Rage Against The Machine
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'00 was not a good year for Rage Against The Machine. First, lead singer Zach De La Rocha announced he was working on a solo project. But later in the year, De La Roach said he was leaving. A breakdown in communication and group decisions were given as the reasons. In between, bassist Tim Commerford was busted for disorderly conduct at the MTV Video Awards. During Limp Bizkit's acceptance speech, Commerford climbed to the top of a pseudo-steel set and rocked back and forth. Why? Who knows? Those awards shows can get pretty dull, especially if you haven't won anything. By the end of the year "Renegades" was released featuring covers of songs by Springsteen ("The Ghost of Tom Joad"), Rolling Stones ("Down The Street" and "Street Fighting Man") and Bob Dylan (Maggie's Farm"). All had a definite political slant.
Rage Against The Machine originated in Orange County back in '91. From the outset the group could hardly be anything but political. De La Rocha was the son of a politically active artist while guitarist Tom Morello's father had been a Kenyan freedom fighter. Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk soon joined the Metal/Hip-Hop outfit. A self-produced 12-song cassette got them signed by Epic Records, which raised the immediate question: "How can revolutionaries work for a major corporation?" Epic was owned by electronics and media conglomerate Sony. But nobody seemed to dwell on it very long.
In '92, the group released its self-title major label debut and hit the road appearing on Lollapalooza and backing a number of political campaigns including Rock for Choice.
Four years later the "Evil Empire" came out. The damning "Bulls On Parade" (a song about government misappropriations) led the way thanks largely to Morello's pulsating wah-wah guitar work. Rage Against The Machine also went on a summer tour with the Hip-Hop, Wu-Tang Clan.
The "People of the Sun" EP hit in '97 while '99 saw the release of another success "The Battle of Los Angeles."
Former Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell replaced De La Roach as Rage's new frontman but the deal fell through shortly after it was announced. Of course, Audioslave ultimately emerged.
Rage Against The Machine decided to reform and tour in '07. That decision led to the demise of Audioslave. But before the tour got underway Morello and de la Rocha performed together in Chicago at the Coalition of Immokalee Worker's 2007 Truth Tour.
Rage Against The Machine began their reunion trek on the last day of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (in Indio, CA). It was their first show since disbanding in '00. The set list included "Testify," "Bulls On Parade" and "Killing In The Name" (the group's first single from their '92 self-titled debut).
According to Morello, the group decided to perform at the festival "to deliver a knockout blow to the Bush administration. Hopefully, one night in the desert is all it will take." On stage De La Rocha declared, "Our current administration needs to be tried, hung and shot . . . like the war criminals they are."
Morello, operating under his Nightwatchman alias, kicked off his '08 Justice Tour in L.A. During each stop of the seven-city trek, he focused on a different social cause, such as homelessness, affordable housing and veterans care.
Morello then released his second solo album under the Nightwatchman moniker, "The Fabled City," in September,'08. The album was the follow-up to "One Man Revolution" issued a year earlier. "My goal was to capture the energy and emotion of the Nightwatchman live shows," said Morello. "There is a much more Rocking quality to this record." The disc featured a guest appearance by System Of A Down's Serj Tankian.
In one of the more surprising and unusual comebacks, Rage Against The Machine's '92 hit, "Killing In the Name," was the #1 selling single in the U.K. at Christmas in '09.
A Facebook campaign was started by part-time DJ, Jon Morter, to beat out X-Factor winner Joe McElderry and his song, "The Climb." "Fed up with Simon Cowell's latest karaoke act being Christmas number one? Me too…," Morter wrote on his Facebook page. "Quite a day! Thanks again for making Rage part of this historic campaign," tweeted Morello. "Changing the charts or the world: together we can't be stopped."
As a 'thank you', Rage Against The Machine played London's Finsbury Park a few months later in front of 40,000 fans. The concert film "Live At Finsbury Park" arrived in '15. The release was accompanied by "behind the scenes" footage plus an interview with the campaign's founder.
1992 Rage Against The Machine
1996 Evil Empire
1999 The Battle Of Los Angeles
Everything about Rage Against The Machine is intense whether it's the social commentary or music. The self-titled debut has "Bullet In The Head." The extremely popular "Evil Empire" is an explosive masterpiece while "The Battle of Los Angeles" contains "Born Of A Broken Man" and "Ashes Fall Down."
For "Renegades" the group covers politically oriented songs by Devo, Afrika Bambaataa, MC 5 and others. The songs are good and so are the performances but the CD doesn't have the jacked up intensity of Rage Against The Machine at its best.
There are a number of live performances that are worth seeking out, including "Bombtrack" from a BBC appearance. "Live At The Grand Olympic Auditorium" was recorded in L.A., the group's stomping ground. With "Bulls On Parade" and "People Of The Sun" it could get dismissed as a "greatest hits live" effort. But with de la Rocha's politically oriented theatrics and Morello's guitar, Rage Against The Machine always seem like a beast waiting to be un-caged. Here they get their chance and take full advantage. The group feeds off the audience who feeds off the group. They are as revved up as the band. Originally, it was planned to be released with "Renegades" but that idea was dumped. Too bad, this set is a scorcher.