“Street Sweeper Social Club” Album Review

With the economy growing worse by the day, Street Sweeper Social Club (SSSC) has released their self-titled debut album in an effort to capture the discontent and anger felt by the working class through music. SSSC is a rap/rock supergroup that is the brainchild of guitarist Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine fame, and rapper Raymond “Boots” Riley of the hip-hop group The Coup. After the breakup of Morello’s previous band, Audioslave, he met with Riley with the prospect of starting a band called “Street Sweeper,” and stated that they were “going to make anthems for the Revolution”. During Morello’s solo concerts, Riley would often join him on stage and play songs from the Street Sweeper catalog. Finally, on June 16, they released their first album, Street Sweeper Social Club

SSSC is filled with, as Tom Morello puts it, “Revolutionary party jams” and he himself described it as being comprised of “huge steamroller riffs combined with depth, charge, funk, while Boots unloads clip after clip of incendiary rhymes rich with satire and venom.” The music itself is exactly what you would expect from Tom Morello, a mix of funk, hip-hop, and various forms of hard rock. The sound of the album is instantly recognizable as Morello’s unique approach to music, with Boots Riley rapping with his own style over the top of it. Simply put, when it works, it combines the intensity of Rage Against the Machine with the angst and storytelling of The Coup, and the two styles complement each other almost to perfection. However, when it doesn’t work it can seem forced and feels spiritless, and one may find themselves looking for the “skip track” button pretty quickly

The album’s opening track, “Fight! Smash! Win!” rolls right out of the gate with a call for a revolution by the working class. The guitars are heavy and pounding, and the choruses bring to mind feelings of insurrection and revolution, and the lyrics complement the music quite well on this track. One of the lines on this track, (“And I may not be able to predict my demise/but you can bet it won’t be on my knees”) is strongly reminiscent of Emiliano Zapata’s famous quote.

The second and most popular track is the album’s first single, “100 Little Curses”, a humorous take on those with wealth from the perspective of those without. The song is exactly what the title says it is, “100 little curses” to be placed upon the rich and privileged of the world, such as “may you tumble and fall down your grand marble stairway,” “May your Ferrari break down,” and “may the death squads you hire…by mistake be at your mansion…may this make your party guests forsake their White Russians.” Although the song is humorous in its approach, it reflects a very real displeasure amongst average working people: anger at celebrities who appear on television and decry the “problems” associated with having wealth. The majority of workers only wish they had such problems!          

Lyrically, this album is as good as any other release by Boots Riley. Riley’s lyrics are mostly satirical and humorous, albeit with kernels of truth scattered throughout. For example, he asks the question: who are the real criminals of society, the impoverished and oppressed or those in charge of the militaries of the world?   As Aristotle once said, “The mother of revolution and crime is poverty,” a sentiment expressed in “Clap for the Killers.”

However, the album overall is a fairly disappointing effort by two artists capable of much better. There are times when Morello’s signature guitar playing meshes beautifully with the stylistic insights of Riley’s vocals. However this only fully materializes in a few songs such as “Somewhere in the World it’s Midnight”, “Fight! Smash! Win!” and “100 Little Curses.” But mostly we’re left with songs where either only the chorus or verses seem to mix well, and sometimes neither sound satisfactory at all.

Boots said of the album, “More families will be homeless and more people will be jobless. They’ll need something to listen to on their iPods while storming Wall Street.” While he is correct, I can’t guarantee that it will be Street Sweeper Social Club. Although I have a great deal of respect for both Morello and Riley, I can’t help but feel this album could have been a lot better, and I truly hope that Street Sweeper Social Club’s next album realizes their full potential.

Overall Score: 5/10

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