Review: Street Sweeper Social Club
Label: Street Sweeper Social Club
Released: June 16, 2009
In his mid-90s heyday, Tom Morello was a top guitarist, mixing skill, innovation and groove that was at the heart of Rage Against the Machine's hip-hop/hard rock hybrid. In fact, his sound was so successful that he rode it to mainstream success a second time with Audioslave during the first half of this decade. After an acoustic aside for the past couple years and reliving the RATM glory years, Morello is back for another shot, this time with Boots Riley of the Coup.
Fair or not, I've always felt that Morello's politics were somewhat of a pose, a marketing scheme. If something saved his music, it was it was really his inspired, creative playing. Sadly, that's just what's missing this time. Like so many fine guitarists before him, Morello falls into the trap of his own success. With Street Sweeper Social Club, he relies on what he's already done, only this time, he robs it of its urgency and energy, becoming his own version of a bloated arena rocker simply going through the motions.
On the upside, Boots Riley's performance is much more inspired. He uses the cadence of his voice to drive the songs. It's Riley who really gives the album's politics its intended bite. It's not enough to make this album essential listening for fans of either party involved, but at least it adds some substance and keeps the album from being unlistenably dull.
Overall, Street Sweeper Social Club lacks the musical adventure and political vehemence that would be the best case scenario for this pair. However, fans of Riley's work will be more pleased than fans of Morello's, as the latter really falls flat on this release.
If you're curious about my rating categories, read the description.