As urgent and unique as ever, RATM’s debut has aged extremely well.
Greg Moffitt 2012-11-23
Originally released in November 1992, Rage Against the Machine’s debut LP is one of the definitive rock albums of the 90s, and one of the most influential of all time.
Available in three different versions, this 20th anniversary set pairs the remastered album with a range of interesting, though ultimately inessential, video clips. Also included is concert footage and rare bonus tracks, including the band’s original 12-song demo.
Fusing metal’s volume and sheer aggression with the streetwise style of Public Enemy and Beastie Boys, RATM married metal and hip hop to incredible effect. No one since – certainly not the likes of Kid Rock or Limp Bizkit – has come close. An explosive cocktail of savage sonic beatdowns, caustic political invective and razor-sharp social commentary, it’s the sound of righteous anger vented with total conviction.
Although now perhaps better known in the UK as the song that, thanks to a popular grassroots campaign, bagged the 2009 Christmas number one slot, Killing in the Name is the track that broke the band. The first of four singles from the album, it enjoyed heavy radio airplay and became an instant club hit. With its pummelling riffs and notorious “F*** you, I won't do what you tell me” refrain, it’s the band’s signature track and the soundtrack for The Terminator generation.
None of the other singles lifted from this album – Bullet in the Head, Bombtrack and Freedom – is so arresting or immediate. In their own right, however, they’re great songs, and the remainder – particularly Take the Power Back, Know Your Enemy and Wake Up (featured prominently in the zeitgeist-changing movie The Matrix) – are never less than incendiary.
Overall, Rage Against the Machine has aged extremely well. Tom Morello’s inventive guitar work, Zack de la Rocha’s impassioned vocals, and the fierce rhythms laid down by bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk sound as urgent and unique as ever. They didn’t quite manage to change the world, but agitprop rock’s corporate swansong ended with a bang, not a whimper.