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National Extreme Act

Rage Against the Machine

Rock and revolution

Rage Against the Machine How does that old Phil Ochs quote go again? When he said that the only hope for America lay in Elvis Presley's deciding to become Che Guevara? These days Phil might've located hope for America in -- what? Limp Bizkit deciding to become Mumia Abu Jamal? Whatever contemporary formulation Ochs might have come up with, though, would have a hard time competing with the actual figure of Rage Against the Machine, whose double-barreled fusion of new-school heavy metal/hip-hop with old-school lefty agitprop sloganeering stands as both the best and the worst arguments for the viability of Ochs's dream. Mumia's still on death row; the profits from Rage's The Battle of Los Angeles are still shared by one of the very multinational corporate behemoths identified as the root of all evil in more than one of the band's diatribes. But in these times, it may simply be asking too much of rock and roll to change the world -- what, you were expecting Rage to show up at the WTO protests in Seattle, à la the MC5 at the Democratic National Convention? Nah, showing up with Michael Moore for a prank on Wall Street made a better sound bite -- and a bitchin' video, right? Still, the WTO shindig revealed what has been the enduring value of Rage Against the Machine since their inception in the early '90s: they're a leaf of grassroots revolutionary activism, a dramatic portrayal of the shape Ochs's vision might take, in a culture that had until very recently forgotten what the genuine article looked like.

-- Carly Carioli

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