Release Date: Jun 16, 2009
Record label: Warner Music
Genre(s): Rock, Rap
Rage Against the Machine’s recent spate of reunion shows may or may not ever lead to a studio comeback. For now, fans who miss that band can find a passable substitute in this superduo’s debut, Street Sweeper Social Club, featuring funk-metal riffs from Rage guitarist Tom Morello and radical rhymes from rapper Boots Riley (of Bay Area firebrands the Coup). Yet while Morello’s and Riley’s styles suit each other well, their acclaimed résumés are ultimately just a reminder that both men have done more memorable work elsewhere.
Review Summary: Tom Morello and Boots Riley make a mediocre record.Rage and The Coup: admittedly, I was ecstatic for such a collaboration. As a hip-hop addict and a product of the 90s with respect to musical evolution, this is one reviewer that wore out his copy of 1992’s self-titled Rage Against the Machine. This is why it’s truly a travesty that the very same mastermind behind the groundbreaking guitar works presented therein is behind such derivative mush, almost paled (in terms of not only experimentation but also pure funk level) by his solo-work presented in the first boss battle of Guitar Hero 3.
When Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello and the Coup's Boots Riley started making plans to put together a group, even rap-rock haters had to stand up and take notice. However, anyone expecting a revolutionary record was probably surprised by the outcome. Morello and Riley are both well-established as politically charged left-wing activists, but most of Street Sweeper Social Club's militant content is overshadowed by rallying party rhymes.
The Coup's Boots Riley and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello seem more likely to meet on a political talk show than on record, but the pairing has a precedent: Morello added his hiccuping, dying-engine electric guitar sounds to "Captain Sterling's Little Problem", from the Coup's 2006 album, Pick a Bigger Weapon, and his distinctive, but unobtrusive contribution somehow worked (even if Boots Riley's affected accent on the same track didn't). Here, on Street Sweeper Social Club's self-titled debut, the ball's shifted more into Morello's court, with funky, though fairly minimal rap-rock. Granted, this album falls into a formula that's instantly recognizable the moment you hear it, for which Morello deserves credit; but with Street Sweeper Social Club, Morello is part of a backing band (and, in pulling double-duty on bass for the record, is most of the backing band), ready for an assertive, engaging personality to take them to the next level.
Blending rap and rock successfully is not an easy task. For every Rage Against the Machine and “Bring the Noise”, which was the pairing of Public Enemy and Anthrax, there is Limp Bizkit and, well, the entire nu-metal movement. There is a fine line between genius and corniness when guitars are mixed with boom-bap. Rage found the balance by incorporating experimental guitar sounds, thanks to virtuoso Tom Morello, with a rhythm section very much akin to what you would hear on a hip-hop track; i.e.
What happens to a musician after they've made a perfect first album? It's a question that's fascinated me for years. What do you do for the rest of your life when you achieve your childhood dream? Do you try bottle lightning again, or move onto something else? If you do try and move on, will circumstances let you? It's a question that I'd like to think is relevant to the members of Rage Against The Machine. Like it or not, RATM's first album was a epoch-changing record, and its members' subsequent works – both as RATM and apart – have rarely lived up to its skyscraper-high standards.