CD Review of Street Sweeper Social Club by Street Sweeper Social Club
Street Sweeper Social Club: Street Sweeper Social Club
Recommended if you like
Rage against the Machine,
Biohazard, The Coup
Label
Warner Independent/SSSC
Street Sweeper Social Club:
Street Sweeper Social Club

Reviewed by James B. Eldred

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T
om Morello on guitar and a pissed-off rapper on vocals. No it isn’t Rage against the Machine, it's Street Sweeper Social Club, Morello's latest project, with Boots Riley from the Coup taking the place of Rage's Zack de la Rocha, who apparently has no problem making money from Rage nostalgia but can't be bothered to work things out with the band and record something new. Morello has, of course, kept busy since Rage first broke up in 2000, either as part of the apolitical Audioslave or as the ultra-political acoustic singer-songwriter the Nightwatchman. He obviously still has a lot of creative juices flowing through him, but it sure doesn't feel like it on Street Sweeper Social Club's self-titled debut, an occasionally interesting but mostly bland effort.

Rage against the Machine worked on two levels – sure, they were great musically, but the message behind their music helped it hold up over time. "Killing in the Name" is fun to sing along with, but with songs like that you also got tracks about the genocide of native Indians, references to Orwell’s "1984" and calls of war against hatemongerers and oppressive government regimes. The Street Sweeper Social Club, on the other hand, keep their anti-authority message deliberately vague and instead rally against authority as a whole, preaching revolution against, y'know, stuff.

The tone is set with the first track, "Fight! Smash! Win!" which is about nothing more than fighting, smashing and winning against authority. It's not bad, and would definitely work in an arena setting with its fist-pounding chorus, but there's no depth to it; nothing interesting or engaging. The same goes for "The Oath" – it may be fun to sing along with the chorus of "All right, muthafuckas! Fight, muthafuckas!" but that gets old pretty damn quick.

There are a few tracks on the self-titled album that stand apart from the banality of the rest. "100 Little Curses" has some of Morello's most intricate guitar work on the album, and the backing "whoa whoa whoa" refrain helps to give it an athemic, power-to-the-people feel. "Promenade" is also worth a listen just because it's so bizarre, as Boots takes the role of a square dance caller, shouting out dance directions amidst critiques of big oil and the FBI. It's different, which is something the band doesn't do enough.

It's easy to blame it on Riley, whose delivery is far more low-key than de la Rocha's non-stop screaming, but Morello needs to take some of the slack as well. Very little of his trademark distortion and wah-wah effects are present here. He sounds like he's slumming it here, delivering some of the most bland and banal riffs of his career.

The Street Sweeper Social Club aren't bad, they're just boring. The generic "fight the power" lyrics get old fast, and Morello doesn't spice things up enough to make up for them. Between two wars, controversies with right-wing extremists, Guantanamo Bay detainees, environmental issues and just about everything else that's happened this decade, you’d think that Morello and Riley could find something concrete to protest against, not just "the man." When Morello is getting out-protest-songed by Green Day's past two albums, something is amiss.

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