REWIND: Rage Against The Machine's incredible debut turns 23 this week, we rank its best 5 songs
Anger is a gift.
Truth be told, I've lost track of the amount of music articles that I've written on JOE but I'm finding it incredibly hard to describe just how life-changing and important Rage Against The Machine's stunning debut will always be to me.
I first heard this record 16 years ago and my impression of it hasn't changed a single bit. It's a perfect musical Molotov cocktail that manages to mix hip-hop vocals, radical politics, heavy metal riffs, revisionist history, raw passion and a brutal critique of American foreign policy all into just 53 minutes.
This grenade was willingly hurled into my safe life, exploded any naive ideas that I had about music or the world , and didn't care about the consequences. It's a rebellious blast to the eardrums that automatically makes your fist clench but it's also loaded with thought-provoking lyrics and imagery that stays with you long after the last note.
Rage's influences were on-point as bands like The Clash, Public Enemy, Black Sabbath, Minor Threat and Mc5 all featured heavily but the albums brilliance lies in the fact that these bombtracks still sounded unique, incendiary and unlike anything that has been released since.
Morello's effects-soaked guitar is equal parts a DJ scratch and an air raid siren while De La Rocha's raw vocals feels like he has just kicked down your door, grabbed you by the throat and screamed into your face.
Rage were ballsy, rebellious and unafraid to speak out against the political and social injustices that they felt passionate about. 23 years on, the album still feels like a defiant fist in the air, the ultimate 'fuck you' and a call to arms.
If I was a teacher then I'd give every teenager a copy of the record and make it required listening because you can learn more from these ten tracks than any CSPE class.
Question everything, trust no one, get angry and if all else fails, just turn the noise up to 11 and scream..."Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me".
Choosing my 5 favourite songs is an impossible task but I'll give it a try.
5) Township Rebellion
Morello and Tim C's guitars take a step back here as De La Rocha's distinct rap delivery and manic energy come to the fore.
You almost get the feeling that Rage's singer doesn't give a crap where he's singing, a street corner or a stage in front of 80,000 people are all the same to him. What matters most is the message and he really hammers it home here with the vocals "Why stand on a silent platform? Fight the war, fuck the norm."
The one/two combo of this and 'Freedom' is a shot of pure adrenaline.
If I had to choose just one song that sums up the spirit of RATM's debut then it's their defiant anthem that gleefully raises a “fist in the air in the land of hypocrisy”.
Wake Up points an accusing finger at all things related to American foreign policy, corporate greed and the perceived public apathy towards the two.
That moment when De La Rocha screams 'Come On" at the start is powerful enough to get a dead man jumping while the breakdown of the track at 3:50 is spine-tingling. Tom Morello's guitar is the equivalent of the band lighting the fuse before all hell breaks loose.
You're too busy moshing to even realise the very weighty and important issues of racism, political apathy, FBI lies and the assassinations of Malcom X and Martin Luther King on this track.
3) Bullet in the Head
One of the inscriptions on the sleeve notes reads "no samples, keyboards or synthesizers were used in the making of this record," and this track is Rage at their genre molding best.
Hardcore RATM fans will probably say that Bullet in the Head is the band's best song to get a mosh-pit going and you're right.
The tune kicks-off with a classic hip-hop beat before descending into two minutes of cursing, screaming and fist-pumping fury.
2) Killing in The Name
I've been to see RATM on four different occasions now and they've always finished the set with their most famous track. I've also heard this song played hundreds of times in sweaty indie bars around Ireland.
Want to know what all these locations have in common? Every single person loses their shit and goes absolutely nuts when they hear this anthem.
Here's my one piece of advice if you're lucky enough to see the band play live again, never stop jumping around.
1) Know Your Enemy
Anti-war, anti-authoritarian and anti-every single song that you've heard in your life.
The band go all out here by using guitar pedals,a toggle switch, tremolo effects, palm mutes, bass slaps, guest vocalists and false endings.
In my view, it's the culmination of everything RATM got right on this album. De La Rocha's lyrics have never been better or more memorable - "amp up and amplify, Defy, I'm a brother with a furious mind, Action must be taken, We don't need the key, We'll break in" - is just one of the many stands out moments but there's so much more.
The famous send-off in 'Killing in the Name' might be more memorable but the repetition at the end of Know Your Enemy ', when De La Rocha declares that "All of which are American dreams' is just as good.
The album is 23 years old now and it's still beloved by every new generation that comes across it. "Movements come and movements go, Leaders speak, movements cease" but Rage Against the Machine's stunning debut will live on.