in terms of the band being a touring entity. despite not wanting to sweat it out to the oldies, the band and especially DE LA ROCHA know full well that they can utilize their clout to promote PROGRESSIVE CAUSES on a level few can in this new digital ecosystem. their live performances generate eyeballs in our attention marketplace. so this record marks the end of the band as a CREATIVE entity, but whose to say that wont change.
despite not living up to their first two releases, THE BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES absolutely slays the competition relative to everything that came out during the turn of the millennium and the twenty or so years since. definitely recommended but only after taking in the first two albums, which are absolutely DEFINITIVE for the band and their era in music history.
parodies by nacrowe
been a crazy week with DONALD TRUMP getting his tacky FLORIDA pleasure palace raided by the feds on monday. dont know if anything will come of it but i see no reason not to celebrate it nonetheless.
back in november 2019 i did a show on one of my favorite bands growing up RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. not only are they one of the best live bands ive ever seen, but they are one of the few political bands whose sonic onslaught and INNOVATION matches and maybe even exceeds that of their relentlessly strident PROGRESSIVE POLITICS. my big gripe with bands like the MC5 or THE CLASH was always that they would talk a big game, but then aurally it left more than a little be desired in terms of stepping away from traditional song structures and being EXPERIMENTAL. guitarist TOM MORELLO is renowned not only for his flawless technique but also his disregard for the instrument itself, often utilizing various IDIOSYNCRATIC, self-directed techniques meant to render his instrument as DJ turntables. for MORELLO, everything is fair game including tapping, plucking bending, pulling, unplugging and feed-backing sometimes al at the same time. ironically he has a spartan gear setup which makes his sonic landscapes that much more impressive. he is very much the embodiment of INTENT TRUMPING TECHNIQUE.
for me personally listening to RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE has always been a godsend, especially in the years since i returned from working and living extensively abroad. coming back home during the TRUMP years was tough and i felt utterly gutted and isolated by what i saw my country devolving into. i had spent time in developing countries, military dictatorships and more than one failed/struggling democracy. to see members of my extended family fall under the spell of TRUMP was demoralizing. listening to RAGE helped me cope with that aggression and attempt to do my part in fighting the guy. in that regard i am still immensely proud of the music video DEER GOD did in collaboration with DOLLTITS half a decade ago for their clever anti-TRUMP song "LOCKER ROOM TALK." definitely check it out.
for me the legacy of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, irregardless of whether they ever decided to record a new album, is their authenticity and ability to fully realize their intention. they are a singular force of nature and have inspired people to persevere even when your country is turning to shit. same goes for all their solo and side projects over the years such as PROPHETS OF RAGE, AUDIOSLAVE, ON DAY AS A LION, WAKRAT, STREET SWEEPER SOCIAL CLUB and THE NIGHTWATCHMAN.
its all good.
oh and by the way, that is not a MAGA hat im wearing in the embedded video below. my brother got it at a PROPHETS OF RAGE show and it says "MAKE AMERICA RAGE AGAIN." just wanted to be extra clear on that point. dont want to be confused for a MAGA loser.