Sunday, December 13, 2009

Street Sweeper Social Club

Every Sunday The Rock and Roll Guru reviews a new or classic music CD, DVD, or a rocking book.

What happens when you blend the awesome guitar ability of Tom Morello with the rapping styles of Boots Riley to record a debut album? Hopefully you get one of the greatest rock/rap hybrids that have ever existed. Is Street Sweeper Social Club worthy of that title? Let’s spin the disc and find out.

Street Sweeper Social Club opens with the not so great, Fight! Smash! Win! The guitar intro that launches the song sounds eerily familiar to Negasonic Teenage Warhead by Monster Magnet, until the bass kicks in and Boots Riley begins to rap. As a lead off track, Fight! Smash! Win! is a weak choice. It is not one of the better songs on the record, and doesn’t showcase either Morello’s ability with the guitar, or Riley’s ability as a rapper. A disappointing lead off that sets the stage for the rest of the album.

The Oath is a decent song, troubled by a lot of curse words (usually a sign of immature lyric writing). The song opens with a nice guitar intro and Boots Riley speaking the vocals over Morello’s guitar. Then the heavier riff kicks in, Riley launches into a metal scream (and almost pulls it off) and then the heavy rock/hip-hop conglomerate takes off. If all of the songs on Street Sweeper Social Club were as thought out, complex, and enjoyable as this one, it would be a fantastic winner for 2009. The only downfall to this song is the excessive (and unnecessary) cursing.

One of the only other notable tracks on this record is Good Morning Mrs. Smith. A song with structure, style, and layers, Good Morning Mrs. Smith is a strong tune that spotlights what Street Sweeper Social Club could have been as a band. The slow, progressing, catchy jam gets stuck in your head after a couple of listens. The chord and bridge changes throughout the song are what give it form and character. It’s the character of the song that makes it a solid track. This one is worth downloading on its own if there is no desire to own the entire album.

One of the big trends across Street Sweeper Social Club is Boots Riley’s use of the word “f - - k”. It is featured in almost every song in some way, shape, or form. That’s the sign of an unconfident lyricist and vocalist, being forced to rely on curse words to help emphasize points of view or emotions. The use of the word is not necessary on every track and it takes away a lot of the potency of the lyrics. It is more of a song killer than a song enhancer and that’s a shame. His producer should have pointed this out before these tracks were mixed and finalized.

What Street Sweeper Social Club suffers from the most is mediocrity. Morello’s guitar playing never launches into the next level of greatness that he achieved with Rage Against The Machine and showcased with Audioslave. If the guitar was meant to be in the background, thus giving the spotlight to Boots Riley, then the plan was a bad one, because Morello would be able to make or break this record. Unfortunately, he breaks it.

Overall, Street Sweeper Social Club is an album that can be called mediocre at best. A huge disappointment would be more of a proper description. This one isn’t worth the money, buy the aforementioned select songs on ITunes and keep the rest of your cash for something else.

Ryo’s Rating: 5.5 (out of 10)

Track Listing
Fight! Smash! Win!
100 Little Curses
The Oath
The Squeeze
Clap For The Killers
Somewhere In The World It’s Midnight
Shock You Again
Good Morning Mrs. Smith
Nobody Moves Til We Say Go

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