Rage Against The Machine (Epic ‘92) Rating: B+
Rage Against The Machine are often credited for creating, or at least popularizing, the rap metal genre that became big at the end of the 1990s. Truth be told, Rage are hardly the first rap/funk-metal/hard rock band (the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More both came first), nor are they the first to controversially mix rock and politics (The Clash, U2 - not to mention Bob Dylan), which is the band's other calling card. So why are Rage loved by critics while many of their followers are largely loathed? Well, let's start with the 3 i's: intensity, integrity, and intelligence, all of which the band has in abundance. Plus, the band's explosive rhythm section (bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk) can really lock into a groove, and Tom Morello arguably coaxes more cool sounds out of his guitar than anyone else around today. One is never quite sure what he'll do next, as he's capable of beautifully straightforward solos as well as all manner of futuristic effects. So why only a B+ rating? Well, as much as I admire this band and appreciate their virtues (they’re supposed to be a really good live band, for example), I'm really not a big fan, and for several reasons. For one, much like many of their nu-metal followers, a lack of variety is a major problem. Another problem is the vocals, that being the band's big weakness. Don't get me wrong, rapper/screamer/shouter Zach de la Rocha is one convincingly angry mutha as he militantly fights against the establishment while urging us to “Take The Power” back. However, although de la Rocha’s over the top hysterics mesh well with the band’s jumpy stop and start rhythmic assault, his extreme vocal phrasings of his paranoid leftist propaganda (another problem - the politics/targets on this album are pretty obvious, and the solutions - such as "fuck you I won't do what you tell me" and "know your enemy" - aren't all that helpful) grates on my nerves after a while, as does his annoying tendency to screech “uh” in nearly every song. So even though I wanted to like this heartfelt and unique band, and can get really pumped up to them in limited dosages (particularly on “Killing In The Name”), as far as the long haul is concerned, you can count me out.