Street Sweeper Social Club: The Ghetto Blaster EP

RIYL: Rage Against the Machine, The Coup, System of a Down

Whether or not the world will ever receive a new Rage Against the Machine album remains a mystery. But in the meantime, Rage guitarist Tom Morello is giving us the next best thing by continuing his incendiary work with Boots Riley in their group Street Sweeper Social Club. Morello has thankfully put his Night Watchman acoustic folk project, a noble experiment, on the shelf and gone back to what he does best – laying down “revolutionary party jams,” a kick-ass blend of rock and hip-hop with a socially conscious vibe. This follow-up to 2009’s eponymous debut keeps the fire burning by kicking out the jams with block-rocking beats, heavy riffs, smoking guitar solos, and in-your-face vocals from Boots Riley.

The title track comes out guns blazing with a heavy Rage vibe. Riley takes no prisoners with lines like “We’re canon fodder for dollars / Both under Bush and Obama.” Riley continues to deliver venom on “Everythang,” slamming bankers, sellout mayors and the like. Morello gets his whammy bar going at the end, conjuring his trademark sound of guitar pyrotechnics with anti-establishmentt flavor over another heavy groove.

The band strikes sonic gold on “The New Fuck You,” a song of the year contender with its infectious groove, smoldering riffs and killer lyrics including the instant classic chorus of “Fuckin’ is the new ‘Hey, how do ya do?’ / And revolution is the new fuck you.” Morello throws down one of his best solos in recent memory, while every line from Riley resonates with the zeitgeist of an MC lamenting his ride on the Titanic through the decline of Western civilization.

“Scars” continues in a similar vein with another high-energy track about hard living, showing the band hasn’t forgotten their roots. The disc wraps up with “Promenade (Guitar Fury Remix),” a reprise of a monster groove from the band’s debut album with Morello adding some extra guitar tricks to elevate the song higher.

The EP also includes two covers with mixed results. The first is of M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes,” which seems an odd selection that doesn’t really fit in musically with the rest of the disc. But the cover of LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” is a barnburner, a track that seems tailor-made for this crew to crank out with maximum style and energy (as they did at Stubbs BBQ in Austin during this year’s SXSW festival, where the crowd was literally bouncing in response.)

Morello produced the EP himself for the band’s own SSSC independent label, so this is an anti-corporate joint all the way. Is musical revolution still alive in 2010? Street Sweeper Social Club answers affirmative with resounding solidarity. (Street Sweeper Social Club 2010)