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.
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