Rage Against The Machine, Rage Against The Machine – XX (20th Anniversary Edition)
Shameless agitprop still packs a potent, bratty punch
Though their music and their politics would grow more effective as they grew more nuanced, Rage Against the Machine's self-titled 1992 debut still packs a certain bratty rush. That gleefully inchoate — and occasionally just plain boneheaded — rebellious streak is best captured by the utterly shameless, profanity-heavy, eighth-grade-level agit-prop delivered at the end of "Killing in the Name." A beyond-blunt kiss-off to any and all authority figures, it remains Rage's most iconic nine-word statement, for better or worse.
But if Zach De La Rocha is still a little too comfortable complaining about a generic "system" this early in the band's career, his three bandmates help him sell the vague admonishments to big government (and bigger business) with fusions both of-their-time and prophetic. The slap-bass and pogo-stick grooves of "Take the Power Back" and "Bullet in the Head" are closer to peppy, turn-of-the-'90s California party-metal than the brawny, funk-informed heaviness of the band's later albums. But guitarist Tom Morello had already happened upon his classic mix of hip-hop-informed texture (the sonar-esque squeals on "Bullet in the Head") and straight-up hard rock raunch (the near-southern rock riff that boogies lead-footed through "Bombtrack").
Some of the lesser-known tracks actually contain some of the album's best music, and Morello's most forceful playing: the chunky metallic twang of "Fistful of Steel"; the near-psychedelic, reverb-glazed dirge "Township Rebellion"; and the surprisingly atmospheric "Settle for Nothing," which merges the "extended psychotic breakdown" howling of Rollins-era Black Flag over a leaden groove squalling with feedback. It's the invention of the deep cuts that gives RATM a life beyond the historically weighted tracks that made the band's name.