Rungs Torn from the Ladder

I wanted to post this back in April (when it was relevant), but I was in the middle of deadline hell and barely had a moment to sleep, let alone pontificate on the passage of time.

I have a little room to breathe now...I think. I mean, my next deadline isn't for another two days, which feels like all the time in the world right now, but will very soon turn into HOLY SHIT WHY DID I SPEND THE LAST FORTY HOURS WATCHING CAT VIDEOS?!?!


Twenty years ago, on April 16th, Rage Against the Machine released Evil Empire, and changed the way I listen to music forever.

Evil Empire was the first album I ever owned. The first album I put my sticky little fingers on that wasn't my parents', or even my sister's, music. I was eleven years old, and the world was finally fucking mine.

A friend, whose folks were perhaps a bit more permissive, got his hands on the CD (that's compact disc for you young'uns) and invited me over to listen. As we sat in his room, letting the opening notes of People of the Sun wash over us for the first time, I could feel my mind stretching. Expanding. Shattering the molds. Here were songs unlike anything I'd ever heard beforebrazen and brutal and beautiful.

I begged my friend to dub the album onto cassette for me. (This was long before the days of Napster, Kazaa, and Limewire.) He tried to clean it up in the process (knowing I'd get in trouble if my parents caught me listening to such colorful language), by pausing the recording any time Zach de la Rocha cursed. But this takes pretty precise timing (something eleven-year-olds aren't exactly known for), so in most cases, the word fuck could be heard loud and clear, followed by a moment of reverent silence.

Even so, I wore that cassette out. I was too young to understand most of the lyrics (for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why anyone would fill their pockets with seashells), but I knew that these songs were important. They meant something. And merely by listening, I was tapping into a movement greater than myself.

Twenty years later, Evil Empire is still one of my favorite albums, and just as relevant as ever. If you've never heard it before, do yourself a favor: Sit back, turn the bass up, and face the funk...