Sunday, December 23, 2018

“I am the Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria…”

4. RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE "Sleep Now In The Fire" (1999)
From the album "The Battle Of Los Angeles"

What’s ol’ painty-can Zack De La Rocha doing here, eh?  Can’t be anything to do with a high-pace exercise playlist I put together when I joined the gym…

This song is from after I’d forgotten RATM existed, which happened about halfway through “Evil Empire”, when it became clear that the excellent first three tracks (seriously, how good is “Vietnow”?  Go and have a listen.  Go on, I’ll still be here.

…How good was that, eh?  And thanks for coming back) were not quite illustrative of the mediocrity of the rest of the album.  I still hear songs they did after that album and think they’ve done a comeback single – and more fool me, as there’s some great material from that era which I’m still catching up with, this track being a case in point.

Unfortunately, much like Rasputin, it was a shame how they carried on.  Bereft of De La Rocha, who they lost on a trip to Homebase to pick up some cornflower gloss for his bathroom skirting boards, RATM’s musicians formed Audioslave with the now sadly missed Chris Cornell from Soundgarden, who had a heck of a set of pipes and was a good guitarist in his own right.  The partnership yielded one extremely good lead single in “Cochise”, one OK follow-up in “Show Me How To Live”, and the rest…  Anyway, moving on!

Worse was to come, as the rebels reunited and went utterly mainstream.  But in their defence, they were only taking advantage of an unlikely avenue for re-ignition: getting the UK Christmas number one spot.  At that stage, whoever won reality television show “The X Factor”, which conveniently wrapped up the week before Christmas, got Christmas number 1 – they were in the biggest shop window available in the late 00’s, a prime-time Saturday night terrestrial television show.

In 2008 some dissent had emerged around the incumbent’s use of the song “Hallelujah”, and campaigns were launched to get different, more credible versions to number one – and they failed.  But the next year, RATM’s F-bomb-ridden classic “Killing In The Name” was picked as the protest song of choice, and with the band’s blessing (and their constant promotion of it once the originally grassroots campaign looked like being a winner), it stormed the charts and squatted atop the Xmas hit parade.

This, to me, is not just a cash-grab masquerading as revolution, but also a total besmirching of the grand tradition of the UK Christmas number one.  As holders of this once-honourable office, it is your duty to turn up on Christmas Top Of The Pops in a Christmas ganzie – not one of these archly ‘cool’ efforts with “GARLIC BREAD?” or X-Wing fighters or stuff from bloody “Breaking Bad” on, but a proper one, in red, white and green with reindeer and holly and that kind of shit all over it – ideally in a rocking chair, and croon your hit with a knowing smile whilst fake snow falls around you. 

Instead they turned in a turgid pre-taped live performance, which naturally cut off before the unbroadcastable bit of that song, as we all wondered what the point was, and certain online groups completely missed the point and started planning what obscure classic they were going to get to number one next year.  But since the band themselves won’t do it, then I’ll embrace the festive spirit of forgiveness, and put aside those differences to remember when RATM had a shred of credibility, by giving this cracking tune a quick airing.

Next time, remember to drop by the “Cash Machine” on “Park Avenue”, as we’re off to “Kill The Sexplayer”!

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