Friday, May 21, 2021


I've been listening to Rage Against the Machine a lot lately.

The first reason is that they're really, really good. The second reason is that it every few months, there's a two or three day internet cycle that revolves around them, one of their songs gets stuck in my head, and I throw on the self-titled album and drive around pretending I know how to rap, or how to play some of those weird Tom Morello solos on my guitar. I don't know how to do either of those.

One of my favorite RATM internet things that's been happening lately is people doing YouTube reaction videos of hearing them for the first time in 2020/2021. They're so fun to watch, and most of the time, the viewers are caught completely off guard by what they're hearing. They think they're getting a getting a generic rap-rock band, then they hear Morello's guitar, and listen to what Zach de la Rocha is saying and their mind is just blown. It's so fun. I spent so many nights during quarantine just watching people react to "Down Rodeo" for the first time.

My other favorite thing is conservatives suddenly finding out that Rage Against the Machine is a political band who believe the exact opposite of every single thing they hold dear. It's so, so funny seeing Instagram comments from people yelling at them to keep politics out of their music, or "I used to like this band until they started getting political. I won't listen anymore." Which just sort of proves that they never actually listened in the first place.

Rage Against the Machine has been a political band for their entire existence. The cover for the band's demo tape was a clipping from the New York Stock Exchange, and a single match taped to the inside. The first line of their very first single released in 1992 is "Some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses." They were not subtle about their views.

The joke for 30 years has been "What machine did people think they were raging against? The washer and dryer?" But it's still true. The majority of people only paid attention to the line "Fuck you I won't do what you tell me" and nothing else. A ton of people heard "Wake Up" at the end of THE MATRIX, and even more kids heard "Guerrilla Radio" on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, and none of them ever looked into the lyrics.

Rage was supposed to play a bunch of shows last year before the pandemic shut everything down. I wanted to go, but couldn't get tickets and didn't really want to see them in a huge arena. I saw them in a place like that once when they opened for U2, but I would have loved to see them when they played the small conservative town of Spanish Fork, Utah in 1996. But it was 10 days before I turned 16, and had no way to get there. My parents sure weren't going to drive an hour down there to drop me off AND THEN pick me up later. That would be silly.

After three albums and a collection of cover songs, the band broke up in 2000. Morello, bassist Tim Commerford, and drummer Brad Wilk stayed together and formed a couple of different bands. Audioslave, with Chris Cornell singing after Soundgarden broke up, is probably the most well known. They have a few good songs, but it mostly just makes you want to listen to Rage or Soundgarden. Morello has been the busiest, releasing solo albums, playing with Bruce Springsteen, appearing on talk shows, and just generally enjoying himself.

Zach de la Rocha, on the other hand, has been pretty quiet. He attempted a few different solo records, but was never completely happy with them. He recorded somewhere around 20 songs with Trent Reznor, back in 2003, and only one was ever released. Same thing happened with DJ Shadow, and again with El-P. He teamed up with The Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore and made one of my favorite EP's under the name One Day as a Lion. Every few years, de la Rocha will show up doing a guest spot on someone's album, most notably Run the Jewels.

It's all really good, and while I wish there was a full on solo album, it's almost more fun this way. Hearing him pop up out of nowhere every once in a while is so rewarding, that it's probably better to leave everyone wanting more.

The pandemic rescheduled Rage Against the Machine tour is supposed to happen in 2022, but until then here's a playlist of pre and post Zach de la Rocha songs. And like someone on the internet said, "The great thing about Rage Against the Machine is that they're always relevant. The sad thing about Rage Against the Machine is that, well, they're always relevant."

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