Nominated to #SaveTheCulture by Steve Taylor-Bryant, the Defective Inspector listens to the self-titled album by Rage Against the Machine...
Ah 1992, what a beautiful time. John Major won the election, Manchester gets bombed by the IRA and UK unemployment rate almost reaches 3 million. No surprise in such turbulent time that there was a lot of anger amongst the western world and the 90s gave birth to a fair few middle fingers to the man. In a horrific bit of subtle pun-age I put down my PC gaming machine to look back on the rap metal album which started millions moshing in rhythmic rebellion.
Before you even put the CD into the hi-fi (Yes I still own one) you are welcomed with the delicate reminder of what this music represents, rebellion. Stealing the powerful imagery from Malcolm Browne’s depiction of a Buddhist monk set ablaze it’s hard to not think about protest alongside strife. When the CD begins to play you notice something ironic, unlike the pacifist homage Rage Against the Machine do not encourage you to accept the oppression with solemn silence but instead in a glorious eruption of decibels and drum beats.
It’s almost impossible for anyone in the 90s not hearing a little bit of Rage, ‘Killing In The Name’ has embedded itself in the music world so well it can still be heard in rock and goth bars across the country to this day. Before the song even gets into its meatier elements you are invited to begin head banging alongside your friends by a slow dirty use of natural rhythm and this technique is almost completely consistent throughout every song. It doesn’t matter if you’re taking the power back or blasting a bullet through your head you cannot help but feel your neck muscles screaming as you continuously bob up and down. This can get a little bit repetitive as just about every song follows a recipe of simple chords, slow drumming and audibly abusive vocals. It gets past the point of music and more audio torture to the end of the album where long sustained notes of an over electrified guitar are thrown at your eardrums like a dart to a water balloon. But I don’t think the band members care if you are like the music, just as long as you are listening.
You have to remember the name of the band and album are not accidental. This is not an orchestral group trying to find the perfect way to achieve a crescendo, this is a group of frustrated angry bitter people who feel the US government are pushing on their backs a little too hard. The lyrics point to direct injustices throughout the early 90s and observe that the land of the free has a horrendous price. In a traditionally angry suburban way vocalist Zack de la Rocha screams out his defiance in rap form with the occasional whispered criticism when the drummer pauses for a moment of thought. Once again listening to this album for too long can really strain the soul as it constantly teases your adrenal gland into becoming enraged alongside them. The powerful messages of ‘f*ck the man’ is designed to provoke the biker jacket inside your soul. The problem is it all feels too... cheap.
I am not sure if age has done this album justice. While I still love popping on a track or two and feeling the rhythm take over my neck, back and head I cannot relate to the lyrics like I once did as a child. I suppose the cynical part of me has either given into ‘The Man’ or instead I find their attempt to f*ck him more posturing than helpful. In defence of the band members themselves they have a strong political history, enough so to warrant an entire page on Wikipedia, but none of it seems sincere when translated to music. This angst would probably work if re-released to a new generation but it’s no fine red wine, more a bitter vinegar.
When I listened to this album for the first time, I was a young teenager with barely a moustache to call my own. This album may have been a favourite of mine in 1992 but now… It’s a reminder of angrier times. I am still trying to work out if that’s a good thing or not, either way I can still enjoy the sporadic cowbell sounds in their unique style. Don’t believe me? Well watch the YouTube video below and wait for it!
While you do that I should share my personal nomination.
1992 was not just fulled of rage but also nakedness! Going down the the broodier route I decided to pick the manic depressive stylings of Barenaked Ladies – Gordon. Who should I give it to? VentSpleen of course! We’re two consistent writers with secret alias nicknames. GO FORTH MY FICTIONAL BROTHER!
Images from wikipedia