OpinionHated

The Hated Opinionated One

Riley & Morello Sweep Streets With Their New Social Club

Posted by Scotio on June 17, 2009

2009

I’m going to start this off being honest. I haven’t heard of The Coup, or even Boots Riley for that matter, until I found out that Tom Morello(of Rage Against The Machine fame) was doing a new group. The fact that Morello, one of the greatest guitarists of our time, was going back to the electric guitar for recording was something to rejoice over. I mean, let’s face it, The Nightwatchman wasn’t something that “everyone” could get into. Then, after finding out that Boots Riley was a “conscious” and controversial rapper, I couldn’t help but be intrigued… and sensing a weird feeling of deja vu. Street Sweeper Social Club, with it’s self-titled debut album, holds more towards Rage Against The Machine than it does Morello’s other works.

“100 Little Curses” is a display of Boots Riley’s quirky tongue-in-cheek wordplay along with Morello’s amazing finger action(get your mind out of the gutter!). On the verses, Riley politely wishes various ill-mannered hopes towards materialistic, plastic surgery loving, designer label craving, television children raising, reality-tv watching, hostile corporate takeover initiating, cocaine snorting, MTV My Super Sweet 16 funding sheeple of today(and yes, he covers all of those things inside of the chorus of the song). To say that his sentiments aren’t humourous is to say that you have a stick lodged up your butt so far that tapping on the end of what is sticking out would cause it to hit against your heart and change its beating pattern. This young man is witty and gives something that the incredible Zack De La Rocha wouldn’t: Comedy with his message. Morello, handling Bass & Lead guitar work(on all songs for the LP), gives RATM fans something that they’ve been salivating for in quite a while: new material of the same vein. His Bass work is good though isn’t as accomplished as Tim Commerford’s, but he more than makes up for that with his sensational solo on the song. Going from a heavy funk sound to a riff that makes you want to check and see if he has some relation to Hendrix.

“Clap For The Killers” comes on like a villain’s theme song. The intro to it is a head-turning segment that demands attention and sparks interest for anyone with love for stringed instrument plucking. Riley rides the instrumental workings laid down by Morello & Stanton Moore effortlessly. His flow… uhh… flows like melted butter pouring over the music. Though Stanton is a good drummer, Brad Wilk is sorely missed here. The drum work sort of plays the bench for the track. You barely notice it behind Morello & Riley. Only when Morello is holding a note do you realize that there are actually drums on the song. Not necessarily a good look, but all the other workings allow forgiveness to take place. Though, to his credit, the drums are more prominent and noticeable at the beginning of the song. Anyone who only looks to lyrics at face-value would assume that Riley is taking a “Big Ups To Crooks” within his words. Where, on the first verse, he speaks up for those whom fights the system and are being labeled “wrong” for standing up for what’s right. Then, on the second verse, he speaks on the true criminals and killers whom run the system and attacks those of misfortune to keep them under control. Finally, on his third verse, he speaks to all the so-called self-proclaimed “gangstas” aka the fake-wannabes. He verbally reminds them of who they really are and that they’ll never achieve to become who they are pretending to be.

There are some moves that don’t quite go so fluidly with the newfound group. Like the track “Shock You Again”, which comes off like a missing song from Saul Williams before him and Trent Reznor became musically connected. Granted, I am a fan of Saul’s old work, it’s just that this track gets lost in that similarity. It doesn’t quite distinguish it’s own identity. And, that’s something that this new group needs to do to kill off any and all naysayers that may and will pop up against it. The preceding track, “Somewhere In The World It’s Midnight” falls prey to the same circumstance. This time, instead of Mr. Williams, it brings strong comparisons to the obvious(Rage Against The Machine, for those who aren’t keeping up). Morello’s work is just as lovely as it always is, even incorporating a more western/bluesy riff for the verse work which probably spawned from The Nightwatchman. Riley, on the other hand, sort of comes off like a less agressive de la Rocha. His southern drawl makes it so that his delivery isn’t as intense, but his vibe strikes the same chords that Zack struck with his lyrics. Again, it’s not a bad track, it just feels more like a new song that was originally tried out with the rest of RATM and then converted over to SSSC format.

They do use Riley’s southern influence in a very productive method with the track “Promenade.” In a tempo akin to how the “move-caller” for a Square Dance “sings” out what to do next, Riley belts out his politically conscious lyrics over Morello’s simple musical structure. The chorus shifts gears and becomes something closer to Disco-Punk/Dance-Punk in fashion. It’s moving and hip swaying. If the whole song was like this, they could sneak this in under the radar and attack the commercial market. Thankfully, they aren’t playing sneak attacks, here. On “Megablast” Street Sweeper Social Club takes no prisoners. It’s either move with it or get rolled over. The power of the track is undeniable. Riley fully shows to the listeners that he is a highly skilled emcee, first and foremost. Morello makes the guitar wail like Justin Hawkins(of The Darkness fame) while having the bass bring that extra rumble in your belly reminiscent of the Peter Gunn theme with way more bad-ass attached.

Sure, there are way too open comparisons against Street Sweeper Social Club and Rage Against The Machine. If you even want they both are a four word band name and have the same number of syllables, too. They are both politically fueled. They both have Tom Morello playing an integral part of the band. But, you shouldn’t discard nor praise SSSC off of those facts alone. It’s its own animal, with its own respect to be held for or against it. With that being said, even if there isn’t another RATM album to come into fruition, let us hope that another SSSC album comes down the pipeline. Music wasn’t the same when voices like these left the mainstream. Though all the players are seasoned, they are still rookies in terms of playing together as a cohesive unit. Even with that against them, they are still well enough equipped to take it all the way to the goal line on their first try.

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