The Battle of Los AngelesBy Seth Leibowitz
Highly anticipated is an understatment when describing the long awaited release of Rage Against the Machine's third album "Battle of Los Angeles" Three years after "Evil Empire" scorched our speakers with such hits as "Bulls On Parade" "Down Rodeo" and the underrated "Without a Face" What the foursome had in store for it's fans was unlike anything we could expect.
The wait was quite worth it. Zack's lyrics have progressed to a level far beyond the average individul can comprehend. Combined with Morello's ingenious guitar work. Wilk's tight drumming, and Cummerford's thumping basslines the members have reached their artistic heights. The disc opens up with "Testify", not to be confused with a different song done with the same title. Morello's screeching guitar and Wilk's drum roll grabs the listener by the throat. Now my interpretation of these songs aren't necessarily correct, but here is my take on "Testify:. "Testify" Can we say yellow journalism? The decrepit journalists filling our heads with what they want us to see and not what goes on. Great opener "Guerrilla Radio" follows. Although I fear this will turn into another Bulls on Parade, whereas receiving too much airplay, it's one of those songs that make you want to jump up and down as hard as Zack would. The video is fantastic, exposing the sweatshops of those labels that the public eye loves so much. Morello brings his guitar to a new level by turning his guitar into what people thought was a damn harmonica. The new mantra at shows will very well be Zack's soft-spoken, "It has to start somewhere/It has to start sometime/What better place then here/What better time then now."
"Calm Like a Bomb" is one of my personal favorites. Once again "and the riot be the rhyme of the unheard" will stick in fans minds for awhile. Look at the title people. Self-explanatory. "Mic Check" is far and beyond the best song on the disc. Imagine taking the funk of Parliament, the intelligent groove of KRS-One, and throw in some reggae flavor and you have concocted the most original work the group has done to this point. Zack's flow is tighter then a virgin here folks, and his machine-gun like lyrics are filled with astounding words. "Quicker then a fed cash the company checks/Come with tha fire only Marley could catch" And his play on words like "politricks who rob and hold down your zone..." Wow. And Morello's solo just makes you want to bob your head and feel this magic.
"Sleep Now in the Fire" should be the next single. It's a throat-grabbing, hard-hitting rock and roll song...period. War is an issue in this tune, where Zack speaks on "agents of orange" and "the priests of Hiroshima".
"Born Of A Broken Man" first blessed my ears at Woodstock. This chilling song is this rollercoaster ride where Zack whispers some amazing prose and then blasts us with the spine-tingling chorsu "Born of a broken man/but not a broken man." Whether or not this is about this father is undetermined. I'll let you decide that.
"Born as Ghosts"... Unfortunately your not going to have an overall incredible album. Every album has flaws. This song does not do it. Yes, Morello and "YtimK" trade "wha-whas" back and forth and the lyrics hit home hard. This is the weak track on the disc.
I first heard "Maria" at the Mumia show earlier this year. Take a persecuted woman in Mexico and describe her story to someone and you have this track. I would say it's one of the best songs on the disc. I want to say Zack is talking about the innocent women being killed on the Mexican border, but like I said my views might not be right. Reminds me of "Juarez" by Tori Amos, except the story in told in pure Rage form, emotional and mind-numbing.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is becoming a household name to Rage fans. Whether or not they realize that the group is supporting his denial to fair trial and not whether he murdered police officer Faulker is the question. Regardless, "Voice of the Voiceless" is the homage to this incarcerated journalist. I'm at the point where I am digesting the lyrics and trying to interpret them. "And Orwell's hell a terro era coming through?" Any help would be appreciated.
"New Millenium Homes" speaks of the future. Whether we're prepared for it matters not. Zack's lyrics prepares us for the worst. "Ashes in the Fall" is very similar to "Revolver" off of "Evil Empire". Except Morello's opening guitar tweaks, Wilk's machine-gun drum rolls, and Zack's chilling monologues like, "It's the priests that fuck you/as they whisper holy things" bring this song to a level where you can help but admire the musicianship of these artists. The disc closes out with "War Within a Breath". A perfect maniacal finish to a great album. Morello's screeching guitar leaves you speechless and Zack's whispered forecast of"everything can change on a new year's day" makes you want to stay indoors as the millenium hits. All in all this album quenched my thirst and filled my cavernous belly for new Rage music. I was a little surprised how commercial they have become (MTV, Letterman and Conan). The album shows that this band needs time between albums to put out quality material. It's the qualitative theory here people, not the quantitative one. (Although Zappa did put out about 150 albums and he was a genius). Music of this nature needs to be thought out in a timely fashion. The lyrics and the music combined show that Zack, Brad, Tom and Tim wanted people to get something out of this. Plant a seed if you will. Not walk around and sing about waling around an airplane naked. Music needs meaning. Aggressive music especially. Music is an outlet of expression. And as a fan Rage gives me that outlet, while instilling some knowledge into my head. Bottom line is this people, if it weren't for NIN and Rage Against the Machine's albums this year, the music world would be twisting and turning in sheer pathetic bedlam. So for that we should thank them.....
Rally round the family,
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