Review: Tom Morello & Boots Riley, Street Sweeper Social Club

It was fated that one day they’d collaborate. Audioslave (and former Rage Against the Machine) guitarist Tom Morello and Boots Riley, rapper for the Coup, are two of the most stridently radical musicians to ever plug in. Get ’em together and you get Street Sweeper Social Club, 11 songs and nearly 40 minutes of unremitting agitprop set to thunder beats and monster guitar riffs.

Every song rails against something: bosses, politicians, capitalism, materialism, the System. Virtually every song advocates the violent overthrow of oppressive forces, the gathering of guns, the whole ain’t-taking-shit-NO-more thing.

Unless you’re planning to cause trouble at the next G8 summit, this kind of rhetorical and musical onslaught can wear your ass out. But give Morello and Riley big ups for commitment — and big up Stanton Moore for providing the crushing funk-rock grooves.

Rap-metal is a worn-out subgenre, and to some extent the Morello/Riley team (along with drummer Stanton Moore) sags under the weight of stylistic orthodoxies. There are only so many new ways to approach a heavy guitar riff, only so many variations on funk-rock beats.

It’s Riley’s singlemindedness of purpose and the strident and often clever barrage of his rhymes that redeems the effort. “World poverty has just gone platinum/ Unemployment checks need to come with a gat in ’em,” Boots bellow on “The Squeeze,” just one example of the many punchy turns of phrase that run throughout the album.

The most engaging track is “Promenade” — built around a springy slam-beat, it’d be the perfect tune for a line dance at an anarchists rally. “FBI comin’ round the outside/ Which one of us is finna die tonight?/ Is we finna fight over crumbs to bite?/ Or make a whole muthafuckin’ world ignite?”

If you get a mind to spark some violent revolution, load Sweet Sweeper up on the iPod before you grab your gun and go. (SSSC)

About The Author

Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
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