Rage Against the Machine
Back in the B.C. (Before Cobain) era, rock bands liked to prove how “bad” they were by covering the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K.” Megadeth had (emphasis on “had”) enough political awareness in 1988 to scrape by with its subpar rendition, but Mötley Crüe? Come now. Rage Against the Machine avoids such obvious and played-out reference points on its cover album, Renegade, which supposedly will be the band’s last release with its original lineup. And whereas the aforementioned metal bands tried to capture the spirit of the Pistols’ originals, Rage strays so far from the blueprints that it’s difficult to even call these tunes covers.
With the exception of straightforward versions of Minor Threat’s “In My Eyes” and MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams” (which sounds better as a faster, live hidden track at the end of the album), most of these songs are radical re-creations, particularly the hip-hop tributes. While Cypress Hill’s “How I Could Just Kill a Man” is suitably lethal, Eric B. & Rakim’s “Microphone Fiend” and Afrika Bambaataa’s “Renegades of Funk” fall into an uncomfortable middle ground, neither funky enough to dance to nor heavy enough to inspire mosh-pit action. Rage turns Devo’s “Beautiful World” into a delicate, bittersweet campfire sing-along, subjects the Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” to an electronica-influenced remix and, at its most inspired, sets slow, chunky guitar riffs to Bob Dylan’s fierce send-up of wage slavery, “Maggie’s Farm.” Most cover albums are nonessential at best, but any record that introduces the likes of Dylan, Minor Threat, and EPMD to increasingly apolitical music fans is commendable and, in a way, noble.