“Good evening we are Rage Against the Machine from Los Angeles California.” If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to experience this band live, you’ve heard those words as the opening for every show they’ve ever performed. One of the truest quotes I’ve ever heard that perfectly describes the feelings of the band came from Coachella founder Paul Tollett,who described the band as “a voice for people who are fed up.” Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk, Tom Morello, and Zack De La Rocha have now, for nearly 30 years, been explaining to the world how power, corruption, greed, and complacency have fueled the refuse of our slowly crumbling world, and how if we ever wish to get out lives back from the vicious cycle of bullshit extolled on us, we have to take the power back. Enjoy!
10. Born of a Broken Man, Battle of Los Angeles
I first heard this song on pay per view when it was debuted at Woodstock 99. The opening chords, thick and full of purpose, draw the line in the dirt where the battle is about to happen. One of the amazing things about this band is the ability to tell a story that just about everyone will get. We’re all pissed off about something. Maybe it’s out of our control, maybe it’s not though. Maybe we can change it. This band is all about change. The vocals and guitar propel the song the most here, but the urgency and underlining tenseness of the drums also help to keep the song going. You can almost picture de La Rocha sitting in the desert, watching a fire burn into the night sky, telling the story again to whoever might be around him, and educating them on the trials one will face during their time on earth.
9. Bulls on Parade, Evil Empire
When this song first hit the airwaves, it was like a bomb blast into the world. Looking back, this was the song that let everyone know they weren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and they still had a lot to get off their chest. Morello and Wilk especially make the song what is it. The grooves throughout are killer, plain and simply. So many themes within this band has been unearthed and learned through the important lyrical content, but somehow even after more than a decade, the song and the sound still seem fresh and relevant. Morello is still in a world his own when it comes to the style of guitar playing, which ultimately makes the song everything it needs to be.
8. Vietnow, Evil Empire
The percussion: Damn man, damn. This song is so funky. But the star of the song is Zack. The lyrics are just sobering, but it’s supposed to be that way. I like to think the name “Vietnow,” is meant to suggest how that pain and humiliation we felt as a nation during that horrible war is still alive and well. Our government didn’t win the Vietnam war, but we learned how to properly lay waste to things that get in our way. For me, this is a Rage song that is closest not only to the protest song of the 60’s but also a pure hip hop song. For a band that has only dark songs, the negativity and pain presented here stands among the groups darkest. Fear is your only God.
7. Sleep Now in the Fire, Battle of Los Angeles
Without a doubt one of the best singles the band ever decided to release. It has the same awareness of other songs by the band, but it manages to be a more rocking, positive song. The contrast among the idea’s in the song are inherently interesting also. One minute we’re discussing the greed of politicians to always stay on top, while other areas showcase the strength of the common man, and how people who are deceptive deserve to pay up. Will the world ever rebel against the powers that force us to stay weak? I’m not sure, but if it does happen, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this song became an anthem for the army of the frustrated and tired.
6. Down Rodeo, Evil Empire
A song of unabashed violence. The visuals painted not only in the song title, but also in the lyrics. The undertones of racism are still very fresh, and the idea of hardships among minorities are central themed here. Everyone, whether they’re black, white, yellow, brown can relate to doing their best but still being held down by the powers that they have no luxury of using. The song also, is one of their funkier, groovy songs. The bass line’s here are just perfect for the image of a brown-skinned person strolling down an upper class street full of people who are worried about designer clothes more than people suffering below them. The screams for “Just a quiet peaceful death” at the end song perfectly exemplify the state of mind of the main character in the song and bring the song to a powerful, albeit depressing ending.
5. Testify, Battle of Los Angeles
Maybe the most epic build up in their whole catalogue. You can cut the pressure and tension with a knife, and when the song explodes with a flurry of guitar that resemble the howling of sirens, and drums and bass, you can barely contain yourself. It almost sounds to me like a sermon meant to bring about an uprising, but that’s just my opinion. The band has always been about engaging and bringing about the secrets people want to hide, but this song seems more to me like they want everyone to join together under common goals and figure out a way to positively bring about change. It’s an amazing, powerful song, and the perfect way to start what would end up being their last original studio album.
4. Know Your Enemy, Rage Against the Machine
When making a list of a band’s best songs, often difficult choices are made. One of them being the choice to only include two songs from the first album. This song is full of spit and venom, and presents a message about the misguided nature of our police system. A man in a room, and people trying to get him out. The song is a giant fuck you to the corrupters of our whole military and judicial system. The song is only made better by the vocals of Maynard from Tool as he provides a little frustration to the mix. Yet again the guitar shines bright. Morello is simply a god among men, and the instrumentation here brings it all to a head. The theme of keeping people dumb, and putting into their heads at an early age to not ask questions as a form of acceptable ignorance only makes the message that you shouldn’t trust anyone in power and you should always walk through life with your surroundings in mind all the more important.
3. the Ghost of Tom Joad, Renegades
While this song isn’t an original song, I’d say it’s one of the few covers to take a song and make it their own. The atmosphere they all set is of a glowing, post apocalyptic world where man has been left to his own devices, and the fallout is one of an incredible desperate feeling. I have no idea who Tom Joad is, but I assume he’s a symbol for the every man who’s forced to deal with the aftermath of a giant world that decimated whole countries, where everyone is left acting how they left it get so bad?” Brilliantly done here in a way that makes it its own while still paying homage to Springsteen’s classic, “Tom joad” stands as a song worth knowing if you don’t already love it.
2. Revolver, Evil Empire
I’ve loved this song since the very first time I heard it, and when I heard about their reunion at Coachella 2007, this was the first song I went for. It’s so jamming and rocking it’s impossible not to get into. The vocals are quiet at first, but it serves the purpose of the backing music. It perfectly builds stress in the right spots, until it’s time for a release. The release comes in the form of the amped up chorus, with chanting taking over slowly. The song gradually gets more intense as it goes from verse to chorus, and back again. The image of fields without fences has to be one of the most beautiful and tranquil things ever in a song by this band, but before you know it, that tranquility is gone again and replaced by immediate urgency and anger.
1. Wake Up, Rage Against the Machine
Not only the perfect Rage song, but also the perfect song for someone who’s frustrated in their life. It’s just so fucking good. It just makes me wanna bounce and rock out every time I hear it. It has everything you could want in a song by this band. It’s strength, it’s power and it’s an example of going after what you believe is right. It’s also a lesson to everyone living in their own world that what we need is unity. Rocha is literally begging us to explain to him what he has to do to Wake us up from our self-imposed ignorance when it comes to dealing with the world. Also it’s refreshing to see that there was once upon a time where big corporate record labels saw the value in bringing bands to the main stream that weren’t just there taking up space, but also in taking on projects that were as thought-provoking and meaningful as the message brought forward by this group of like-minded individuals who were sick of sitting idly by. Just ask yourself: “How long? Not long, because what you reap is what you sow.”
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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