There are some albums that go beyond music. Everyone has one. The album that attaches itself to your DNA and shapes you. That album for me is the self titled debut by Los Angeles Rage against the machine. This album shaped my music tastes, my politics, my personality. After the first listen I knew that it was going to be a defining marker for me and I have played this album probably more times than most other albums put together. I know every guitar line, every drum beat, every phrase. I know this album like I know my own skin and because of this I’ve found a bit of a problem. How do I write about this album?
I was into heavy music for a few years before I was introduced to Rage. I was an unashamed nu metal kid so the idea of combining rap and metal wasn’t an alien concept. It was my Dad of all people who one day presented me with the album and said something like “I found this is a record shop and thought you might like it”. If I remember correctly I sat in front of my little HiFi system and didn’t move for an hour. I had heard nothing like it before. This was hard hitting both sonically and emotionally. It was full of funk but at the same time heavy as hell. It also had a guy who could really rap, unlike most of what nu metal was trying to do. Before Rage I had never heard politics in music but they didn’t change my political leanings, just gave it a voice.
I could go on about this band and this album for months so instead I’m just going to focus on three elements that make them great.
One: The musicians. Whatever style they chose to play, the band were always tight as hell. Each one of them are world class musicians. Tom Morello is a genius guitarist. He is close to Hendrix with his ability to make his guitar talk. The sounds he produces are just astonishing. Brad Wilks is the pulse of the band. As a drummer he is one of the best. Tim Commerford is the reason that I picked up the bass and is one of the most full on players you will ever find. Then there is Zack De la Rocha. The conviction in his voice and the power in his delivery is what makes Rage the band that they are. No one sounds like Zack. Even after keeping a low profile for a while, his work with groups like Run the Jewels show he’s still got it.
Two: conviction. One of the things that I love about Rage is that there is no subtext. They say what they mean and they back it up. From leading protests to public demonstrations (standing naked in front of a festival audience is pretty public) they stood by their words.
Three: Power. At their peak Rage against the machine could go toe to toe with anyone. In the live environment they were stunning. They had no stage show. No effects. No props. Just four guys on stage killing it. I got into the band a few years after they spilt and waited a ridiculous amount of time to see them live. They levelled Donington park that night and have gone down as one of my all time favourite gigs.
I can’t go on much longer but I will sign off by saying if you have not listened to this band then please do. Every album is a classic but I will always shout out for one of the greatest debut albums ever recorded