Every so often comes a record that shakes up the way you see things; love, life, politics, whatever the case may be, that one record stands above all else and shows you how things could be. We’re lucky if this happens more than once in a lifetime, and it will, if you have your mind and your ears open.
I was in the right place at the right time to be infected by the strength of this first album from rage against the machine. It was the early ‘90s, I was still in high school but headed off to university soon, looking at the world outside with the knowledge that I, too, would soon be more of a participant. Couple that with the explosion that was Grunge, and this album rolled in perfectly.
Anger pours out of every track on this record, but what was refreshing was the way it was presented – point blank, in your face and with no fear of being shut down. We know that anger has its place, that it is a valid emotion and that it must be dealt with immediately, not bottled up for the sake of the status quo. And here was this record, letting it out, venting about the things that bothered the band most and being completely unapologetic about it.
Some friends (and even a band on the Short Music compilation) have called rage against the machine phonies, sell-outs who foist their own propaganda about DIY and Damn The Man while still taking Corporate money to get the message out there. Frankly, there are other ways to get your stuff into the hands of fans. Look at Ani DiFranco, or Fugazi. Even Rollins (sometimes). Oh, and a little thing called the Internet. Heard of it, have you?
But those people missed the point. It wasn’t so much the method that got the album out there, it was what was contained therein. Who can argue its potential to smack you awake and open your mind a bit more to the world around you? And whatever you may think of their politics, no one can deny that, musically, this record is like a bomb going off in your stereo. It’s forceful, even brutal, and definitely loud. It is impossible to play this at a low volume.
rage against the machine went on to make other records, some of which contained great songs, but this first release of theirs remains the template, the epitome of their sound and thought, strong from its bass-driven start to its crashing feedback finish.
I am wholly in favour of anything that is a call to Wake Up. To re-evaluate your life, situation, ways of thinking, everything. This record was one of those wake-up calls. I won’t ever be without it.