Band: Prophets of Rage Album: The Party’s Over Genre: Rap rock Date of Release: August 26, 2016 Location: Los Angeles, California, USA Reviewer: Sam For Fans Of: Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, Cypress Hill Track Listing: 1. Prophets of Rage – 3:10 2. The Party’s Over – 3:32 3. Killing in the Name (Live) – 5:16 4. Shut ‘Em Down (Live) – 3:35 5. No Sleep ‘Til Cleveland (Live) – 5:14
Allow me to start off by saying that I have a lot of respect for Tom Morello, Brad Wilk, and Tim Commerford. It takes talent to apply average songwriting to above average ability and make it an iconic part of 90’s culture. But then again, the AIDS epidemic was an iconic part of 80’s culture, so that isn’t saying much on its own.
Although I am a fan of Rage Against the Machine, I do believe that they have always been held in a slightly higher standard than they deserve, and the newest project from their core three members, Prophets of Rage, proves that they’ve well and truly jumped the shark. They can’t be bothered to innovate anymore; they’re feeding the waiting public table scraps from a 20-year-old dish. Their soapbox is rotting and rapidly losing structural integrity. Their ship has sailed and they’re selling cabin space on the lifeboats. Jesus, I feel like John Cleese in the Monty Python parrot sketch trying to describe how laughably lackadaisical this EP is.
“Hey,” they said. The critics liked Renegades when it came out 15 years ago, right? Let’s do the same thing, but instead of one rapper, let’s get two! After all, we’re a political band and there’s a controversial election going on, which means we can make a ton of money even though our beliefs border on Communism!”
Ah, fuck me. I’m mad. Well, I might as well listen to the damned thing now.
Before we begin, allow me to remind you that this is a five-track EP with one original song. It is not just a covers EP, though, no sir (or ma’am, don’t want to get yelled at by the PC police). It is a live covers EP. Only two of the five tracks were recorded in a studio. With the countless millions these musicians have made, you’d think they’d be able to afford the studio time. But I’ve been wrong before- like when I was initially excited for this release.
So the party starts with “Prophets of Rage”, a Public Enemy cover that inspired the band’s name. It’s not terrible. Not at all, actually. But that’s because it could be a lost bonus track from the Renegades sessions. It’s one of Brad Wilk’s most energetic performances to date, which really holds the song together and is a major plus. However, it can’t hide the fact that Tom Morello’s guitar playing feels phoned in. “But Sam,” you might be saying, “He’s doing that to highlight the mediocre bass grooves!” Look: I bought my first guitar literally the day before I wrote this. Even I know that that’s why guitars have their two bottom strings. Tom Morello is a much better guitarist than me, and I’m sure he knows that as well.
Next up is the only original song on the EP, “The Party’s Over”, which really should be placed at the end of the record for fear of people turning it off early. Some people are habitual line steppers, man; you gotta spell everything out of them. If I spelled out what I thought of this song, though, it would spell B-O-R-I-N-G. Imagine RATM’s “Wake Up” but with no energy. Yeah. It clocks in at 3:32, which feels too short yet doesn’t end soon enough. Just listen to “Criminals” by Islander; it’s basically the same song but much better done.
Now here come the live covers. Oh boy. If you’ve ever wanted to shell out a few bucks for a recording of your local RATM cover band at your local club’s open mic night, this is your chance. Okay, fine, they actually sound pretty tight and the mixing isn’t awful. But still, what’s the point of them besides making Morello & crew some easy cash?
“Killing in the Name” is, well, “Killing in the Name” with a lyric or two changed. “Shut Em Down”, another Public Enemy cover, is basically “Prophets of Rage” with more subdued drums that begins with Morello pleasuring himself to “Thunderstruck” for 45 seconds. The solo is kinda cool, but it doesn’t salvage the song; this one could’ve been left on the cutting room floor.
Last but not least, we have “No Sleep ‘Til Cleveland”. Cleveland. Cleveland? Cleveland. Not Brooklyn. Cleveland. Yes, I know the Republican National Convention took place in Cleveland this year. I don’t care.
Allow me to explain what this song is. It’s the Beastie Boys‘ “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” with a wah-wah guitar tone that doesn’t fit, the lyrics to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”, and a two-minute-long guitar solo. That is a minute and a half longer than it should be. If you’re going to change the name of the song to “No Sleep ‘Til Cleveland”, why would you continue to shout “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” until the last line of the song? If you’re going to change the lyrics of the song to the ones found in “Fight the Power”, why not just cover “Fight the Power”? Why does this song exist? Who thought it would be a good idea in the first place? I don’t know the answer to these questions and I don’t care enough to want to know.
I mentioned Tom Morello a lot in this review because he’s acted as the spokesperson for this group. Its formation was apparently his idea, he was the driving creative force, etcetera etcetera. I think that explains a lot about this EP.
“The Party’s Over” is a 20-minute demonstration of Tom Morello’s internal monologue. It’s pale, preachy, phoned-in, agenda-pushing rap rock for the proletariat that he treasures so dearly. It lacks energy in a lot of places, it brings nothing new to the table, and with all respect to B-Real of Cypress Hill and Chuck D of Public Enemy (who provided vocals for the release), it really only needed one vocalist.
Before the EP was announced, it was rumored to be a Rage Against the Machine reunion. That would’ve been much preferable to the self-indulgent mostly-live cover album we got instead. So allow me to fight the powers that be and assure you that this release is not worth your time.
Vocals: 7/10 Lyrics: 5/10 (-2 for being a cover album) Guitar: 4/10 Bass: 6/10 Percussion: 7/10 Songwriting: 3/10 (-2 for being a cover album) Production: 8/10 Personal Enjoyment: 3/10 Overall IPHYB Rating: 4.5/10