I’ve been meaning to jump in on this tag for a little while now, but haven’t really been able to fit it into my posting schedule. After spending some time going through my old CDs the other day, I was finally inspired to start making these posts more of a priority.
Album: Evil Empire
Artist: Rage Against the Machine
Genre: Rap/Metal, Rap/Rock, Funk/Metal
Description: The band’s second record is chock full of all the energy, aggression, and left-leaning/anti-establishment politics that quickly became the group’s signature style. The album’s 11 tracks provide just over 45 minutes of relentless musical assault fueled by frontman Zach de la Rocha’s incendiary vocals and lead guitarist Tom Morello’s mastery of his instrument. From the opening line on People of the Sun (better turn the bass up on this one) to the closing screams and thrashing guitars on Year of tha Boomerang, this album doesn’t let up for a single moment.
My Experience: I’m going to really show my age on this one, but I remember buying this CD as a teenager (with cash at an actual brick and mortar store) shortly after it was released. It immediately became one of my favorite albums and has retained that status to this day. I’m a huge fan of both the sound and politics of this disc.
One thing that I find really striking listening to this some 22 after its release is how (unfortunately) relevant it still feels despite leaning so heavily on activist causes of its day. With songs touching on topics like systemic racism, police brutality, domestic violence, the military-industrial complex, and Palestinian resistance to the expansion of Israeli settlements all these tracks remain frustratingly applicable to our modern world, perhaps none more so than Without a Face, which is sung from the perspective of a Mexican worker secretly crossing the US border to make money to send back home.
Top Three Tracks: This was a hard decision. I have my favorites, but this is one of those albums for me where every track is really, really good. Anyway, in no particular order, here are the three (with select lyrics) that I’ve chosen to highlight. Yes, there were painful omissions made.
1. Bulls on Parade
One of the first singles off of the album, the track criticizes the military-industrial complex in the United States and the government’s spending priorities:
Weapons, not food, not homes, not shoes
Not need, just feed the war cannibal animal
I walk tha corner to tha rubble, that used to be a library
Line up to the mind cemetery now
What we don’t know keeps the contracts alive and movin’
They don’t gotta burn tha books, they just remove ’em
While arms warehouses fill as quick as the cells
Rally round tha family, pocket full of shells
There’s also a fantastic music video for this song as well. As if I haven’t already dated myself enough in this post, I first saw this as a grainy two-inch by two-inch movie file I downloaded from AOL back in the day. Here’s a look at much better version:
2. Down Rodeo
This track got a lot of airplay in my area and serves as a call to arms against the forces of consumerism, greed, and elitism. Its chorus takes the listener on an imaginary drive through the ultra-luxury shopping scene on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills:
So, now I’m rollin’ down Rodeo with a shotgun
These people ain’t seen a brown-skinned man
Since their grandparents bought one
It then goes on to look at the reality faced by those on the outside of all the opulence:
Them pen devils set the stage for the war at home
Locked without a wage, you’re standing in the drop zone
The clockers born, starin’ at an empty plate
Mama’s torn hands, cover her sunken face
We hungry but them belly full
The structure is set, ya never change it with a ballot pull
3. Wind Below
I’ll end with what is probably one of the lesser known tracks. Drawing its name from the philosophy of the Zapatista movement, this powerhouse of a song looks at how the wealthy and powerful use their position to manipulate and exploit the rest of the world’s population:
Flip this capital eclipse
Them bury life wit’ IMF shifts, and poison lips
Yo they talk it, while slicin’ our veins yo so mark it
From the fincas overseers, to them vultures playin’ markets
She ain’t got nothing but weapon and shawl
She is Chol, Tzotzil, Tojolobal, Tzeltal
As well as closer to home examples:
And GE is gonna flex and try and annex the truth
And NBC is gonna flex and cast their image in you
And Disney bought the fantasies and piles of eyes
And ABC’s new thrill rides of trials and lies
And while the gut eaters strain to pull the mud from their mouths
They force our ears to go deaf to the screams in the south
And with that I will wrap up the first of hopefully many Musical Mondays. Thank you and credit to Genius and @RATMVIVO for providing the lyrical and video content provided.