Review: The Coup, Street Sweeper Social Club

A few weeks ago, I posted a review of a couple of albums I’d recently bought. At the time, I said it was something I’d like to try and do on a weekly basis. And then, for a few weeks, nothing happened. Let me try and make up for it, and get back into what will hopefully become a good routine, with a few words about a couple of albums from the Coup and Street Sweeper Social Club.

It took a collaboration with Tom Morello to bring Boots Riley of the Coup into mainstream view. But I’d been hearing a lot of good things about the Coup for years before I finally, finally got around to grabbing a copy of their 2006 album Pick a Bigger Weapon. It was their fifth studio album, and Rolling Stone named it one of their top fifty albums of the year, so I’ve really got no excuse for sleeping on it.

Thankfully, it was well worth the wait. A lot of people make music that sounds great, and a lot of people make music that’s intelligent, bold and provocative, but it’s a rare act like the Coup – or indeed, Rage Against the Machine – that can do the two in tandem. Pick a Bigger Weapon is a powerful and engaging record that blends sharp lyrics with a wide range of musical styles, and it’s well worth a listen.

Oh, and Tom Morello’s on it: he makes a guest appearance on a track called “Captain Sterling’s Little Problem” that nicely complements the Coup’s style. So contrary to what I said before, I guess it took two collaborations with Tom Morello to bring Boots Riley into mainstream view.

Street Sweeper Social Club’s self-titled disc sounds more like a Tom Morello side project. Few guitarists have a more signature sound than Morello, and if he’s the driving force of a record then it’s bound to sound like it’s his baby. Comparisons to Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave are musically inevitable; if you like Rage then you’ll probably like this album, and I’m assuming you don’t care about Audioslave one way or the other. But Riley holds his own against Morello’s former vocalists, and he brings a lot to the table lyrically. It doesn’t tread a lot of new ground, but it’s worth checking out.

By the way, did you know that Tom Morello went to Harvard? Not too shabby, Tom Morello!

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