Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rage Against the Machine, Join It, Rage Harder, Look Stupid

Is there anything that Rage Against the Machine can't make breathtakingly banal just by being distantly related to it? All it took was a single album cover to somehow rob Thích Quảng Đức's self-immolation of its staggering power and turn it into a pop-cultural talisman borne by the sort of people who can't wait to annoy the shit out of you about the real reason you're never going to see a fusion-powered car even though they already have the technology.

The latest bit of Rage news shows that even if the band drops off the map, somehow something brutally stupid about them will rise to the top:
It takes a lot to get Simon Cowell rattled, but rattled he appears to be. At a press conference today, Cowell acknowledged the Facebook campaign to get Rage Against the Machine's 1992 song, Killing in the Name, to Christmas No 1.... The campaign was started by Tracy and Jon Morter, who launched the Facebook group "Rage Against the Machine for Christmas No 1" earlier this month with the words: "Fed up of Simon Cowell's latest karaoke act being Christmas No 1? Me too ... So who's up for a mass-purchase of the track 'KILLING IN THE NAME' from December 13th (DON'T BUY IT YET!) as a protest to the X Factor monotony?"
Now, full credit to Rage: they're donating the proceeds from these sales to charities that get poor children involved in playing music; they've got over 350,000 Facebook followers supporting this campaign via two different groups, and supposedly they've made over a hundred-thousand sales.

The bad news for Rage fans, though:
1. History ain't on their side. Most Rage fans have already made their purchases, Rage-wise, and there's not much inducement to make more. Most people have had over 17 years to buy the music off this album and get properly sick of it. Whoever this douchebag is that Simon Cowell's running out there might sing garbage, but at least it's garbage that hasn't got two decades of overplayed all-ages-show between-sets angst behind it.

2. There are about 5.5 million people who support Facebook getting a "Dislike Button" or "Option." Basically, getting people to commit to things on Facebook takes no more effort than getting teenagers angry about who the real terrorists are. (They're in Congress.) Add money, effort or leaving the house, and their participation plummets.

3. "But this doesn't take effort or leaving the house, just buying things from a computer." True, but as soon as you involve the computer and money, reality also goes out the window. Out of the reported 175,000 purchases, who knows how many of those are bulk purchases? Buying two or three copies of the song to "beat" disposable Top-40 pop crap is exactly the sort of unintentionally hilarious and doomed gesture you expect from Rage fans. It gets even funnier when you realize:

4. Rage Against the Machine's album is on Epic Records. This single Cowell's releasing on his own label is actually owned by Sony Music UK. Like Sony Music UK, Epic Records is owned by Sony Music Entertainment.
Aaaahahaha is there anything more futile?

In the midst of trying to spite some uptight English man-bitch, Rage fans are striking a devastating blow to the Machine by routing its money away from Sony Music UK to Epic Records, while effectively trying to more than double its normal cash intake. What a completely moving statement about the crass artistry-free consumerism that drives people like Simon Cowell. If moving units is all Mr. Cowell cares about, well, we'll move even more units.

This is like getting back at a girl who dumped you because she thought your anarchism was stupid by walking into the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell she works at, buying a handful of Beef Meximelts and then dropping half of them when you try to flip the double bird at the Pizza Hut logo and scream, "FUCK YOUUUU!!!!" while your voice breaks.

It would be depressing if this sort of thing hadn't been going on for 17 years, as Rage fans repeatedly notify the rest of the world that:
They've just now discovered common socio-political facts freely and obviously available to just about anyone who can successfully pick their nose by 11th grade.
"Hey, sometimes black people are put in prison for no reason because GODDAMN WHITEY, dude, the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT is the BIGGEST WHITEY OF THEM ALL."
Thing. Bad thing in country. Was all over the news a fucking half-decade ago. But you know, thing. Thiiiing.
"And like fuckin' WEED, man? Only reason that's illegal is because FUCKIN Du PONT, man. And HEARST. They wanted THE GOVERNMENT to have to buy their synthetic rope, man, so that's why they outlegalized HEMP. So fuckin-a, connect the dots, right? Hearst Newspapers — the Spanish-American War — hemp+weed — FUCKIN Du PONT — criminalization. What the fuck do you mean, 'Maybe they just wanted to make it illegal for people to get as fucking retarded as I am right now'? You're a fuckin' asshole, man. You gonna finish that BMT?"
Rubbing an Allen wrench on an e-string represents some sort of anti-imperialist seizure of the tools of everyday life to construct a new attack paradigm on the powers that be.
Tibet, dude.
There's a thing called "the military-industrial complex," a subject only broached a half-century ago by a five-star general and Republican President of the United States in his farewell address to the nation.
"'Godzilla, pure motherfucking filler, get your eyes off the real killer.' I first heard that when I bought Godzilla: The Album. Fuck consumerism, man!!! THAT MOVIE SUCKED!!!
Moreover, they've somehow had time to notice all this without noticing Zack de la Rocha cashing massive checks for a decade and a half while exhorting socialistic action to a bunch of people hopping mechanically in place in $100+ work boots and a further $100 in clothing and $300 in smartphones, chanting, "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me" in unison, exactly on the beat, for the umpteenth year.

But, you know, fuck Simon Cowell and his svengali-like control over people and the flavorless pap he spoonfeeds to an uncritical fanbase only too willing oblige whatever his tastes are this year.

Slaps RETURN button as validation window pops up on the password autocomplete for the iTUNES STORE, another needle stuck in the Simon Cowell e-voodoo doll.

Cues up LINKIN PARK'S METEORA because we all had to go somewhere when Rage's rapping, rock and hard riffs well went dry.

FADE OUT on APPLE logo glowing on the back of the laptop in a dark room, the writer sipping ARIZONA GREEN ICED TEA.