- 29 Mar 01
Rage Against The Machine (The Tivoli, Dublin) Hard heavy blackwhite Hispanic funkpunkraprock is probably the best way to describe Rage Against the Machine's music.
Rage Against The Machine (The Tivoli, Dublin)
Hard heavy blackwhite Hispanic funkpunkraprock is probably the best way to describe Rage Against the Machine's music. It's as if the M.C.5. were genetically engineered with Ice-T, and a sphincter of a less articulate Crass were added for good measure. And rage Rage Against the Machine sure do.
For the hour-long set, lead singer Zack De La Rocha manically danced like a piston gone haywire and guitarist Tom Morello's chopped agit-rock rhythms and Fender tinkerings provided the continuity and discontinuity that kept the rest of the band together while at the same time adding a bit of surplus interest and diversity to music which often veered dangerously near the sort of early-seventies rock which in other bands could lead to silly macho posturing. In Rage Against the Machine's case, thankfully, the tough backbeat laid down by drummer Brad Wilks - who chose to thrash it out with his back to the audience - and bassist Timmy C, serves, primarily, to earth the polemical anger and social ressentiment which fuels R.A.M.
Mind you, it's an energy which often threatens to run out of control and take them along a current of self-destruction. That the band do manage to harness their prodigious force, sustain their hardline stance and come across as an extremely tight oufit in the midst of all the honest-to-goodness passion is a credit to their already well-oiled bravura.
From the opening 'Take The Power Back' to the closing 'Bullet In The Head' there was no lack of audience participation either. The communion between band and devotees was best exemplified by the way in which the audience finished 'Know Your Enemy' for De La Rocha by singing the last line, "All of which are American dreams," thrice in his stead after Zack had intoned preacher-like: "Yeah I know my enemies/ They're the teachers who taught me to fight me/ Compromise, conformity, assimilation, submission/ Ignorance, hypocrisy, brutality, the elite...".
Inevitably, though, there are contradictions in their sledgehammer approach, and the way in which Rage Against The Machine come to terms with these will probably determine how they progress. For example, De La Rocha sings accusingly, looking straight at the audience (as if into their collective eyes) "they got you under control" while at the same time he wants the audience under his control when he asks them to wave their arms in the air. Similarly, on 'Fistful Of Steel' he tells the fans to make a fist and punch the air and he shows them how they should do it. The worshippers at his feet duly oblige.
I have always found this 'Nuremberg rally effect' at concerts vaguely disturbing whatever the message coming from the mike. Despite the need for protest, rage and anger - transient emotions usually - are never quite enough by themselves to construct an alternative to the injustices of the social system(s) in operation at present.
Caveats of criticism aside, there's always a need for the kind of didactic splenetics displayed by Rage Against The Machine, if only to shake up all of those who may have become cynical and embittered with time and who may have reneged on their youthful idealism. For the most part, I think, Rage Against The Machine's heart is in the right place.
In the meantime, as Zack De La Rocha says on 'Township Rebellion' "Why stand/ On a silent platform/ Fight the war/ Fuck the norm!!" Fuck it indeed.
• Patrick Brennan