“They say rap and metal can never mix, well all of them can suck our sexual organ located in the lower abdominal area”. Wise words indeed from Anthrax (and a point they would go on to hammer home in the company of Public Enemy) but the combination of styles was not always a happy one. For every ‘Bring The Noise’ there was a absolute stinker, a factor multiplied when a whole movement sprang up towards the end of the Nineties – baggy shorts and all. Rage Against The Machine, however, always stood apart – not only from the likes of Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach – but from the majority of the music industry in general.
Back in action on a strictly on/off basis, their attention is at present turned to the past rather than the future, in particular the 20th anniversary of their self-titled debut album. It’s a record that should need no introduction to any State reader, perhaps why the reissue has been supplemented by all sorts of audio and visual extras to sweeten the deal. Nice as these are, it’s the original album that still holds the attention even after two decades of familiarity. All it takes is for the opening guitar lines of ‘Bombtrack’ to smash into life and you’re right back there, giving it large on some dance floor or other.
Yet Rage Against The Machine doesn’t play like a record of any type of vintage. Despite the claims of a new remastering, it sounds no different purely because it was so powerful in the first place. The combination of musical styles worked so well because those involved knew them so intimately. This wasn’t a case of bolting a hip-hop beat onto a rock guitar, more the natural results of what happens when a Clash fan meets with a hardcore punk rapper.
The brutal simplicity of the music (although it has more of a groove than you might have imagined) was matched by Zach de la Rocha’s words. “The rage is relentless”, he offers on ‘Take The Power Back’ and he’s not wrong. While the overriding message of the album maybe the teenager-friendly “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me”, there’s greater depth to be found elsewhere. The singer’s view of the world is stridently black and white but some of his observations on the nature of capitalism have proved to be worryingly accurate and they definitely walked it like they talked it, engaging with social and political causes in a manner that few bands have been able to match before or since.
So yes, the album is ultimately one dimensional and probably the only Rage Against The Machine record that you need to own – but what a dimension and what a record. They didn’t manage to change the world at large yet, for many, they did alter their way of thinking and for that they should be cherished and applauded. And given the state of things today, we could do with more of the same right now.