Supergroups are the new black or even the new little black dress. Every rocker who’s anybody is in one, or wants to be in one. Prophets of Rage, who have just released their eponymous debut album, may be the biggest name supergroup since the Travelling Wilburys. Some might argue the trend should’ve stopped with them, but I reckon it was some of its members best work. I mean, ELO? Yuck!
Prophets of Rage is the second supergroup featuring the rhythm section and guitar from Rage Against the Machine following Audioslave. I speak of Brad Wilk on drums, Tim Comerford on bass and the legendary anarcho-shredder Tom Morello on guitar. The rest of the band is made up of the twin vocals of Chuck D from Public Enemy and B-Real from Cypress Hill, with Public Enemy’s DJ Lord on the turntables.
Unlike Audioslave, which was a completely new venture for the RATM trio, Prophets of Rage is Rage Against the Machine when vocalist Zack De La Rocha decides he doesn’t want to play anymore. It’s all in the name and the album cover but only a few seconds into the singles Unfuck the World and Radical Eyes we are totally in the RATM rock-rap vein. Having said that, I liked the album much more than I thought I would …
A reformed RATM may have had more emotional impact but I doubt it would be as good musically as the Prophets of Rage debut. The album is much more complex than the last album of RATM originals; The Battle of Los Angeles included some undoubted classics, but overall was very samey.
The variety on this album comes in track three, Legalize Me; a Cypress Hill themed, pro-dope song but it’s the music that impresses. It opens with a fantastic guitar lick that is very un-Tom Morello which leads into a track that is as much funk rock as it is rap rock. Very cool. The experience of Audioslave expanded the musical horizons and abilities of Morello, Commerford and Wilk and it is evident throughout the album.
Living on the 110 is almost a pop melody and as a piece of protest music it is more effective than the sloganeering that makes up much of the lyrics on the album. It tells the story of the homeless living under the 110 freeway in Los Angeles. And as anyone who has studied critical pedagogy will tell you, stories are the most effective ways of winning hearts and minds.
Other track highlights are Take Me Higher which features flamenco flavoured guitar and Who Owns Who which is a typical RATM style rocker but has a very memorable chorus: Know your rights/ but you should understand/ who owns who. If you hear it a few times, you’ll remember it, trust me. The last few tracks don’t stray far enough from the RATM mould and let down what is overall a surprisingly fresh and solid album.