The Grand Re-Listening: Part 23: RATM – S/T



So with Rage Against The Machine’s debut I have always had a kind of mixed feeling, and with RATM in general. Opposite to my usual brain-derp of only liking the non-famous tracks, with Rage’ I generally only like the band’s most famous songs.

I like it when they go faster, get louder and heavier. I don’t like the slow, boring filler that I remember constituting the majority of the band’s catalogue and indeed this album. I don’t remember making a conscious decision, but I think I grew tired of any and all rapping, I know a lot of people who I disliked espoused the band and the childishness of any lyrics centering around rebellion really grated at me, at the time, so RATM fell out of favour with me.

Going into this relistening I really wasn’t expecting great things from this album , I honestly thought it’d be a chore to get through, like Sepultura’s Roots… a false classic, stuck in its time. Was this so ?

Well; on this relistening, the opening millisecond of ‘Bombtrack,’ saw a huge smile burst across my face as I remembered the song I had enjoyed so much back in 2002-or-3, but forgot with the passage of time. Basically, I had completely fallen out of interest with RATM some time around 2005, unloaded all my albums and didn’t listen to the band again until I bought their live DVD in 2009 when I relasised I actually liked the band. Even so, I never tried their debut, contenting myself with the other albums, discovering ‘Vietnow,’ as a favourite for the first ever time.

I remember the debut being slow and boring… so you can imagine my pleasure to hear ‘Take The Power Back,’ as if for the first time, a song that sounds as if it belongs on Black Sabbath’s first three albums barr the funk influence.
On relistening, ‘Settle For Nothing,’ seems to embody why I didn’t like the album, slow and difficult to follow, except now I can hear all the little touches that make it a good song… probably I never give it a full and proper listen before now, eager as I was to skip to the faster, more rocking songs.

‘Bullet In Your Head,’ I originally thought was pleasant, if a little too repetitive. I now discovered the whole ending which brings the rating of the song up several intervals in my opinion. The unquestionable highlight of the whole album however is the excellent ‘Know Your Enemy.’

‘Know Your Enemy’ is an amazing song, I’d almost go as far as to say it’s the best RATM song altogether… if not THE best then certainly in the top three, along with ‘No Shelter’ and ‘Bulls On Parade.’

‘Wake Up,’ the track which follows is severely enjoyable and really reminds me of Tool, especially in the build up about 3 minutes 55 seconds in, as well as Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmire’ in the main riff. I feel as though I have never heard this song before in my life, but like ‘VietNow’ I will now make a point of doing so on a regular basis, this song is simply fantastic.

‘Fist Full Of Steel,’ is enjoyable, nothing to complain about except that the verses are a little sparse, but the nice heavy chorus makes up for that in a way I wouldn’t have expected before going into this TGR entry… my opinion was a good chorus isn’t an excuse to meander around with no guitars for the rest of the song and the nineties needed to learn that. It would appear that this album is an exception.

I literally have NEVER knowingly heard Township Rebellion when paying attention, but it is pretty great all around, and that guitar solo is something special. Same goes for ‘Freedom,’ especially when it goes all fast and almost psychedelic.

Overall, I enjoyed this a seriously large amount, which was doubled by how lame I was expecting the experience to be. This is a very strong album and I take back any comments I ever made about it being too slow, boring or full of filler.

1 Comment

  1. GREAT call on No Shelter, a non-album track and everything. It’s ace.

    Thing about this album is that the whole thing is completely honest. There’s not a single unwarranted of forced expression of rebellion on the whole disc, which is why I enjoy it so much. Plus it’s not a ‘I’m not cutting my hair dad’ rebellion but rather an address of the various injustices in different parts of the world. I think of this first album as something Rage had to get out of their system, like literally HAD to get out of their system, and on later (and let’s be honest, lesser) albums they settled into being a band more, a band who writes songs, and experiments with sound because they have the freedom to do so now they’ve sad all they have to say.

    Thing about it is is every emotion is so genuine. The odd nauseous feeling that gives way to anger on Settle For Nothing is so fucking REAL. As for the comparison with Black Sabbath, I think that RATM is definitely one of the all-time greatest ‘riff bands’, and the Tool comparison I’ve also observed though kind of in reverse, thinking one of the tracks on Opiate ends like a Rage track. Plus those guys were all buddies and stuff.

    I think the soloing is interesting too, Tom’s not a shredder and likes to pick his notes and has an interesting relaxed way of playing, the word noodling comes to mind but I’ve no idea why. Plus you didn’t mention all those sounds he came up with, undeniably interesting and part of the band’s whole identity. Or the simplistic forceful might of Brad Wilk (a guy who does SOOO much with so little, not to say he has little talent) or Tim’s excellent bass playing and how it’s often just as prominent as the guitars it so rarely supports by directly matching.

    Favourite moments include:

    The start of “Fistful of Steel: possibly the heaviest part of the album.

    The “bring it back the other way” on Take the Power Back.

    That dirty bastid of a bass sound on Know Your Enemy and the six guitar shrilly sounds before the song comes back to life at the end and Zack lets go with that wee rant.

    Every other second of the disc.


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