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Rage Spread Thin: Why no Band Wants to be Like RATM

From the moment I heard “Calm like a Bomb” at the end of the first Matrix movie I knew I was hooked. In the eighth grade I tracked down all four Rage Against the Machine albums (I didn’t have an amazon account and they were hard to find ok?) and listened to them all repeatedly for over a year.  

I don’t mean that I listened to them more often than other bands. I mean I only listened to them. The Battle of Los Angeles was the soundtrack to my walk home from school. Tom Morello could throw cats at an electric guitar and it still would probably be the greatest sound ever recorded. That man was born to play, and his political awareness just makes me respect him even more.

But enough gushing about my favorite band (obsessive nostalgia is worthless); what I want to know is why no other band has been able to make the same impact on both the charts and in people’s consciousness like RATM did? This band was able to sell sixteen million albums and change my life. Why is no one else trying to do this?

Why can no other band out there challenge the system and get radio play? Are you telling me the occupy Wall Street protestors couldn’t use an anthem similar to “Sleep now in the Fire”?

I thought Rock n Roll was supposed to be the antithesis of the corporate bottom line. But everything is so homogenized and watered down now the best I can hope for is that the Glee kids cover “Killing in the Name of” (I was kidding. No one wants that.)

My theory is that bands don’t want to challenge the system because they know that the system is the only way they can make a living. Everyone has to make a living, but I think MTV’s Cribs has made bands think about money too much. (Rappers always thought about money, so this doesn’t apply to them.)

Rarely anyone pays for music anymore and most of a band’s income comes from touring and digital downloads. ITunes is part of a corporate body and I am certain there are firewalls in place to make sure that no meaningful radical music gets on their site. RATM had the benefit of being in both large and local record stores in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. They didn’t need to please the almighty shareholder in order to sell their music. But maybe if an underground, politically conscious band tours enough their music can get into the mainstream airwaves?

Or maybe not, considering how big companies are the ones who own the radio stations and sponsor tours.  Yep, the revolution was not only televised but it was brought to you by *corporate megabeast*.

As I have stated in previous articles, I am deeply concerned by how cool not caring has become. Some people are going out of their way to not give a crap. Maybe it’s because we associate social activism with either the hairy-legged lesbian stereotype or the A-type personality straight laced young republican. Even celebrities would rather take on a concept like world hunger than the people responsible for world hunger. While I appreciate their efforts, I think they too are treading lightly to avoid pissing off the executives.

I want someone, anyone, to make a song that cares about the real struggles of humanity and not just the broken heart stuff. Not only that, but I want a band that will stick to that concept instead of selling out. If you set out to make crappy pop songs to get paid, go right ahead, I don’t have to listen. If you want to go in a different artistic direction because your views are changing, that’s fine, start a new band. But if you change your entire sound and message just to get a hit sing, not only will I not listen, but I will have no respect for you.

I view the music industry right now as a wasted opportunity. The tyrannical record companies are at their weakest right now and while this has allowed for Indy-rock bands to get a push, I wish a band would give a voice to the voiceless.  But no, musicians are lining up to work on Maggie’s farm so they can get a fat check.




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