Loving Some Morello, Missing Some Zach

SSSC returns with dynamite guitar riffs

Street Sweeper Social Club

Ghetto Blaster

Released on Aug 10, 2010


I almost played a role in a real life version of a classic television sit-com episode; the one where a kid’s pet dies unexpectedly. The parents then have to decide whether to slip in a replacement animal in an effort to fool the child or deal with teaching the youngster about death.

I was set to hamster sit for a friend’s 9 year-old daughter while she was away on vacation. She had recently cared for my turtles so it was the least I could do. The girl and her mother had gone ahead and the father was leaving a few days later. Just before the dad left the hamster got sick and died. The parents then had to discreetly decide what to do including being careful not to ruin summer vacation. I breathed a sigh of relief. Just two days later I would have been in the middle of that mess.

If you take lessons from sit-coms though you know the replacement animal trick never really works. The kid always notices because of the bond they have with the first animal. In some ways that’s how I feel when I listen to the new Ghetto Blaster EP from Street Sweeper Social Club.

The group consists primarily of former Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave guitar god Tom Morello and hip-hop artist Boots Riley best known for his work in the Coup. As with every electric project he undertakes Morello’s guitar work on Ghetto Blaster is awesome. His signature sound comes ripping out of the speakers sounding both powerful and fresh.

The problem is with Riley. He’s a clever, funny, poignant lyricist who sounds great next to Morello’s fat guitar riffs but he’s just not Zach De La Rocha whose voice and lyrics played foil to Morello’s guitar in Rage Against the Machine. I can’t even consciously explain what’s bothering me about it and I admit it’s a completely unfair comparison. Unfortunately, it’s one I can’t help but make.

The seven song EP includes two cover songs, M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes,” and LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out.” As a fan of the original song I had really high hopes from the LL Cool J cover but it’s not really all that inventive or interesting. Frankly it’s one of the flatter parts of the release. I would have liked to hear them find a way to put more of a unique stamp on the song.

Overall though it’s not like the Ghetto Blaster EP isn’t good. On the contrary, it’s quite enjoyably filled with scorching guitar riffs and good rhymes. Riley’s work is especially good on the song “Scars (Hold That Pose)” where he details in a serious yet humorous way what it’s like to be poor. But much like with Audioslave it feels like there is a spark missing. It’s like that special bond the child always has with the first pet in all the sitcom episodes. The replacement is a great animal; it’s just not the original.

High Point

Scorching guitars and great lyrics.

Low Point

I miss Zach!

Posted by Mike Stern on Aug 11, 2010 @ 11:11 am

street sweeper social club, tom morello, boots riley, review, rage against the machine