Prophets of Rage – The Party’s Over EP Review

ep-coverProphets of Rage is a supergroup named after a Public Enemy song, featuring the uncompromising rapping of Chuck D and Cypress Hill‘s B-Real, with Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk of Rage Against The Machine, as well as Dj Lord of PE manning the decks. According to the band’s website “We can no longer stand on the sidelines of history. Dangerous times demand dangerous songs. It’s time to take the power back.” And that’s precisely what they deliver on this hard rocking, hard rapping collection featuring one original song ‘The Party’s Over’, and four reworkings of assorted classics.

A siren call hails the calling card opener, ‘Prophets of Rage’, which is sounding fresher than ever with Morello’s signature riffing and a new verse from B-Real, whose sharp delivery is a good foil to Chuck’s rough edged baritone. It’s a simple but effective protest song stacked with old skool references, whilst still sounding current; its slick delivery like a controlled release of pent up anger.

The band’s first original material comes with ‘The Party’s Over’, which kicks in with a signature bass heavy riff typical of RATM, and rumbles along at a slow grind as Chuck and B-Real trade verses expounding on the failure of party politics. It’s a hard hitting tune that pulls no punches and as they crank up the intensity for the furious finale it all just sounds so damn badass as everything slips perfectly into place.

It’s pretty hard to go wrong with such a superb song as ‘Killing in the Name’, and the dual vocal attack totally nails it, besides delivering a nice twist on the lyrics in the second verse with “Some of those that hold office/ are the same that burn crosses/ some of those up in congress/ are the same that burn crosses”. As the song builds to its inevitable climax of ‘Fuck You…’, the dynamic sounds like that of a band that loves playing together, they may be protesting against pretty much everything, but it sure as hell sounds good.

‘Shut ‘Em Down’ features a verse each from the Cypress Hill and PE songs of the same name and is another hard rocking slice of hip-hop. It’s easy to see how these bands always crossed over so well. Final track, ‘No Sleep Til Cleveland’, is basically the Beastie Boys’ classic mashed up with Enemy’s ‘Fight The Power and reworked for 2016. Here Morello comes into his own as he rolls out all the tricks on a mesmerizing instrumental section – first time I saw Rage he blew me away – good to hear he’s still got it. “No sleep til Brooklyn” morphs into “til Cleveland” at the end, as it was recorded at the band’s protest against the Republican National Convention in the same town. Talk about taking it to the streets!

On the whole this is a mighty fine showcase of what Prophets of Rage have to offer and is testament to the commitment the various members have to their political principles. Moreover, they sound so naturally good together that it would be great if there were more original material to come taking it beyond reinterpretations of their own impressive catalogues.

9/10

http://prophetsofrage.com/

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What’s Hot In My House – August 2016

What a crazy few weeks it’s been, what with the city being painted with that rose coloured tint only the Olympics can provide. Everything went well, Brazil proving itself a superb country to host an event of this magnitude; the streets felt safe, the city well organised and there was an atmosphere of peace and love as a heady mix of nationalities mingled harmoniously at the various sporting and cultural venues. There was palpable disappointment as the IOC’s Thomas Bach declared the games closed.

Musically speaking Brazil showed its chops in diverse style in the opening ceremony, featuring tropicalia stalwarts Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil alongside pop sensation Anitta, besides showcasing contemporary funk, samba, pagode and rap. It was however a classic which reigned supreme as Tom Jobim’s grandson sat at the piano and played a beautifully delicate rendition of ‘A Garota de Ipanema’ as Gisele cat walked across the Maracanã. What with family days out, work commitments and being glued to the TV in between – did you see the Andy Murray gold medal match?! – it’s been a stranger month than usual music wise, yet I have somehow found the time to fill my headspace with another winning selection of classy bangers, check em out.

For a while now I’ve been trying to put together a piece on classic thrash albums, but can’t seem to find the right angle, so have been listening to a lot of old school moshers. So what with the surprise release of new music from Metallica (reviewed here: https://hardpresseded.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/metallica-hardwired-review/) it seemed only fitting to pay ‘Master of Puppets’ another visit to remind myself why it’s still considered the greatest thing Metallica have ever committed to vinyl. Basically, it’s fucking awesome from beginning to end; it’s about as close as you can get to the perfect (thrash) metal album, Hetfield and co took the genre to a whole new level with the complexity of the compositions, yet despite its intricacies and the length of some of the tracks it remains highly listenable. Genius. Still a classic.

I had the privilege of reviewing the new Dinosaur Jr record for http://www.alreadyheard.com a couple of weeks ago and it was a pleasure to hear that J Mascis et al have still got it. ‘Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not’ is the sound of a band that has been honed to perfection. There are a host of tracks that neatly encapsulate their alternative rock formula of hard edged riffs, drawled indie pop melodies and shredding solos, besides a few left field numbers where they stretch their creative muscle out of their comfort zone in fine style. Top album, well worth repeated listens.

On a more relaxed vibe, I’ve also been giving a fair few plays to the lovely record from Slow Club, ‘One Day All of This Won’t Matter Anymore’. The English duo of Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson have come up with a rich slice of laid back folk tinged indie bliss with more than a hint of darkness lurking beneath the surface. It makes for perfect journey home listening to smooth away the rough edges with barbed wire kisses – this one’s a keeper.

Metallica – Hardwired Review

There are very few bands left in the world for which the release of a new record would be an event, and lets face it, outside of the reformed Guns n Roses dropping ‘Appetite…Part 2’, the biggest possible such event is new music from Metallica. The San Francisco metallers once thrashed out 4 albums in five years, so having waited 8 years since ‘Death Magnetic’, a new album is long overdue, but finally, come November, the 12 track double album will hit the racks. In the meantime, we have the video for album opener ‘Hardwired’, which they dropped yesterday, August 18th, three months ahead of the album. The question is though, is it any damn good?

The short answer is yes, of course! It’s fucking Metallica, even their worst music is streets ahead of the majority, the bigger issue though, is whether it will stand up alongside ‘Master of Puppets’ and the uber popular Black album, which is precisely what it sound as if they are aiming for. The production has that clean crisp resonance of Death Magnetic, not surprising given Greg Fidelman is once again fiddling with the knobs, but there is more than an echo of ‘Battery’ to Lars’ furious drumming and Kirk’s blistering soloing. There’s also a definite air of the early 90s about the black and white claustrophobic video for the track.

The song actually begins with machine gun riffing/beats and a staccato riff á la ‘Enter Sandman’, before the real thrash gallop begins. It features all those little stops, time changes and familiar elements of the signature Metallica sound, although James wasn’t exactly up all night on the hook – “We’re so fucked!/ Shit outta luck”. He does make amends in the ‘Whiplash’ style third verse however – “Once upon a planet burning/ Once upon a flame/ Once upon a spirit turning all in vain/ Do you feel that hopeless feeling?/ Do you comprehend?/ Do you feel it terminating in the end?”. It all sounds somewhat familiar, but hey, I guess that’s kinda cool, we want Metallica to sound like Metallica!

After repeated listens, I’ve gotta admit that it pretty much hits the spot – one foot in the past, one in the present – ok, so it may lack the rawness of ‘Ride The Lightning’ or ‘Master of Puppets’, but this is brand Metallica launching new product, so there’s no way it will ever be that amazing again. However, considering that it’s now thirty something years down the line and the band are in their fifties, it’s good to know that like the rest of the big four, they can still shred. See for yourself right here:

The official word from Metallica: https://metallica.com/blog/news/429181/hardwired-to-self-destruct-available-november-18-2

Everybody Loves a Ballad

Ok. Hands up, I admit it – I’m a sucker for a big rock ballad. You can’t beat a bluesy riff, some heart-break lyrics, a soaring solo and a massive chorus. Sure they roll out cliché upon cliché, but who cares? What am I made of – stone? Hell no! Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved a good old soppy love song or a tragic melancholy slice of the break-up blues; I mean my favourite Elvis track as a kid was ‘I Just Can’t Help Believing’ and I loved ELO‘s ‘I Can’t Get It Out of My Head’; Doctor Hook‘s ‘Sylvia’s Mother’ was another that drifted up through the floor late at night that I couldn’t resist. So call me a sentimental old fool if you will but come on, we all love a good ballad really and here’s a few that have stood by me.

How do you end an album almost totally dedicated to shagging? Getting dumped that’s how. ‘What It Takes’ has to be one of the ultimate power ballads – it is Aerosmith at their heart aching best. Lyrically it is nothing short of superb, even with its cheeky references to other Aerosongs*, and musically it’s sublime, the subtle time shifts are pure genius. Throw in an astonishing vocal from Steven Tyler and you have one of their finest crying in your beer tunes ever, something they’ve tried hard to match multiple times since, failing repeatedly every damn time. Yes, even on ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’ – it was good, but pales in comparison. Pass the tissues.

Ah yes, I remember it well, one of my first musical epiphanies. Back in the days before the internet, before satellite TV and even before channel 5, entertainment back home in England fell way short of today’s multiplicity – we had four TV channels and a handful of radio stations, yet access to non-pop programming was available for a few precious hours here and there. Besides The Tube (Channel 4), The Old Grey Whistle Test (BBC 2) and of course the legendary John Peel on Radio One, we also had the Friday Rock Show with the gravel voiced Tommy Vance for the rock/metal crowd, of which I was an enthusiastic member. Anyway, there I was one Friday night, in the middle of winter, must’ve been January ’89, headphones plugged into my midi system, when Tommy announced the next song – “Top 40 record? Hmmmm” – followed by the heartbreak riff of ‘How Come It Never Rains’ pulling on the heartstrings of my lovelorn 15 year old self. Damn it, I almost cried! I fucking loved that song, still do, Tyla‘s raspy cracked voice, the hook laden chorus and all those bluesy notes bending out of shape – unbeatable.

‘Don’t Know What You Got (til it’s gone)’ is without doubt one of the cheesiest most cliché glam rock power ballads in the history of hair spray. Forget about that shit and check out the pure blues of the title track from the same album ‘Long Cold Winter’. Cinderella were somewhat unfairly lumped in with the whole 80s glam thing, Tom Keifer is actually a pretty badass singer and sure played a mean lick of guitar, especially on the weeping notes of this Zeppelinesque blues lament, man, the sky is crying, the guitars are crying, even Tom sounds like he’s crying and it’s gonna be a long cold winter without your love baby.

Jeff Buckley‘s ‘Grace’ is one of the finest albums ever committed to vinyl, bearing not even the vaguest hint of filler. Although ‘Last Goodbye is an absolutely incredible break up song, there is way too much groove to the bass line to call it a ballad; ‘Lover, You Should’ve Come Over’ on the other hand….slow acoustic strum, rainy funeral imagery and tonight you’re on my mind… we get soaring vocals in the hook, brooding Hammond underpinning the melody as the emotions stack up in the lyrical climax:
“It’s never over, my kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder
It’s never over, all my riches for her smiles when i slept so soft against her
It’s never over, all my blood for the sweetness of her laughter
It’s never over, she’s the tear that hangs inside my soul forever”


Then there’s ‘Forget Her’ which features Jeff at his best, fuck it just listen to it – it’s awesome.

Tesla were so sure they’d written the ultimate love song that they called it ‘Love Song’. Ok, so it’s like mega cheesy but hey, it works. Medieval intro and classic break up lyric to kick off, but the twist here is that this song offers hope that we can all find love again. It’s corny, it’s lighters in the air time and on one level it totally sucks, but on another you can’t argue with it’s delivery, from every soaring guitar lick to the arm waving sing along parts – the extended five man acoustical jam version is unbeatable – it out clichés every glam rock cliché ballad ever – even ‘Every Rose..’.

You don’t get much more heart breaking than the warm bath, open vein agony of ‘Black’ by Pearl Jam. Man, that Eddie Vedder dude was really upset when he wrote those words and if you can’t identify with how the poor fella feels then you are either a cold unfeeling shell or you’ve never been dumped. There’s only one thing more emotional than Eddie singing that killer mid section and that’s thousands of people doing it for him. Check this out, the camera work is awful but the sound’s impeccable.

One of my all time favourite songs is so obscure you’ll be hard pushed to find it anywhere. On the UK version of Tones of Home by Blind Melon, ‘Wooh G.O.D.’, also known as ‘Whoa Dog’, is either a mispress on the vinyl 12″ or wrongly credited as ‘Soak The Sin’. Whatever the case may be, this melancholy lament by tragic vocalist Shannon Hoon to his dead dog** is just so damn raw…

Notes:
*) “Girl before I met you; I was F.I.N.E fine; but your love made me a prisoner; yeah my heart’s been doing time”
**) “Wooh” was the name of Shannon’s dog. It is spelled Wooh, but pronounced “whoa.” Shannon would always catch it tearing something up or raising hell and he always yelled “whoa!” to try to get him to stop so he named him that. Shannon got him in a pet store and really connected with the dog and felt bad that he was cooped up in a cage. The dog was expensive so Shannon went back to the pet store, slid the glass up on the cage and snuck Wooh out of the store under his coat. He died when he swallowed a pin cushion. He was undergoing surgery and was over-anethstized by the vet. Shannon and Rogers buried Wooh near the big “HOLLYWOOD” sign in California. From http://www.blindmelon.org