Rage Against the Machine
By Brad East
WHEN: 1992-2000, 2007-present (touring)
HOW: I had heard of Rage by word of mouth, but never listened to them until the release of The Battle of Los Angeles in 1999 — but it clicked immediately. The anger, the relevance, the music, the spare purity of it: I was in rock heaven. Apart from Tool, which belonged to a different musical universe entirely, Rage became the standard by which I judged all other bands that claimed to “rock”; and honestly, I’m not sure I’ve heard much that even comes close. After TBOLA, I filled out the full catalogue, and was sufficiently devastated when they broke up after only three original albums together.
WHY: There is probably no need to explain what it is about Rage Against the Machine that makes them such a singular musical force. They are a fiery mix of prophetic poetry, rap-like spewing, endlessly creative guitar riffs, and groovy, grounding, powerful rhythm. You have to be educated to understand what they are talking about yet simultaneously are educated while you listen. You learn an anger that either ought to be yours or exists out of your experience and therefore ought to be heard. And witnessed live — which, like an unforeseen miracle, I did in New Orleans October of 2007 — it is all there before you, like a riot mob compressed into sound. Pure, revolutionary energy, symbiotically shared between four men on a stage and a crowd of thousands.
SONGS: While their self-titled debut is sometimes considered their purest album, half of its songs are classics and the other half are relatively forgettable. The Battle of Los Angeles, however, is in my opinion one of the great albums of the last 25 years. I realize the folks at Pitchfork or Paste aren’t going to line up behind me on that claim, but it clearly ranks up there with the best of Radiohead and Nirvana, hands down. That said, the wealth of great songs limited my ability to include some of my more idiosyncratic favorites like “Maria” or “Ashes in the Fall“, but for the most part, everything that needed to make it did, including “No Shelter,” which isn’t on any of the four LPs. I think the order is well suited to a raucous start, a (relatively) mellower middle, and a dramatic and explosive finish.
LINK: Click on the list below to see the 80MFL iMix, where you can listen to samples, download what sounds good, or get the whole thing!