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)


SXSW 2010 Quick Hits, Day 4: Street Sweeper Social Club

With a second stage set up at the back end of Stubbs, there was only a momentary break after Jakob Dylan’s set at Rachel Ray’s in-demand day party at Stubbs BBQ before Street Sweeper Social Club launched into an incendiary set that heated up the chilly afternoon.

Guitarist Tom Morello has put his Night Watchman folk experiment on the back burner and moved back to doing what he does best, which is rocking out Rage Against the Machine-style. The band’s aggressive and heavy sound clearly recalled Rage, yet with the urban flavor that only the Coup’s Boots Riley can provide in the vocal slot. The opening tune featured a “Manic Depression” vibe from Morello on guitar, while the second tune seemed cut from the same cloth as some early Rage classics. The crowd was instantly enthralled, with fists in the air and cameras out to take pictures.

“You can join Street Sweeper Social Club, there’s lots of ways, but they’re illegal to speak of in public… Austin, you’re gonna have to take the oath,” said Riley, and it seemed as if the assembled were more than ready to enlist. “The Oath” was a hard-hitting tune where Riley pledged “to get the foot off my neck” and “fight until the system is gone.” Morello played the tune with a whistle in his mouth, which he would tweet at peak moments for dramatic effect. The anthemic chorus was an absolute blast, with the crowd bouncing and eager for more.

New York City’s Outernational (whose debut album has been produced by Morello) were brought out for one tune and helped SSSC rock out with a party flavor that included trumpet and accordion. SSSC continued to electrify the crowd with a slamming cover of LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” that had the audience bouncing. Riley was in full command of Stubbs as he belted out the lyrics, with most of the crowd singing along.

“We’re more than a band, we’re a motherfucking social club,” declared Riley toward the end. Sign me up, Boots, because this was one of the best sets of the week.

Street Sweeper Social Club, SXSW 2010
Photo by Steve Hopson


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