Check out MC5 and the Stooges. Think the only two influential bands to break in '91 were Nirvana and Pearl Jam? The latter was one of the album's three singles, joining "Renegades of Funk" and a completely unrecognizable version of Bruce Springsteen 's "The Ghost of Tom Joad. Morello joined Springsteen at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony for a mashup of the two versions.
Renegades also reminded us that some long tamed and de-fanged bands used to be feral beasts. They didn't come much more dangerous in the late '60s and early '70s than the MC5, the Stooges and the Rolling Stones. Rage's take on the latter's "Street Fighting Man" restores the anger and urgency that decades of costume changes and private jets had long worn off. Well, honestly, there's no way to jam any more rage into the original. Covering that track is like saddling up an angry bull: the best any band can do is hang on and try to ride out the clock.
Rage Against the Machine survive the ride just fine, but arguably it's the straightest cover on the album. The least successful track on the album is Devo 's "Beautiful World. Presumably so, and so the listener is lulled into this warm, perfect world only to have the rug yanked away in the song's closing lines: "It's a beautiful world for you, not me.
But Rage suck all of the sunny irony out of the track, recasting it as a minor key dirge devoid of any fun. Unlike "Tom Joad" and the other examples mentioned, we don't learn anything new about the song. Instead, we're left with an impression of a band that takes itself too seriously. It's worth noting that when Renegades was released, NME cited "Beautiful World" as the album's "most insidious track," reminding us that these kinds of judgements are awfully subjective.
One person's throwaway track is the soundtrack to somebody else's life, after all. And thanks to Rage Against the Machine, more than a million buyers had the opportunity to add a dozen classic songs that they may have never heard otherwise to their personal soundtracks. As farewell gifts to fans go, that's a pretty damned good one.
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