Against the Machine
label: sony / epic
our score: 4.0 out of 5.0
Bang, Not a Whimper
De La Rocha quit the band in October 2000, it effectively ended
Rage Against The Machine as we know it, but at least Zack left
this one last gem of a covers album in his wake. What a way to
of 12 cover songs reminds me a lot of Guns 'N Roses 1993 album
The Spaghetti Incident in terms of conception. Both are
albums of covers that just happened to be the last statement of
the first incarnations of both bands.
where the similarities end. Whereas Spaghetti Incident
was just a half-assed side project for GNR taken on during the
recording of the Use Your Illusion albums, Renegades
was well planned out by RATM. Lack of execution made Spaghetti
Incident flop, but Renegades will not meet the same
is a surprisingly diverse album from Rage. A good case could be
made that the previous three RATM albums were too similar. The
band took a good thing and overdid it, but not here.
is a cross-section of the band's influences, from hip-hop to punk
to speed metal to classic rock to new wave to campfire folk ballads.
The band managed to take all these songs and make them distinctly
its own. The album is a textbook study of how to do cover songs
was an exercise in song reconstruction. The band just took the
lyrics of the tune and totally rewrote the instrumental accompaniment
in most cases. The punk and metal songs, MC5's "Kick Out
The Jams," "In Your Eyes" by Minor Threat and "Down
On The Street" by Iggy Pop's The Stooges were pretty much
left in tact, but the others were changed radically.
The most striking
change may be what RATM did to Devo's "Beautiful World."
The 80s new wave beat was discarded, and the tune was turned into
a slow, eerie, ballad in which De La Rocha actually tries singing
instead of the typical angry whisper or scream. It's totally unlike
anything Rage ever did before.
I really like
what they did to the classic rock songs, probably because I have
a point of reference in the originals. The Rolling Stones "Street
Fighting Man" is given a techno edge. Bob Dylan's "Maggie's
Farm" is "Rageified" in the band's trademark loud,
slow style, where the anger just seethes out of every pore until
the piece becomes a six and a half minute long jam with an extended
instrumental coda. Tom Morello is a technical genius with all
the sounds he can get out of an electric guitar, and I don't use
that term lightly.
Bruce Springsteen's "The Ghost of Tom Joad," a long-time
Rage concert staple, is finally given a studio treatment by the
band. It is transformed from a wistful folk ballad, and made into
De La Rocha shines most on the rap tracks, which include Cypress
Hill's "How I Could Just Kill A Man," EPMD's "I'm
Housin'," Eric B. & Rakim's "Microphone Fiend"
Volume 10's "Pistol Grip Pump," and the best one, "Renegades
of Funk" by early hip-hop artist Afrika Bambaataa. The outpouring
of passion and rocking instrumental backgrounds of these tracks
make them compelling even to someone who dislikes the hip-hop
pressing of the album includes two bonus live tracks, versions
of "Kick Out The Jams" and "How I Could Just Kill
A Man." On the latter, Rage pays homage to Cypress Hill,
who were among the earliest supporters of the band, by inviting
Cypress's Sen Dog and B-Real onstage for the song. This is especially
interesting because B-Real is a potential replacement for De La
Rocha. So this track may be a preview of RATM's future.
De La Rocha's
RATM will be missed. Future lineups will never quite be the same.
As anyone in a band will tell you, it is so hard to get the right
combination of people, and when you get it, it is like a precious
jewel, impossible to replicate. Rage virtually created a whole
musical style. It was the original rap-rock band, and the best.
The Renegades album is all the proof you need.