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Rage Against the Machine
XX (20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)


In 1992 Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled debut threw a Molotov cocktail on the idea that politics and music don’t mix. Before a note could be heard RATM showed that they had a take no prisoners rock ‘n’ roll attitude by using on the band’s album cover the infamous photo of a Buddhist monk’s self-immolation to protest government oppression. When you did press ‘play’, you heard lyrics that were suitable for a rally to take back the streets affixed to an instrumental combo of art rock brain, heavy metal brawn and free your mind and your ass will follow funk and hip hop.

Tracks like the album’s opening offensive — “Bombtrack, “Killing in the Name” and “Take the Power Back” – reveled in their confrontational approach yet had enough grooves stacked up that Zach de la Rocha’s angry screeds went down easy. And while those songs gained traction by voicing their collective anger, songs such as “Know Your Enemy” (“I’ve got no patience now/So sick of complacence now”) and, especially, “Settle for Nothing” (“If we don’t take action now/We settle for nothing later/Settle for nothing now/And we’ll settle for nothing later”) were true clarion call to arms.

The 20th anniversary Deluxe Edition of XX contains two CDs, two DVDS, 180-gram vinyl, 40 page book and two-sided poster. Other versions run from a remastered CD with bonus tracks to 2 CD/1 DVD set, 180-gram vinyl and vinyl picture disc.) The clarity makes the material even more defiantly in your face, while the demos CD show the quartet as a fully-formed creative entity that’s just missing the fullness brought on by production values. The video of the group’s first performance – a 1991 concert at Cal State North Ridge – becomes a rare nugget that encapsulates its eventual success. Their onstage course of action is already established, and the presentation moves members of the crowd from passive observers to rabid followers. Other than the 2010 Finsbury Park concert, the remaining music videos and live clips follow the time period of the debut album’s release. Still, a video segment ala the “Classic Albums” DVD series with past and/or present interviews would have helped illuminate what went into the creation of the band and its stance against the music environment of that era.

Rage’s next two studio efforts refined what was contained here, a collection of songs that burned brightly like a strip of magnesium set aflame. The band may be on indefinite hiatus but XX still holds the power to inspire and pass the torch to the next generation.

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