Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Rage Against The Machine: "Rage Against The Machine XX (20th anniversary box set)": (album review)

It's hard to believe that it's been twenty years since Rage Against The Machine released their groundbreaking self-titled debut.  The album set a standard for the rap rock hybrid, and nobody (including Rage Against The Machine) has really come close to matching since.  On November 27, they will release a deluxe box set of the record.

Of course the remastered version of the original album is included in this box.  Everyone knows it, so I'm going to gloss it over by saying, 'it is very good'.

More interesting, of course, is the extra material.  Sadly, the extra material here consists mostly of demos of the album cuts and a handful of live versions.

The demos sound like demos.  That is to say they lack the energy and oomph of the album versions, otherwise they are very close in structure to what appears on the record.  It makes you wonder why you would want to listen to a demo that doesn't provide any insight into the evolution of the song, but is instead merely an inferior rendition of the full version.

Tracks like "Bullet In the Head" and "Bombtrack" are flat and hollow.  "Take the Power Back" lacks the urgency of the album version.  The demo of "Township Rebellion" is just as tepid as the final cut, which is by far the weakest moment on the original record.  Also included is "Darkness of Greed", a throwaway that ended up being included on the soundtrack for The Crow.

Two exceptions to the demo issue are "Know Your Enemy" and "Killing In the Name".  Both manage to convey the passion the songs normally have.

The handful of tracks that are new to listeners are of varying quality.  It's obvious why the listless "Clear the Lane" hit the cutting room floor.  However, with a free-wheeling style and reggae-influenced vocals from Zach de la Rocha, "Mindset's a Threat" is a treat.  A solid metal groove and touch of jazz guitar make "Autologic" instantly memorable.

The live tracks are definitely more fiery than the demos.  "Bombtrack" hits hard and fast.  The downside is, you have to listen to de la Rocha's preachy banter at the beginning of some of the songs.

While the original album remains extraordinary, you expect to get more bang for your buck when forking out for a 2-CD/2-DVD set.

Best tracks: "Autologic", "Killing In the Name (demo)"

Track listing for XX:
  • Bombtrack
  • Take the Power Back
  • Bullet In the Head
  • Darkness of Greed
  • Clear the Lane
  • Township Rebellion
  • Know Your Enemy
  • Mindset's Threat
  • Killing In the Name
  • Auto Logic
  • The Narrows
  • Bombtrack (live)
  • Bullet In the Head (live)
  • Freedom (live)
  • Take the Power Back (live)

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