Ever get the feeling that history just repeats itself, over and over again? Soldiers are still fighting in the desert, the world’s economy has come to another grinding halt and another British summer flies past with weather as depressing as last years. About the only truly original thing to happen in the past twenty or so years is the election of a sort-of black president, and even that is turning out to be the same as it ever was.
Let’s start this the easy way, yes? Once upon a time there was a band called Rage Against the Machine, and they were pretty good. They instilled a dramatic revolutionary cry of solidarity into the minds of confused and emotional teenagers worldwide, and stood proud as the musical equivalent of Howard Beale’s “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it!” speech. They were a vitriolic political rally of a band, with spiteful riffs that were arguably the soundtrack to a generation. But the revolution would never last, and all the good faith in the world couldn’t stop the Rage tearing apart from the inside.
Ever since then nothing has really been the same. Now the kids are brought up on a diet of sugar coated, sexually enticing, superstars more concerned about their fringes than the state of the world. Even the name Rage Against the Machine is no longer as inspiring as it once was, as the members filed into the long queue of 90’s acts accepting million dollar cheques to return to the live sphere.
So what is Street Sweeper Social Club all about? Is it an attempt to avoid the inevitable return to the studio for RATM, or a genuine desire to try something fresh? If it’s the latter, then perhaps Morello should have stuck with Audioslave for originality. The collaboration plays off pretty much just as you would expect. Morello doesn’t stray too far from the kind of riffs that he made his name with in the early ‘90’s and Boots Riley shows himself to be a tightly controlled yet fairly unremarkable vocalist.
Everything seems a lot more placated, from the steadily executed demolition of ‘Fight! Smash! Win’, the measured intro to ‘The Oath’, and the steady groove of ‘Clap for the Killers’. Things rarely seem to reach any kind of terminal velocity, instead taking a steady stroll through the gnarly hills of nu-metal land, with a quick detour into a soul infused country hoedown on ‘Promenade’, which because of its bizarre change of pace reveals itself as the standout track here.
Whilst a much more bountiful offering than last year’s One Day as a Lion venture from de la Rocha, Street Sweeper still seems a rather tedious experiment in repetition. For the most part Morello spends three minutes per song playing one riff over, with twenty odd seconds dedicated to one of his trademark solos. Boots Riley fails to ignite the imagination, with his offhand delivery and fairly unremarkable lyrics, relying on typical rap callouts to fill in the gaps where he could definitely stretch himself more. Riley and Morello make quite a good pairing, but it’s unavoidable to leave with the impression that both have already found their perfect collaborators when it comes creating something truly exciting.
Originally published on The Line of Best Fit.