Cosmic Slop #64: Prophets of Rage – do supergroups ever work?
Originally posted on Getintothis
With rumours of a Rage Against The Machine and Public Enemy collaboration, Getintothis’ Shaun Ponsonby wonders if supergroups ever really work.
Last week, Rage Against The Machine put a clock on their website, which was counting down to a big announcement. They also started a new website called prophetsofrage.com. Prophets of Rage is, of course, a song by hip hop Gods Public Enemy on their seminal It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, so with Chuck D sharing clips of Rage Against The Machine performances on Twitter, most assumed it was a co-headline tour which, let’s be honest, would be epic.
But sources have told rival websites (bastards) that members of Rage Against The Machine are forming their first post-Audioslave supergroup with Chuck D and Cypress Hill’s B-Real sans Rage frontman Zack De La Rocha. Prophets of Rage is a logical name for the act, though I feel bad for B-Real who seems to be overlooked a little in the name.
The political inclination of these acts suggests that this might be some kind of preamble to the potential Trumpaggedon on its way this November, when America will effectively decide whether Kang or Kodos will be best suited to make America a laughing stock.
It almost echoes 2004’s Vote For Change Tour, in which a handful of American rock legends – and the Dixie Chicks – toured America together, unsuccessfully asking rational human beings not to vote for George Bush for a second term, before finding that America wasn’t populated by rational human beings (incidentally, our country voted for Cameron again, so I’m in no way saying we are exempt from my contempt).
That instance probably sums up the problem with supergroups. Though I agree with their stance in principal, it does border a little on sanctimonious to have a bunch of rockstars touring the country telling you how to vote. It’s all a bit “Hey, look at me! I’m so good that I’m in the company of these other good people!” Because of the ragtag nature of it, most supergroups don’t really gel, do they?
To use an example of something I hate, think of what happens when you take 11 grown men and ask them to kick a clump of leather around grass. Could you take the 11 greatest players in the world and necessarily make them into a great team? That’s debatable, because there are too many egos in one place. Each of them were considered the best kicker of things at their club three minutes ago. Why do you think England’s national side have won fuck all since 1966?
Most supergroups are awful. Former Van Halen replacement for David Lee Roth, tequila salesman and occasional Bette Midler lookalike Sammy Hagar formed Chickenfoot with VH’s equally ousted bass player Michael Anthony, along with Joe Satriani and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith. Before the album was released, Hagar prematurely declared the record as being better than Led Zeppelin. Similar to Lou Reed’s claims before teaming up with Metallica on the much derided Lulu.
2011’s SuperHeavy answered the immortal question; what would it sound like if Mick Jagger, Joss Stone, Damian Marley and Dave Stewart made a shit album? The answer, unsurprisingly, was “shit”. And does any made up word send shivers down the spine quite like McBusted?
There are some exceptions, though. I’m not the biggest fan of the 60s British blues groups (much prefer the real thing), but there’s no doubt that Cream delivered the goods. Clapton had another supergroup with Ginger Baker called Blind Faith (also featuring Steve Winwood and Ric Grech from Family) which was decidedly less successful.
Emerson Lake and Palmer may be easy to ridicule seeing as they basically ended up epitomising prog rock’s worst excesses, but their first couple of albums are wildly inventive and undoubtedly awe inspiring for their musicianship. In fact, prog rock seems to be the natural home of the supergroup. Most of them feature Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy (Transatlantic, Liquid Tension Experiment, Metal Allegiance, Winery Dogs, Flying Colors, Yellow Matter Custard, Adrenaline Mob – seriously, Mike, one band is enough).
There’s a charm to the first Travelling Wilbury’s album. It genuinely sounds like an unpretentious lark on the part of George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne. It’s kind of cool to imagine sitting in the kitchen they wrote these songs in, none of which match these musicians main body of work, but it clearly wasn’t designed to do so. It’s even more fun to see the lighter side of Bob Dylan in full display on songs like Tweeter and the Monkey Man and Dirty World (the first line of which, Dylan’s nasel whine unconvincingly declares “He loves your sexy body”).
But that would have been enough. The second Wilbury’s album, amusingly titled Vol. 3 and recorded after the death of Orbison and is pretty difficult to get all the way through. Not that the material is dreadful, just decidedly average. Since Orbison’s death, the dynamic was completely off and the lark that the first album provided was absent in the second.
In fact, this seems to be the recurring theme. If a supergroup is any good, it usually only lasts one album before the novelty starts to wear off. So perhaps it is good that Prophets of Rage are only planning on doing a few shows.
Madonna seems to think that people reacted negatively to her Prince tribute because she is a woman in her 50s. That’s not true. It just sucked.
Beyonce and Jay-Z‘s joint album regarding rumours about their marriage came together quickly, didn’t it? It is almost as if what I said the other week about the whole affair being a publicity stunt was – gasp! – true!
Justin Bieber complaining about the “fakeness” of award shows is like me complaining about poorly written content. Sure, you might agree with him in principle, but #irony.