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London WC2 Astoria

As brave a face as they put on it tonight, the fact remains that [a]Rage Against The Machine[/a]'s turgid assimilation of the conscious end of hardcore and the flabby end of funk metal still sucks

A dismal, grey and grisly end. As Rage Against The Machine near the finish of their last song, singer Zack De La Rocha is curled into a foetal ball at the back of the stage. "Freedom", he bellows repeatedly into the floor, followed by a blood-curdling wail, "yeeaauuughhh". It's an unsettling image to take home with you.



That he should look desperately unhappy is hardly surprising; the currency of Rage Against The Machine's music was always righteous torment and fury - the glum visage was part of the package. That all of a sudden you can see a million reasons why he should be miserable is more significant. After all, in the days of the pre-Britpop dinosaurs, this was one of the most successful rock bands in the world. That they have been reduced to playing modest venues like the Astoria could be seen as a tragedy if you didn't think they deserved it.



For as brave a face as they put on it tonight, the fact remains that Rage Against The Machine's turgid assimilation of the conscious end of hardcore and the flabby end of funk metal still sucks as many big logs as it did back in the dim and distant early-'90s. For all their valid intentions (housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, fighting the system), songs like the, erm, bullish 'Bulls On Parade' and the perennially useless 'Killing In The Name' still drool the same kind of ideological mush as they ever did. Theirs remains a stultifying, bass-heavy assault bereft not only of melody, but of wit, guile and any emotion beyond psychosis. The anger is still there, but if De La Rocha's parting gesture is anything to go by, it's reached the point where Rage Against The Machine must have realised that it's lurching into the realm of Henry Rollins-style self-parody.



The inability to accept defeat is one of the faculties of a true champion. Sadly, it's also one of the hallmarks of an idiot.

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