Rage Against The Machine, by Rage Against The Machine
Suggested by Craig Scott
When I was young, a disproportionate amount of time was spent worrying about the PMRC.
The PMRC, or Parents Music Resource Center, was an American committee formed in 1985. It had the goal of increasing parental control over the access of children to music with violent, sexual or drug-related themes, through the use of guidance stickers. Their figurehead was Tipper Gore, wife of Senator Al Gore of ManBearPig fame, and they ran for over a decade before disbanding.
They pressurised the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) to develop a music rating system, alongside suggestions that album covers displayed printed warnings, or suggestive covers be sold under-the-counter, or TV shows be pressured not to broadcast anything “objectionable”, firing any performer with a confrontational stage persona.
They went in hard for Heavy Metal.
Sure, they targeted Prince, and Madonna, and Cyndi Lauper, but it was bands such as Judas Priest, W.A.S.P. and Twisted Sister that bore the brunt of their ire. Hearings led to the RIAA adopting their own discretionary Parental Guidance stickers, largely to mollify the baying horde of pitchforks at the door. You’ll have seen the sticker, with its bold font across three black-and-white-stripes.
Aged fifteen, I was incensed that censorship existed, threatening to curtail my listening pleasures. I’d rail at anyone who’d listen, I’d wear the protest t-shirt, I’d lap up bands that flew that dissident flag, like Megadeth or Rage Against the Machine.
When I hit eighteen, “old enough” to watch or listen to anything I pleased? I dropped it like a hot potato.
Rage Against The Machine are angry. They spend the entirety of every song on this, their debut album, being Very Angry About Everything. It’s easy to see why, as Zack de la Rocha’s voice is pitched for activism. It’s a strong sound, an energetic and expressive sound, but it’s the very definition of a one-trick pony.
The band build their music around incendiary revolution, and rightly so. In doing so, they create some of the most memorable slices of musical activism ever created, such as the excellent opener Bombtrack, or the gloriously heavy Bullet In The Head. And then there’s the standout Killing in the Name, a true anarchists’ anthem with a perfect chantable chorus and a history of Sticking It To The Man, be that man Simon Cowell or the manager of the Asda in Preston who pumped it over the Tannoy in 2008.
The other tracks on the album do a fine job in maintaining the intensity and vitriol, and they do get the blood pumping somewhat, but they feel a little derivative of the marquee songs, as if the band are trying to recreate their barnstormers with varying degrees of success. It’s all a little tiring. And, as with the PMRC, I find the vim and vigour I may have once displayed for such admittedly worthy causes and themes has diminished with age. Nowadays I’m more incensed by shoddy service than I am by actual injustice, which I know reflects badly on my character.
Rage Against The Machine contains classic songs, and it has a classic cover, but I think I’m fine with the songs I already know. I give it 6/10. It likely won’t get a replay, no matter how many times you tell me.