Rage Against the Machine

Live at the Grand Olympic Ballroom (Epic)

Gone but not totally forgotten, though three of its former members have done their damnedest to erase all record of rage or even minor irritability. No one sounded like Rage Against the Machine before (save, maybe, Public Enemy and the MC5), and no one has since--especially Audioslave, which calms like a balm; just try to name another anticipated debut that disappointed so, and you can't count Chris Cornell's solo record. Ah, what has become of Tom Morello? Trying out Fenders at Guitar Center, you say? Not that Zack de la Rocha's faring better: The only way to hear him is to download him off the Internet, where he's screaming anti-war plaints into DJ Shadow's ear for the masses who miss him--that, or a couple of hundred die-hards with ISDN connections, take your pick. Good stuff, it is, and at the right price--free.

So here's the adios souvenir from the rap-metal bomb-throwers to whom some of us came late, mistaking them for the korny bizkits they were sold as by labels and lazy journalists. In the end, the lefty politics got the band only so far--to the front steps of the 2000 Democratic National Convention, where they were accompanied by Michael Moore, who makes movies the way de la Rocha sings. Theirs was a musical revolution that never delivered and a political revolution that never unfolded; it was the promise that turned into a threat that dissipated altogether by the time of this last performance in Los Angeles, the band's hometown and ultimate cemetery. Maybe that's why this disc is louder, larger and leaner than the studio releases--the band knew it had done all it could, said all it could, meant all it could and still it was just a band, raging against all the things its audience finally embraced. Left was right, right was wrong, and all that was left to do was kick out the jams and call it a career.

 
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