...but the cause RATM works hardest for is early retirement. When Zack de la Rocha and Tom Morello are chilling full-time on their respective Hawaiian pieds-a-terre, Leonard Peltier will still be in prison, and life in Chiapas will still suck. Yeah, the music's great; so is Public Enemy's - even though Chuck D hasn't yet solved the ills of the inner city. Just take with a grain of salt the noises of any Pied Pipers of "la revolucíon", especially when they're Sony-sponsored.

Rage Against the Machine rock. Not only does their music rock, but so do their political views. The band consists of: They are rap/metal band. Known for their heavy guitar riffs mixed in with screaming vocals.
They have recorded the following albums: RATM are also known for their political views. They support groups like: Amnesty International, FAIR, Rock for Choice, Women alive, and pro freedom groups. They also support Mumia Abu-Jamal and are helping raise funds for his re-trial (accused of murdering a cop, but his initial trial wasn't exactly fair).

The name Rage Against the Machine (aka RATM, Rage) is basicly a description of what the band stands for. Rage -- movement of anger, against the Machine -- The "Machine" represents authority in any form -- not just the government. This also shows, as being Zack an anarchist, and Tom as a communist.

They're also supposed to be one of the best bands to see live. Unfortunatly I haven't had that experience yet.

One of Marx's ideas that was most plainly wrong was that of the immiseration of the proletariat. Clearly, worker standard of living did rise in the last 150 years, contrary to his prediction; although whether or not there is absolute immiseration in times of economic depression and relative immiseration during times of prosperity is an idea worth exploration. One might also note that Marx lived during the dominance of laissez-faire; clearly, he did not anticipate the Bismarckian welfare state, the massive government spending that characterizes Keynesianism, and so forth.

"But what does this have to do with RATM?" you ask. Well, the idea of the immiseration of the proletariat was central to Communist propaganda, which goes to show how clueless Party ideologues really were. Leninism is dead partially because no one can seriously bemoan the "abject poverty" workers endure and because no one wants to hear it. It has been noted that the speeches of Hyde Park orators usually ran thusly:

Friends, even now comrades are victimized by British imperialism in India. Friends, even now comrades are languishing in {insert oppressive Third World nation} jails. Friends, join the Communist Party.

And along those lines RATM's lyrics run. The rhetoric can even make me blush, and that is quite an achievement.

Still, I must acknowledge that Tom Morello is one of the better active guitarists. The bassist has his moments, too.

Of course, there is that whole hypocrisy business. I find Morello's argument of "subverting corporate media to reach the masses" a bit hard to swallow. From my experience, the average RATM fan doesn't have a good understanding of politics.
"Oh, the tragedy and the anguish. You just gotta Rage Against the Appliance, man. The toast is burning and you just gotta rip it out and free it before it fills the house with smoke. Rage Against the Toaster."

--Beck, from an interview in Spin Magazine, July, 1994

Since all the facts are up, time for a couple vignettes:

At the Lollapalooza where RATM was the first act (1995 I believe), Zack de la Rocha looked out at the crowd and screamed, "YOU'RE JUST A BUNCH OF FUCKING FRATBOYS!" The crowd shouted back, "YEEAAH!" He just shook his head...

When I heard the first track from Evil Empire on the radio, I thought, "Hey, someone decided to do a really bad ripoff of Rage Against the Machine. I wonder who they are." Since then I haven't paid any attention to them--although the cover art for the album may be the best ever.

Rage Against the Machine is one of a very few rock bands left that still hold any interest whatsoever for me. They are intensely sonically creative; their music nonchalantly crosses genres as if the lines they draw through were never there, and in the process they warp both genres they touch. They make their music completely on their own terms. They refuse to touch synthesizers, building all of their otherworldly noise out of nothing but electric guitar, filters, bass, drums and vocals. It takes you a really long time to believe there are no keyboards or samplers involved. Their sound is powerful, indescribable, alive.

People tend to ignore this. People tend to see the political aspects of the band and nothing more. A lot of people trash Rage randomly for hypocrisy, and Rage is an easy target because so many of their fans are under the delusion that going to a concert for a politically motivated band actually changes anything, and Rage does little to correct them. Rage may indeed be hypocritical, but i don't care. I'm listening for the music; and the way i look at it, anything that gets mtv to admit for just a moment that the sweatshops (the ones that make all that Fubu merchandise mtv hawks so mindlessly) exist is a good thing. Maybe Rage could do more to actually help things; maybe too much is being expected of them. At the least De La Rocha's lyrics, which oscillate wildly between mind-blowing and awkward (usually both within a single song), raise issues no one else would be raising to a lot of people were Rage not there.

As of October 18, 2000, Zack de la Rocha is no longer a member of Rage Against the Machine.

In a flurry of vague, vitriolic and extremely polite comments on the parts of Zack and Tom Morello ("It is no longer meeting the aspirations of all four of us collectively as a band, and from my perspective, has undermined our artistic and political ideal..." -Zack) one group of four people became one group of three people and a solo artist.

I expect now that De La Rocha will give up music and just write, freeing him from rap's constrictive structure and allowing him to write the moving, powerful poetry he is so obviously capable of, and Rage Against the Machine will stay together and just do instrumentals, freeing themselves from the limitations imposed by accommodating vocals to create pure, unadulterated music the likes of which has never been heard before.

Just kidding. That's not what i expect. It could happen.. but what i expect to happen is that Zack will embark on a series of promising but very unevenly produced and frequently hollowly scored solo albums, Rage will release an album or so of meandering guest vocalists before eventually finding some new permanent vocalist who will spend the rest of his career living in Zack's shadow, and Spin Magazine will shake their head and go tsk, tsk. In the meantime Zack's solo debut album is already being worked on, and Rage has an album's worth of cover songs recorded before the split and now being prepared for release.

(Update: The cover album in question has been released, under the name "Renegades".)
(Another update: The remaining members of Rage have apparently re-entered the studio and are as of this writing actually recording an album with (of all people) Chris Cornell. The resulting product will not be released under the name Rage Against the Machine, and no other name has been decided on yet for the project. Music executives have been quoted as saying "Rage Against the Machine no longer exists"; the actual members of Rage seem to be acting as if they may someday use the name again if they can find a fitting vocalist. As far as the new project goes, both Cornell and Morello are telling the press that they all consider the material they are recording now to be the most exciting music of their entire careers. Well, something interesting is definitely going on here.)
The project in question has now been released. See Audioslave.

Rage Against The Machine is the first album by the band of the same name. It was released on November 3, 1992, by Columbia Records and totals fifty two minutes and forty eight seconds over ten tracks. All of the songs on this album had the music written by Rage Against The Machine and lyrics written by Zack de la Rocha with some serious influence from guitarist Tom Morello. It is my belief (and the belief of many others, as well) that this album is the high point in the Rage Against The Machine catalog.

This band was mostly signed to Columbia in the wake of the huge success of Nirvana's breakthrough album, Nevermind, and the resulting mad rush of every label in the country to seek out and "discover" any edgy band with even a touch of talent. Rage Against The Machine, regardless of how you feel about their politics or their music, has to be considered one of the better finds, probably best shown here on their debut album. The album is a mixture of rap, hardcore, funk, jazz, and heavy guitars, creating an edgy and sometimes violent feel; this was one of the first groups to really mix heavy rock, rap, and funk (Body Count, from the same timeframe, also comes to mind).

What set the group apart, though, and brought them such widespread success was the extremely well-done melody underneath all the noise and rage, and above it all, Zack's lyrics that spoke of anarchy and politics, a theme that had basically been ignored in music for many years. When I first heard this disc in eary 1993, it was perhaps the freshest thing my ears had ever heard; it truly sounded different than everything else and in a good way. This album was a groundbreaker, and it paved the way for many solid but lesser rap-rock fusion groups to follow.

The album opens with Bombtrack (4:05), one of the singles from the album. The melody under the song here is fantastic, and the lyrics tell the tale of a member of an oppressed race responding by placing and igniting bombs, perhaps both intellectual and literal, depending on your perspective. The song makes clear the band's militant political perspective in its lyrics. It's not your ordinary rap song that discusses manifest destiny as this one does.

The second track was also a single. Killing In The Name (5:14) seems to cry out against pseudo-religious groups who use their righteousness and influence to spread pain and death. The lengthy intro to the song, featuring a lot of guitars playing with a variety of hooks before settling on one to use throughout the song, is fantastic, demonstrating clearly that the appeal of this band isn't just ideological.

Take The Power Back (5:37) is perhaps the best song by the band in terms of lyrics, although I'm sure you'll find argument from other fans of the group. The song is mostly about how education is being used to plant false ideas in the mind of America's youth, Eurocentric ideas that promote a government agenda rather than promote the truth. The references are quite diverse, even referring to an American student militia group from the 1960s called the Weather men. The meshing of guitar and percussion all throughout this song is fantastic as well, making it perhaps the best song on the album.

Settle For Nothing (4:48) is much more despondent in nature than the songs before; it's about reacting to oppression with acts of intense violence (suicide and genocide are described). I feel as though this song is rather over the top; I realize the group has a militant stance and all and I can swallow that (mostly because they have some valid social points), but responding purely with mass acts of violence triggers a response of extreme distaste from me, especially in light of recent events.

The fifth track, Bullet In The Head (5:10), is another lyrically brilliant track, something the group often does very well. This one is about how ideas are planted in the head by television and mass media, and the tone and melody of the song fits the theme very well; it just clicks as a good song should. The "bullet in the head" here is a corrupted idea, not a literal bullet.

Know Your Enemy (4:56) kicks off the second half of the album with a song about police brutality touched all over with literary references (including a nice one to Henry James). The music is solid and aggressive as usual. This is a song I would point to to demonstrate how solid overall this album is; it doesn't particularly stick out in any way but is an excellent track on its own.

It is tempting to point to the seventh track, Wake Up (6:04), as having the best lyrics on the album. It does feature one of my favorite verses of all time ("networks at work keepin people calm / ya know they murdered X / and tried to blame it on islam / he turned the power to the have nots / and then came the shots"). The song mostly centers around the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, loaded with references to leaders and celebrities tied into the movement (Muhammed Ali, Flip Wilson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcom X, J. Edgar Hoover, and others). The rampant, driving guitar work carries the song greatly, particularly in the bridge in the middle.

Fistful Of Steel (5:31) is perhaps the weakest song on the album, not really having the direction and purpose of the other tracks. Even the normally solid music comes off as more aimless, with the particularly annoying repeated siren sound bringing this track down to mediocre, which is far below average for this disc.

Thankfully, the album ends with two strong tracks. Township Rebellion (5:24) argues the case of civic revolt in times of civic dissatisfaction, pointing to Johannesburg, South Africa and south central Los Angeles during early 1990s times of trial as examples. The idea of revolt in times of severe dissatisfaction is quite sensible; after all, it was exactly how the government of the United States was formed, as were most world governments.

The album ends with another single from the album. Freedom (6:07) is musically very strong, maybe the best on the album in terms of the instrumentation. The lyrics are solid once again, questioning the nature of freedom and judging the American version of freedom in this age of monstrous corporations to be very poor. An excellent close to the album.

If Rage Against The Machine seems like a band that you wouldn't like, I'd still recommend picking this album up out of a used CD bin sometime. The underlying melodies are incredible and the album still sounds as fresh today as it did when it was first released in late 1992. If you truly like this album, I would recommend picking up their albums in order, following this one with their 1996 album Evil Empire, so that you can truly get a sense of their musical progression.

Insane mosh pits? Eh . . . if you say so. I've been in theirs, and they ain't too insane. Anyways, that's not the point. Rage Against the Machine is a solid band in my opinion - musically they have a lot to offer. Tom Morello is a wizard with making weird guitar noises, and the rest of the band plays tightly.

However, I find their political beliefs hard to swallow. I understand that everyone's gotta make a living, but the hypocrisy in their posturing is still very apparent. Sure, they argue that they're getting their message to more people, but the integrity of their message is being compromised to do this. Look at a band like Fugazi - fiercely anti-corporate, and has existed on their own independent label their whole career. Yet they have developed a huge following and legions of devoted followers and garnered a ton of admiration, my own included.

It's a tough call. Another complaint I have is their fans. Not all of them obviously, but a good number of them are suburban upper-class white kids with everything they ever wanted. I've seen many of these. Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with them liking the music, but when they say "America sucks! Fuck the system, we're being oppressed", I have to draw the line. These kids have never been oppressed in their lives. Never had trouble with the law. All of a sudden, they hear a song on the radio and fancy themselves political theorists and comrades of a new revolution.

Jesus Christ.

However, to their fans who agree with their politics and understand them, as well as, of course, enjoying the music, I say more power to you. Keep fighting the good fight.
Here's a proper discography for Rage Against The Machine (excluding demos, singles and the like):
Politics in a literary work are a pistol-shot in the middle of a concert, a crude affair though one impossible to ignore. We are about to speak of very ugly matters.
~ Stendhal

They say the poets flatter to deceive. They're aren't kidding. I've always been fascinated by the way that music can tap straight into your emotions and your soul and change the way you feel without the need for any interpretation; and unlike any other art-form it is so hard to avoid because it permeates the ether around you, literally bathing you in in joy or melancholia or anger. Great philosophers have known the importance of music since philosophy began with Plato, and they have been intermittently aware of its political importance. My generation is the most musical there has ever been, with a staggering amount of music available for purchase or download and portable devices that mean many are almost never without it.

Politics and music make for strange bedfellows. The sign of a third-rate artist is trying to approach politics crudely and directly, like a political cartoonist; this may provide entertainment, but it is hardly timeless or even particularly convincing. But politics and art are inseparable because how we live together is not primarily about rationality, it is about feeling and interest and perogative and perception; it is about our emotions towards various concepts, like society or the state or the nation. Human living-together is much more about love and hate than it is technocracy, and believing otherwise has been the privilege of only a few brief epochs.

Rage Against the Machine were a band who may or may not have known all this; I don't know. But the music they sent out into precisely one of these epochs was so effective exactly because this was true. It doesn't matter one iota that the record industry that they distributed their work through was a part of corporate America, which they intermittently criticized in their music; this criticism was political cartoonery, certainly not the main thrust. When they strayed into the temptation to sing about specifics, they were at their weakest. And despite these third-rate diversions - which wholly characterize practically every other band that has tried to be "political" - they managed to produce three timeless and moving albums.

The first, the self-titled, had all the hits. The Matrix took 'Wake Up' as its theme tune, whereas 'Killing In the Name', 'Know Your Enemy' and 'Bullet in the Head' became the band's signature tunes. This album was heavy on the long guitar-riffs and the direct message; it contains the only direct references to the United States of America in all of their albums. The second, Evil Empire, was radically different. Musically, the songs are more jumpy, more incoherent, and the politics has shifted south of the Rio Grande, where it belongs. This album has a heavily Latin feeling to it and it makes the themes of blood and oppression and revolution much more plausible. Then finally, The Battle of Los Angeles listens like a fusion of the previous two albums, combining the best features of both.

Enough description. You can go and listen. What is much more worthwhile to discuss is precisely what it was about this music that appealed so widely to western youth at the End of History. Rage's music was fundamentally libertarian and bespoke a generation of revolution and politics-as-movement which had all but vanished from the western world by the 1990s; it was the '60s repackaged, glorified and resold. Just as the spirit of the student revolutions in 1968 was largely given its impetus by the struggles against Nazism and Stalinism (and the not-unconnected desire to get high) of the previous generation, Rage tried to reignite the spirit of revolution from the only source available to it: the Cold War struggles in Latin America.

I am, let it be known, no great fan of Fidel Castro or Che Guevara; nor Hugo Chavez or Régis Debray, the latter being one of those French intellectuals who was up to his eyeballs in the most extreme left-wing activity - not to mention Bolivian prisons, for his trouble - and managed to emerge into the French establishment reformed and unscathed. But this is music, not rationality, remember. What Rage did was package the feeling of the oppressed and those who thought they could help the oppressed through anarchism and revolutionary communism and turn it into something that can actually teach you about the emotions that lay behind this, whatever your rational thoughts about the merits of their case may be. And that, in my opinion, was not bad going.

Revolution and oppressive landlords and politics-as-war have no real resonance with western youth, only an imaginary one. And in the final analysis, Rage's songs did not help the oppressed one jot - and when they broke up, announcing they were mystified by this fact, I could not help but laugh. As a political force, they were indeed a joke. But they managed to crystallize the yearning for freedom and autonomy that characterizes so many people who are the victim of God's cruel games and those of their fellow men; and they articulated the desire to violently seek control of one's own destiny that lays at the heart of revolution. "One thing you can't understand, is how I could just kill a man," sang Zack de la Rocha. And he was right, his bourgeois listeners could not - and nor could he. But he did a good job of pretending.

We should never forget that this yearning for change and even violence lies on one level in our societies, especially among the young; we are, in politics if nothing else, fundamentally conservative places that have - we think at least - banished violence and revolution for good. That's why it's called The End of History. But what music and art teaches us is that these sides of our character exist, however we suppress them; the fascination with the criminal and the malign that characterizes contemporary popular culture is a sign of this, and directly mirrors developments during western civilization's last golden age of prosperity in Victorian times.

We - we ungrateful bastards? - especially the young, can still be captivated by the thought that the battle against oppression and that which is static is one of the things that makes life worth living. Without it we resemble a dog, someone once said, happy and content sitting in the sun but hardly possessing our full human dignity. Young, western listeners of Rage were prone to direct their anger in the wrong direction, not towards those who commit genocide and the most terrible crimes abroad, but instead inside their own peaceful borders, where the worries of these youth pale into insignificance compared to the trials of most of the world's population. But never forget that tens of millions of our young listened to these albums and temporarily felt a rush of blood to the head, an urge to fight what is wrong with this world. Shed your pretensions and listen for yourself and see if you don't feel the same. The feeling may be important one day.

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