The Battle of Los Angeles (Epic)

Rage Against the Machine

By J. Bamforth

We are standing at the dawn of a new year, a new century and - getting by far the most attention in the media- a new millennium. Here in the United States, we listen to the news that the economy is in great shape, crime and unemployment are down and the worst thing we have to worry about is whether or not our computers, a luxury we all take for granted, will flicker for a couple of seconds at the stroke of midnight. The Berlin Wall has been gone for a decade and all is safe in the world for laptops, SUVs and double lattes.

All true? Maybe all really is good in the world. That is, if you ignore the homeless freezing on park benches, immigrants being shot in south Texas, a framed activist sitting on Pennsylvania's death row, and Mexican farmers fighting for their liberty and livelihoods in Chiapas. Meanwhile, the media paints the United States' foreign policy in Yugoslavia and the Middle East as the only actions that are keeping the world safe for democracy.

Rage Against the Machine's third album, The Battle of Los Angeles, helps us see, once again, that all is not the way it should be in the world. Tackling topics that range from the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (the aforementioned activist accused of killing a Philadelphia police officer), racist judges, the homeless "problem," the Zapatistas and biases in the media, RATM songwriter Zach de la Rocha is in true form. His lyrics in the album are more straightforward than on Evil Empire, but he still flexes his talent for poetic metaphors.

The other shining star of the group, guitarist Tom Morello, also shows Rage's ability to mix their older sounds with some new tricks. Morello can get a guitar to make sounds that would make Elvis roll in his grave and have Hendrix bow down and claim the omnipotence of Rage. The most surprising element, especially for longtime Rage fans, is the coming of age of bassist "Y.tim.K." Tim's playing has evolved since the band's self-titled debut in the early 1990s.

Some have accused Rage Against the Machine of selling-out to their label and the corporate music industry. I personally defend the band by noting that they have done what they do best: bringing underground political issues to the mainstream through their art. Can they help that people listened? Can they help that their fans have been educated by, and began fighting for, the causes and activist groups that Rage publicizes in their liner notes? (On this album, Rage lists thirteen websites, including Amnesty International and Rock for Choice). No...But the real question is can we change at the brink of Y2K?