The Battle Of Los Angeles

Rage Against The Machine

Epic Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/03/1999

One listen to Rage Against The Machine's new album, The Battle Of Los Angeles, you know it's on. You can almost hear lead singer Zack de la Rocha draw a line between the "haves" and the "have nots" in the middle of Los Angeles and have him say "Let's get ready to rumbleeeee."

But that would trivialize what Rage Against The Machine accomplishes on The Battle Of Los Angeles. Totally uncompromising, propulsive rhythms and a proud statement: "All sounds made by guitar, bass, drums and vocals," Rage Against The Machine make huge strides in their new album. Hate to say it folks, but believe the hype, the critics are right on this one.

Given the sorry state of radio right now, Rage could have very well released a warmed-over version of their first album and it still would be heralded as a bold statement. But Rage gets experimental on many of the tracks on "Los Angeles." But don't mistake being subversive for being subtle. Rage's music still goes off like a mail bomb.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Testify" opens with a scathing criticism of the news media. Yeah, I know, it's not exactly a moving target, but de la Rocha manages to make the argument fresh by playing victim "I'm empty/ please fill me/ mister anchor assure me/ That Baghdad is burning."

Lyrics will only get you so far. And fortunately for Rage, you've got some of the best musicians of the '90s when it comes to driving your point home with the precision of a jackhammer. Brad Wilk's drumming sound crisper this time out, but the trademark bass and guitar work that makes you recognize Rage in a couple of seconds has evolved. Y.tim.K's talent for the bass is the key to bridging hip-hop and heavy metal. And Tom Morello's guitar work dares to go into intriticate territory with "War Within A Breath" and "Maria," a slam against sweatshop setups.

There's plenty of the heavy stuff to satisfy even the oldest of old-school Rage fans. "Born Of A Broken Man" and the soon to be immortalized in the mosh-pit anthem, "Calm Like A Bomb," detonate in their intensity. But the songs that show that Rage is trying to take the rock and rap marriage to new levels are the best songs on the CD so far.

"Sleep Now In The Fire," is by far the best heavy metal song I've heard in four years. And "New Millennium Homes," is instantally memorable, not for it's chorus, but for the expert songcrafting. By trying to blend two different genres, as well as co-opt four distinct personalities into one disc had to result in some trauma in the studio. And according to some articles before The Battle Of Los Angeles was released, the band came close to toally breaking up before this was recorded. But like some of the best albums born in turmoil, this album is a triumph, not an embarassment.

Rage could have dropped the ball big time with The Battle Of Los Angeles. Rap-rock music has become the next genre to be the scapegoat for school violence, sexism and last time I checked, some really stupid songs on MTV. On the inner sleeve of the CD liner notes, Rage lists over a dozen or so political groups where you can get active. Their songs deal with the oppressed much like the Clash and Public Enemy did before them. But Rage doesn't rely on mere symbolism. In 20 years, some of the lyrics that bash both Bush and Gore will not be timely, but fortunately, the music will still sound vital.

Rating: A-

User Rating: B+


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© 1999 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.