Rage Against the Machine
Rage Against the Machine
The Battle of Los Angeles
Rage Against the Machine - The Battle of Los Angeles:
Released November, 1999 on Epic records. (Sony)
Produced by: Brendan O'Brian and Rage Against the Machine
Guity Parties: Zack de la Rocha - Vocals, Tom Morello -
Guitars, Tim Bob - Bass, and Brad Wilk - Drums.
Contains tracks: Testify, Guerrilla Radio, Calm Like a Bomb, Mic
Check, Sleep Now in the Fire, Born of a Broken Man, Born as Ghosts,
Maria, Voice of the Voicless, New Millenium Homes, Ashes in the Fall,
War Within a Breath.
Total Running Time: 45:16
After Evil Empire was released in 1996, a new genre of music based
on Rage's style suddenly became mainstream. Rage Against the Machine
avoided the hype of this fuming music scene, and released an album
3 years later that surpassed all the music released in the interval
between Rage albums: The Battle of Los Angeles. In the words
of Tom Morello, the album is "heavier, super-hard rocking, rhythmic
with deep hip-hop grooves, and some really unique sonic slap-back
funk" - a sound that not only takes the popular form that Rage
originally created to the next step, but takes it an entire country
The Name...."The Battle of Los Angeles":
From Zack: "Los Angeles is famous for Hollywood and for its culture of
entertainment, but the reality is that it's a city that's in permanent
conflict between those who have and those who do not, between those
who were born privileged and those who have been abandoned by the
Government system. Rage's music has always tried to reflect and to
raise those voices of the vulnerable, and the album's title has to do
with that. Tom has also said that this album relates the important
factor that a band like Rage Against the Machine could have only
occured in Los Angeles - the sound, the ethnic makeup of the band,
the intensity of the live shows - it's entirely Los Angeles. The
struggles that the band went through in order to make it all work
was a battle in it's own.
About the misrepresentation of the Gulf War by the U.S. media.
News anchors relay lies into the homes of Americans, because that's
all the Americans, being empty people whose only concerns are the
media's showcase of glamour and gossip, can handle. The only
way for people to survive is through the opiates that they partake
of every day in the form of celebrities and media. It uses the party
slogan for the Oceania government in the book "1984": "Who controls
the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the
David: Testify and Guerrilla Radio are sort of sister songs to "Bullet in the
Head". Bullet in the Head is about the role of the US media in
glamorizing the Gulf War while hiding a lot of the ugly truths behind
the bombings. Testify is about yellow journalism, and how the media
makes American society numb to violence ("Mr. Anchorman assure me that
Baghdad is burning"). There's even a citation of 1984 in the lyric "Who
controls the past now, controls the future. Who controls the present
now controls the past."
This song is about the worthlessness of democracy in the United
States. Since the people don't truely understand "choice", and are
only able to grasp a small glipse of those running to represent
them in office, they are unconsciously under a one-party system.
Rage are using music and sound as a weapon against such "low
intensity warfare". This song was the first single from Battle of
Los Angeles, and is the most recognizable as "Rage", in relation to
their past releases. It's basically a manifestation of Rage's
goal and purpose, acting as "guerrilla radio" to alert the masses of
the change to radical ideas.
David: I think that Guerrilla Radio is a broader version of Bullet in the Head
in the sense that it talks about how mainstream media hides the
unpopular truths of our everyday world that nobody knows or cares
about. Even though the song is not about sweatshop labor, the video does
touch on this idea that the media is not telling you everything, and
uses the Gap's ads with good looking trendy kids dancing their asses off
in expensive clothes to prove their point.
The lyric "More for Gore or the son of a drug lord/None of the above/
Fuck it, cut the cord." is obviously a reference to the upcoming
elections (read the George article). For a while I thought that George
Bush was the son of a drug lord because of his coke habit, but I did
some digging and figured it out. His father (former president George
Bush sr) used to be the director of the CIA before he was vice president
under Ronald Reagan. There is an old conspiracy theory that the CIA
introduced crack to the inner cities of all major American cities (i.e.
LA, New York, DC, etc.) to make political dissidents (i.e. Black
Panthers, MOVE, etc.) into mindless, drug addicted vegetables. Hence,
George jr. is the "son of a drug lord" (George Sr.)
Calm Like a Bomb
Calm Like a Bomb song sortof defines Rage's observations of the world. Zack
practically lists everything he sees, sounding off a general "wake
up call" to everyone, as well as urging them into change. This is
Rage's vision of the world, as a whole, and in the individual
cities. (Pick a point on the globe/Pick a point here at home).
Zack checking the mic to get the attention of the oppressed. I
can imagine him on a soapbox, definately. The original version played
live at the Mumia Abu-Jamal benefit in 1999 had the lyric in the
chorus: "From the field, to the factory - mic check, ha ha ha!"
The song is sometimes called "Mic Check (Once Hunting, Now Hunted)"
referring to the police who were once "hunting from 9-to-5, through
factory lines" are now hunted on "this modern day auction block".
This song IS hip-hop, and Rage does it better than anyone else.
The lyric, "To the young R-E-B-E-L, never give up - just live up,"
inspires on a personal level.
Sleep Now in the Fire
David: This is about the Westernization/influence of
capitalism and the United States on the world. Numerous references to
exploitative Western legacies (Columbus' ships, the fields overseer of
the slaves in the American South, my agents of orange - the shit the US
military dropped all over Vietnam, the priests of Hiroshima) "There is
no other pill to take so swallow the one that makes you ill" (I think
the pill is a metaphor for political system/government, and how the U.S.
makes other countries switch to their idea off a democracy)
At the end of this song, Tom's amplifier was picking up a Korean
radio station - so, since it was coming out of the guitar in one way
or the other, they faded it out at the end of the song.
Born of a Broken Man
This is the most personal song, and it is about Zack's father's
mental collapse when Zack was a younger man. Don't count on Rage
to dwell in depression, however - this song declares that while
Zack was born of a broken man, he is not a broken man himself. He
can see the events that led to his father's breakdown, and avoid
them on his own path.
Born as Ghosts
Ehren Metcalfe: I think this song is about children born into very
poor families inMexico where they have no advantages what so ever and
their lives don't matter . The part in the song about Gates, Guns and
Alarms shaping the calm of the dawn is in reference to the U.S./Mexico
Border and Border Gaurds blocking the children's entrance to the U.S.
where they can hopefully raise their state of living. Also the line
about "One book and forty ghosts locked in a room" is in reference to
the poor school system which children born into poverty must deal
David: "Maria" is about a woman who comes to the United States as
an illegal alien and is basically murdered by her supervisor in a
sweatshop. "The new line of Mason Dixon" is a reference to the US
border with Mexico. The Mason Dixon Line (if you remember your
American history) was the border that separated slave states from free
states as a result of the Missouri Compromise.
Voice of the Voiceless
David: About Mumia Abu-Jamal. The lyric "And
Orwell's hell, a terror era comin true. But this little brother's
watching you too." That's a reference to the classic George Orwell
novel 1984, where the state is basically this unseen authoritarian force
that controls everything and everybody. The term Orwell uses for the
government is "Big Brother" (which is still used as a metaphor for
government over 50 years after he wrote the book in 1948) . So "little
brother" in that lyric would be the average citizen, who's aware of the
government's abuse/authority and knows it's wrong.
New Millenium Homes
Ehren Metcalfe: New Millenium Homes is a song about capitalism and
how it negatively affects the poor working class. Words like "old
south order, new northern horizon" are in reference to the fact that
large corporations make you think they have great positive ideals and
practices when in actuality they have the same slave owning way of
thinking of the old american south. The title New Millenium Homes I
think is meant to be a slightly sarcastic way of saying so called
charity is a fraud to make you believe something is actually being
done about the problem of poverty.
Yes, the chorus to this riff is the same as the ending riff on the
Ashes in the Fall
It is my personal understanding that this song is about the future,
after the collapse of modern society.
Ehren Metcalfe: I believe that Ashes In The Fall is a song that is
about groups like political parties repackaging the same rhetoric over
and over again saying that it has been drastically changed (ie. This
is the new sound, just like the new sound). This explains the "Aint it
funny how the factory doors close..." part.
War Within a Breath
Follow the Zapatista's example: Everything can change on a New Year's
Day - seize the metropolis, it's you it's built on. This is all
self-explanatory. "It's land or death" is a phrase that emphasizes
that land, for the agrarian cultures of Chiapas, Mexico, is life -
sustained by relationships with supernatural forces, and nurtured
in communal and familial rituals. Land is the essential part of being,
and is worked, cared for, and ritualized in a cultural, symbolic,
and matter-of-survival context. When the Mexican government "changed"
article 27 of the Constitution, eliminating community property,
they also eliminated the people, dividing them into pieces, families,
or individuals, and privitizing the land. If the Zapatistas don't
take arms and fight for land - they face death.
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