Rage against the machine – Evil Empire

I

was the typical audience, but I never owned this album, or any Rage Against the Machine music. 1996 was 3 years before Napster, the first unlicensed file sharing service. If you didn’t buy music, or make a copy of a friend’s tape or disk, you relied on the radio. XM radio was even further away, but their songs full of biting lyrics and some prevalent four-letter words still managed to get airplay. In 1996, I relied on the popular songs that made it that far, rather than diving into the entire studio release. I could enjoy the sounds, but a lot of meaning was lost on me.

Rage Against the Machine’s sophomore studio release was named to show what Ronald Reagan called Russia could also be applied to the U.S. Evil Empire protested the U.S. – in it’s military spending, economic inequality, domestic violence and a lot more. A few songs are on a personal level like Snakecharmer and Born of a Broken Man, but every word has purpose and meaning, as we all should.
 
What I find most interesting about this album and all of their music is that each member of the band, Zack de la Rocha, Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk all wrote the music. It isn’t one person who saw injustice in our system backed by musicians, but all 4 members wrote the lyrics that Zack sang.
 
Now that they are touring again, there has been a good deal of talk on social media around the political unrest that Rage Against the Machine represents. Some people have gone so far as to say they did not know this music was political. Morello has been quoted online saying, “people who are offended by my politics on Twitter or Instagram, please know it’s because you weren’t intelligent enough to know what the music that you were listening to all these years was about.”

“people who are offended by my politics on Twitter or Instagram, please know it’s because you weren’t intelligent enough to know what the music that you were listening to all these years was about.”

 

-Tom Morello

NME has more on this here. At least I knew what the Rage was about, I just didn’t get all of the references. Now in my 40s, I have more appreciation for the music after understanding the lyrics.
 
Vietnow is full of references to the 80’s and 90’s U.S. political history — Rodney King, Oliver North, the Klan, and the agendas that right-wing radio hosts would create to influence the masses are major points of this one song. With the political landscape as it is, this has only gotten worse. Both the right and left currently accuse each other of this (and far worse) practices in the media. The mention of Stacy Coon, one of the officers recorded beating Rodney King was one I had to look up. 
 Enough can’t be said about the lyrics, or the music. There are a few handfuls of guitarists in this world who have truly mastered the craft and created a sound that you can identify immediately. Tom Morello is one of those artists. A short video can be viewed at the top of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the Legends of Rock section about Morello and his work. Even 24 years later, no one has watched their sound. For me, Evil Empire does not rise above their other releases, but compliments their entire body of work.
 
This album represents 25% of the studio recordings of Rage Against the Machine. Evil Empire’s sound evokes interest and encourages you to become more educated on the injustices addressed. Most all of the lyrics aged well with the topics unfortunately remaining relevant. When words become the focus of an art form like music, it is easy to allow the sound to become secondary. Furthermore, the message can become lost as the masses quickly lose interest. Armed with music as hard hitting as the message, Evil Empire has balanced it’s sound and it’s indignation. Whether Rage Against the Machine puts out new music or not, this album will forever be an important part of the history of Rock music.

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