Street Sweeper Social Club, Ghetto Blaster EP

Street Sweeper Social Club, Ghetto Blaster EP

At first blush, Street Sweeper Social Club sounds like, well, like Rage Against the Machine. And honestly, with Tom Morello’s signature block-y, sharp-edged guitars and riffs sharing the stage, how could it not at least resemble RATM? Morello was an integral element of that band, so it’s hard to hear him playing similarly political anthems and escape the comparison. Even the rhythm section of Dave Gibbs (of the Gigolo Aunts) and Eric Gardner do reasonably good impressions of Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk (Gardner’s machine-gun drumming in the chorus of “Everythang” is freaking badass).

That said, to somebody like me who hasn’t heard the actual Street Sweeper Social Club full-length, the group’s subsequent Ghetto Blaster EP feels like like “oh, it’s RATM Mk. II” and more like “oh, hell — why didn’t they do this in the first place?” Right from the start of the title track, The Coup’s Boots Riley slips in front of the mic like he’s been there all along, playing with Morello for years, and it flows on from there, unforced and wide-open. Morello and Riley feel like they’re tailor-made for this particular partnership, with Riley serving as the funky, wisecracking foil to Morello’s sci-fi-ish guitar heroics and monster riffs.

“Ghetto Blaster” itself doesn’t have a whole lot of meat to it, really — the lyrics are basically “I’m a ghetto blaster!” repeated over and over — but the band provides a heavy, head-nod-inducing groove that’s hard to resist and serves as a nice intro to the EP as a whole. Things get a lot more substantial with “Everythang,” where the band first snakes along quietly while Riley goes through a laundry list of everything the ignored, marginalized, and set-aside folks in society want or need, and then they explode in with the threat, delivered with a sly grin: “And when we come / We takin’ everythang.” It’s like a Republican’s worst nightmare, set to music, and it’s pretty damn entertaining.

Surprisingly, I found myself just shrugging at the band’s version of M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes”; it’s fine as a cover, but it doesn’t really add anything to the original, with Morello even mimicking the high-pitched electronic squeals and drones on his guitar (which, don’t get me wrong, is pretty damn impressive). And no, it’s not that it’s bad, either, but that coming right after the smiling facekick of “Everythang,” it feels a little like a step down.

Followup tracks “The New Fuck You” and “Scars” ride the line somewhat, as well, at least for me. The former’s funkier and more laid-back, which is a cool shift, with almost a George Clinton twang to the vocals, but the chorus leaves me cold; almost the same goes for “Scars,” where the dull, glam-y chorus is just “eh” but Riley’s lyrics about how he(?) creatively gets around being broke as fuck in the modern world (do people other than doctors still use pagers?) make me crack a smile, at least.

Things come back up again with the EP’s other cover, an updating of L.L.’s “Mama Said Knock You Out,” which unlike SSSC’s version of “Paper Planes,” actually builds nicely on the original, fleshing out L.L.’s ’80s beats and braggadocio with spooky, menacing-sounding guitars and backing vocals, a keening, siren-like riff, and heavy, bashing drums. The swaggering threat of the song stays intact, bolstered by the halfway-to-metal rock going on behind. And yep, it works pretty damn well.

Unfortunately, Ghetto Blaster ends on what feels like a throwaway, the “Guitar Fury Remix” version of “Promenade,” from the band’s 2009 debut, which immediately made me stop and scratch my head (and then skip back to the start of the track) as I tried to figure out what the hell was going on. Like the title implies, it’s essentially a square-dance call, except that the Social Club’s, um, modified it somewhat: “Grab your partner by the chaps / Give your partner a pimpslap / To symbolize the ghetto trap.” Um, what?

Taken all together, it’s a weird, quasi-raunchy commentary on ghetto life, but done as a four-on-the-floor dance track, complete with glam melodies and shiny-clean beats. And while it makes me cringe just a little, I’ll admit that the damn thing’s now stuck in my head — plus, the guitar tricks Morello pulls off in the solo are pretty mind-blowing, far and away the coolest things he throws in on the whole EP.

While it’s got some ups and downs, at the end of the EP, I’m fully addicted. Gotta remember to keep this one in my car…

Feature photo by Jorge Peniche.

(Cooking Vinyl -- 10 Allied Way, Acton, London, W3 0RQ ENGLAND; http://cookingvinyl.com/; Independent Label Group -- http://www.ilgpress.com/; Street Sweeper Social Club -- http://streetsweepersocialclub.com/)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Monday, September 20th, 2010. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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2 Responses to “Street Sweeper Social Club, Ghetto Blaster EP”

  1. Jangle on September 21st, 2010 at 10:41 am

    No lyrics on the song “Ghetto Blaster”?!?!?

    No , there’s only:

    “Listen to the
    shotgun sonata f
    rom personas non grata
    With a plot to rock harder than the second intafada
    I do drink firewater but I’m more like Hiawatha
    and we’ll slaughter, slaughter, slaughter, your armada”

    and

    “I’m from the land of the free labor that planted the plan of the
    Black and branded to scram it over to Canada
    A fan of radical bandits in bandannas
    Who slam in the banana clip and rat-a-tat-tatata”

    Some of the finest lyrics in Rock and Roll history.

    Please redeem yourself!

  2. Jeremy Hart on September 21st, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Okay, so my face is red — I heard the words, but dangit, they just went right past my little head. Whoops…

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