Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman – World Wide Rebel Songs

January 01, 1970

(New West)

Tom Morello will never be accused of being a shrinking
violet. Over the course of his career he’s maintained his image as a relentless
rocker and insurgent extraordinaire, first with Rage Against the Machine, later
via Audioslave and now in his current incarnation as folk revivalist The
Nightwatchman. While he’s ratcheted down the volume, he still sustains his
verbosity, railing about perceived injustices afflicting the common man. His
tirades span a lengthy list of causes, all tied to economical, environmental
and political concerns, and as an activist he’s made his presence known through
several high-profile crusades. Among them: the Tell Us the Truth tour with
Steve Earle and Billy Bragg, rallies staged at the Democratic and Republican
national conventions, and events that promoted equal time for third party
presidential candidate Ralph Nader and offered support for political prisoners
held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facilities.


Consequently, it’s hard to evaluate Morello’s music without
being mindful of his mission. And not surprisingly, World Wide Rebel Songs doesn’t shy away from its branding or avoid
political pontificating. Alternating between rousing populist anthems (“The
Dogs of Tijuana,” “Speak and Make Lightning,” “The Whirlwind” and, quite
naturally, the title track) and solemn songs of regret and remorse (the aching
duet with Ben Harper, “Save the Hammer for the Man,” “Branding Iron” and “God
Help Us” in particular), it bows to the unsettling undercurrents of discontent
that are at the core of today’s malaise. Morello is fond of posturing,
platitudes and sloganeering, and being a relentless cheerleader, he rants in
much the same vein as the Pogues, the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly,
particularly on such songs as “Stray Bullets” (a travelogue about the Iraqi
killing fields) and “Union Town” (an equally bombastic bonus track). It takes a
certain like-minded political sensibility to wholly appreciate both the music
and the mantra, but rebels in search of a cause will likely share sympathy for
Morello’s fervent muse.


Wide Rebel Songs,” “Stray Bullets,” “”Save the Hammer for the Man” LEE ZIMMERMAN

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