Aged fourteen, if a more perfect gateway record into the world of rock music existed, it was yet to be stacked onto the shelves of Our Price or grace the Britannia Music Club’s glossy catalogue pages. Such was the lot of a wide-eyed teenaged record buyer in the early 1990s: you stumbled across your future favourite albums of all time through said distinctly rebellion-free means, or recommendations from school pals, at a time in suburban Britain when digging discordant rock music wasn’t much more than a free pass to the majority of your peers assuming there was something majorly wrong with you. The political significance of the hugely iconic cover image - Malcolm Browne’s jaw-droppingly brutal photograph of self-immolating Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc - didn’t penetrate such a youthful mind. It just looked goddamn cool. But to insert the most overused adjective in the history of Zack De La Rocha’s LA nailbomb of a band, all of that didn’t make ‘Rage Against The Machine’ any less incendiary.
At such an impressionable age, the liner note declaring “All sounds made by guitar, bass, drums and vocals” filled a gaping void in a nascent knee-jerking anti-chart heart. In retrospect - and with the benefit of attempting to decipher the album’s guitar tablature book sans the finances to splash on Morello’s spiraling pedalboard - its charm can’t help but seem naïve. Regardless, repeated listening in the year 2012 continues to glean new discoveries. At times, where you once assumed Timmy C was injecting considerable squall into his brutal basslines, later you realise it’s the shapeshifting work of guitarist Tom Morello. And by the same token, occasionally the entire momentum is being led by the hugely underrated four-stringer to such a degree that it’s only when Morello’s wall-of-radio-tuning-noise kicks into splintered life that you click what is really unfolding (and Morello is still to equal his frankly flawless performance of guitar-as-a-sonic-weapon fretboard abuse, by turns arousingly alien and altogether abrasive).
‘Rage Against The Machine’ was among the first half-dozen or so rock LPs that your humble scribe ever purchased (from memory, for anybody who gives a flying one, ‘Nevermind’, Metallica self-titled watermark, the first triumvirate of Guns N’ Roses studio albums and Terrorvision’s ‘How To Make Friends And Influence People’ completed the roll call). Yet it’s the only opus from that list that still warrants regular airplay to this day, and remains, to these ears, as cilia-singeingly hot as the moment it was detonated. Ten tracks, including three iconic classics (‘Bombtrack’, ‘Killing In The Name’, ‘Bullet In The Head’), and another four unimpeachable monsters (‘Take The Power Back’, ‘Know Your Enemy’, ‘Wake Up’, ‘Fistful Of Steel’).
Don’t listen to the backward-glancing idiots who’ll blame RATM for the advent of rap-metal, not least as De La Rocha actually drops his lines with true hip-hop flair. This wasn’t some lazy Frankenstein’s monster grafting of two cultures or reapproximating street culture into suburban anger. The latter-day Christmas chart drive can’t disguise that ‘Killing In The Name’, two decades previously, bristled with danger on a level with a trip to downtown Beirut in its kidnap heyday. This was fifty-three minutes of pure ire that simply had to be unleashed. And there aren’t many standalone classics that ring as true in uncertain contemporary times as they did in 1992.
Words: Adam Anonymous
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE ‘RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE’
RELEASED: NOVEMBER 10TH 1992
PRODUCERS: GARTH RICHARDSON/RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
ZACK DE LA ROCHA: VOCALS
TOM MORELLO: GUITARS
BRAD WILK: DRUMS
TIM COMMERFORD: BASS
2. ‘KILLING IN THE NAME’
3. ‘TAKE THE POWER BACK’
4. ‘SETTLE FOR NOTHING’
5. ‘BULLET IN THE HEAD’
6. ‘KNOW YOUR ENEMY’
7. ‘WAKE UP’
8. ‘FISTFUL OF STEEL’
9. ‘TOWNSHIP REBELLION’
1992: IN THE NEWS
George Bush and Boris Yeltsin officially declare The Cold War has ended.
Mike Tyson is sentenced to six years for rape.
Disneyland Paris opens.
Rodney King’s beating by police in Los Angeles provokes riots that list six days, killing fifty-three.
Blues legends Willie Dixon and Albert King die.
1992: THE ALBUMS
Beastie Boys - ‘Check Your Head’
The Cure - ‘Wish’
The Lemonheads - ‘It’s A Shame About Ray’
Sugar - ‘Copper Blue’
REM - ‘Automatic For The People’