Artwork by DAUBER
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following originally published in the Philadelphia Weekly back in 2006. We are reprising it here today in response to the news of Rage Against The Machine reuniting for a world tour.
DISCUSSED: IRISH GIRLFRIENDS; THE IRA; RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE; MUMIA; PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN; THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF DEMOCRACY
BY JONATHAN VALANIA Five years and three girlfriends ago, Rage Against the Machine was on the FOP shitlist for staging a Free Mumia concert at the Meadowlands. Mumia, as you may have heard, was convicted of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. None of that hubbub was much on my radar back then. But my gal at the time, well, she was pretty hardcore Irish, Up The Ra! and all that. Her aunt was a tough-but-sweet old broad that was up to her elbows in The Troubles, if you know what I mean. Let’s just say that some of the proceeds from those beef n’ brews she threw might have wound up putting butter and guns on the table in Belfast. Suffice it to say that Faulkner was a sainted Irish martyr in the eyes of her family.
One day she came by my place and told me she was breaking up with me because I had Rage Against The Machine’s Evil Empire CD in my apartment. Still in the wrapper mind you.
“I didn’t buy it, it got sent to me,” I protested. (She had a great ass.)
“Why don’t you get rid of it then?”
“I might have to write about it some day.”
“It came out four years ago. If you loved me you would get rid of it.”
She was kidding, but only by half. Truth be told she never really looked at me the same after that. Long story short, she left and Rage stayed. All these girlfriends later, I didn’t get around to listening to it until I saw The Party’s Over, a documentary directed by Donovan Leitch and hosted by Phillip Seymour Hoffman about the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. The Party’s Over isn’t very good, in fact it’s a rather anemic dollar-short-day-late stab at x-raying the blackened heart of American democracy. But there are two must-see moments that justify the rental fee.*
The first is a lot of never-seen footage of rioters clashing with cops in the streets of Philadelphia during the 2000 Republican convention. (Watch it again, and after everything that came after, tell me you don’t see it all differently.) From here the film cuts to the LA cops igniting a bloody riot when they shutdown an incendiary street performance by Rage Against the Machine outside the Democratic National Convention a few weeks later. Rage had thousands in the streets. That was the last time an American rock band scared the shit out of the powers that be.
I put on Evil Empire and the shoe still fits, it stomps out of the speakers like a Hendrixian bull in the Columbine china shop of Clinton’s America. When Evil Empire came out in 1996, it just sounded like shrill sloganeering to me. After all, our guy was in the White House, he may have a little of the devil in him, but it’s the devil we know. Sure there’s injustices great and small, but we have peace, prosperity, Stereolab and the Internet stocks are gonna make us all independently wealthy. All of us.
That was, as Karl Rove likes to say, a pre-9/11 mentality. Listening to Evil Empire now, it sounds to me like rumbling war drums foretelling the great clash of civilizations. I feel the rage. I hate rap-rock as much as you, but really, it’s come to this: the sky is really falling. Mister we could use a band like Rage Against The Machine again. A band that scares the shit out of the powers that be, a band that pounds lies into dust with their bare hands. A fist that slams on the table and rattles the chess pieces. A band that brings the huddled masses into the streets, a band that must be stopped. And no, I’m not just talking about Audioslave.
*Hey boys and girls, back in the pre-streaming olden days of the early Aughts, you still had to go to a brick and mortar video store and pay a rental fee for a thing called a DVD