Sunday, January 28, 2007

paint a vulgar picture.

The Coachella Valley Music Festival seems to be making its name now on reuniting at least one defunct band every year for the event, and this year's winner is Rage Against the Machine. It's yet another move that reads weirdly if you take the band's politics at its word.

Rage's original catalog consists of a classic debut album, a mediocre follow-up (Evil Empire's second half is nothing but filler), and a very good third one. There is also Renegades, a curio of a cover album consisting of musical re-writes for many of the tunes, but it's not bad on its own, and worth it alone if the band's fans decided to look into EPMD or Eric B. and Rakim based on absolutely shaking versions of "I'm Housin'" or "Microphone Fiend" (never mind terrific if by-the-book readings of Minor Threat's "In My Eyes" or the MC5's "Kick Out the Jams.")

The problem with Rage is that it was unable to reconcile its leftist politics with its actions in the music business, much like it couldn't reconcile Zack de la Rocha's hardcore/hip-hop background with the pure rock and roll backbeat of drummer Brad Wilk, bass player Tim Commerford, and mad genius guitarist Tom Morello (three original albums in nearly a decade of existence speaks to this). The "belly of the beast" argument can only be repeated so many times, and when your fans are singing "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me," with you, it's worth questioning whether the values are passing on or simply floating over.

De la Rocha's post-RATM career has been next to nil as far as anyone can tell, and the instrumental end has been cranking out serviceable albums with Chris Cornell as Audioslave. (The three Audioslave records aren't bad, but with the musical pedigree, I expected more, and I bet many others did too.) So, if the Goldenvoice organizers throw a ton of stupid-ass money for a one-off, any fool will take it. But any sloganeering the band does on a mass level during the show will ring hollow, much like it did during the later part of its short career.

"And every gimmick-hungry yob digging gold from rock and roll
Will take the mic to say that he'll die before he's sold.
But I believe in this, and it's been tested by research
That he who fucks nuns will later join the church."

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