How relevant are Rage Against the Machine?
So the members of Rage Against the Machine are having themselves a little reunion outing, eh? What a great reason for a massive flock of shirtless, chest-bumping frat boys to jump in place with middle fingers extended while screaming, "Fuck you I won't do what you tell me!"
It should come as no surprise that the politically charged rap-rock foursome caved in for a supposed one-off performance their first in almost seven years at the recent Coachella Festival. Since 2001 the festival's organizers have been shelling out the bling for such iconic alt-rockers as Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Stooges, and the Pixies to kiss and make up for one stifling day in the desert. Now Rage-oholics have a machine to rail along with again at least until October.
So far the group has only committed to a string of scattered festival appearances around the country, including four dates headlining the "Rock the Bells" tour, the annual hip-hop festival including performances from the Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy, Nas, Mos Def, and EPMD. According to RATM, there are no plans for a new album; guitarist Tom Morello stated in a May Blabbermouth.net interview that recording a follow-up to their last studio disc, Renegades (Epic, 2000), would be "a whole other ball of wax right there" and "writing and recording albums is a whole different thing than getting back on the bike and playing these songs."
But why play these songs now? Is it only a coincidence that the RATM realliance followed the dissolution of Audioslave in February? Morello confirmed this with Billboard.com in March, revealing that "the Rage rebirth occurred last fall when it was clear that there was not going to be any Audioslave touring in the immediate future." In addition, sources for the Los Angeles Times disclosed that Coachella's quick sellout and the ticket scalping that followed factored into the band's decision to add more dates after that appearance.
RATM, however, have spun their reunion to NME.com as a response to the "right-wing purgatory" that this country has "slid into" under the George W. Bush administration since the group's demise in 2000. As Morello additionally told Billboard.com, "These times, I think, demand a voice like Rage Against the Machine to return" and "the seven years that Rage was away the country went to hell. So I think it's overdue that we're back."
So what took RATM so long, and why listen to a leftist band that's earned its salary from a subsidiary of a corporate media conglomerate, namely Sony Records? And who's willing to listen the decider in chief? Efforts ranging from the worldwide protests against US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to legislation to cut off war funding crafted by the Democratic-led Congress have failed to move the Bush camp. It's doubtful that a band known for its aversion to both the Democratic and Republican parties is going to have any impact.
Since RATM's so-called "Dixie Chicks moment" at Coachella, corporate media has definitely scrutinized the group's defiance of the Bush regime. During a performance of "Wake Up," Zach de la Rocha made a speech stressing that the current administration "should be hung and tried and shot." The band members quickly came under fire, and on a segment of Hannity and Colmes, Alan Colmes pegged them as "anarchists," while Sean Hannity suggested that they should be investigated by the Secret Service. Guest Ann Coulter scoffed, "They're losers, their fans are losers, and there's a lot of violence coming from the left wing." In rebuttal, de la Rocha deemed the three "fascist motherfuckers" and reiterated that the band believes Bush "should be brought to trial as a war criminal," then "hung and shot." Thanks for clearing that up, Zach.
RATM's songs have more significance today then they did 10 years ago, but if RATM choose to have a voice now, will their cause be served come November should they dissolve again? It's likely de la Rocha would retreat to the rock he's been hiding under for the past seven years if the band decides to part ways a second time. Even if the rap-rock pioneers' material is tagged as anarchist propaganda for the masses, they definitely have something more to offer listeners than does, say, a Smashing Pumpkins reunion. A reassembled RATM couldn't come at a better time and these songs are meant to be played and heard now. Perhaps this time we're ready to listen and stand up with them. *
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
Rock the Bells Tour
Sat/18, 1 p.m., $76$151
McCovey Cove Parking Lot
24 Willie Mays Plaza, SF