Rage Against the Machine – XX


At the beginning of 1993 I picked up a copy of M.E.A.T. (R.I.P.) a Toronto-based metal magazine that had recently reviewed a band ridiculously named Rage Against the Machine. A combination of the album cover (a Buddhist monk burning himself alive in protest) and the perfect five “M” review left me curious. Thanks to my local shop I immediately grabbed the CD and from that very first listen I was hooked. The closest comparison I could think of was an inconceivable hybrid of Living Color’s funk metal Public Enemy’s political raps and Sick of It All’s incensed hardcore. But RATM were much more than that. In fact it was like nothing my 14-year-old self had ever heard.

Seeing Rage open Lollapalooza that summer I could sense the tide was turning. They seemed popular. And then when school was back in session I noticed I wasn’t the only 10th-grader with a T-shirt emblazoned with that iconic typewriter font. That was the moment where I first discovered I felt a sense of entitlement over a band. Yes Rage Against the Machine made me a music snob.

I gave up on Rage once Britpop hit but never forgot the immediate impact their debut had on me.

Now Rage Against the Machine has turned 20 and been nicely repackaged as XX complete with the remastered album bonus live tracks an extra disc containing the 1991 demo tape and a DVD featuring the music videos and a trio of live clips (a big expensive vinyl box set contains even more goodies). To say it sounds timeless is a bit of an overstep; to say it still sounds as powerful as it did 20 years ago isn’t. Every one of the 10 tracks is an anthem bursting with disgusted furious calls for justice over any number of transgressions performed by a true ensemble. (Although Tom Morello’s innovative guitar licks are still boggling to hear.)

I still yell lyrics like “Bring that shit in! Ugh!” It’s fun. Revisiting such an important album from my formative years is like reconnecting with an old friend. It feels good. But like that friend who wronged me once or twice I can never forgive Rage for how they wronged me: by giving the meatheads of my school and thousands of others music to inspire their belligerent bullying behaviour. Sure it wasn’t their goal or anything they approved of but “Killing in the Name” will forever be associated with shit-kicking mosh pits that destroyed bespectacled bystanders and with fist-throwing loudmouths who just had to yell “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!” at the top of their lungs in someone’s face.

The reissue is awesome and will make an excellent Christmas or Hanukkah gift!

P.S. I know this album is largely considered the breeding ground for nu-metal but I chose to ignore that point. We all know that the blame squarely lies on Faith No More for that one.