I’ve always had a good relationship with my father. I always knew how important he was to me and how important I was to him. But when I think back and try to put my finger on exactly when I knew that I loved him more than just the way a son is supposed to love a father, it was when I put in Evil Empire on some road trip and the line “Fuck the G-rides, I want the machines that are making them” from the song “Down Rodeo” passed, and he turned up the volume. Why do I remember that specific memory? Who knows, but it’s cemented in this album. Everything is cemented in this album.
I put “Bulls on Parade” on a JV basketball warm-up CD.
I played a cover of it in a basement in pair of cut off jean shorts and a sweatshirt from old navy with my best friends in 2011 screaming my lungs out. “Tire Me” was one of the first songs I learned on guitar. I listened to “Wind Below” at the loudest possible volume every single weekend for months at my best friends’ house. I gained my best friend because of this album and band because we talked about the riff on “People of the Sun” during basketball practice.
Without fully comprehending (and I’d be lying if I knew every single political tirade on this album) the full magnitude of the lyrics, or what De La Rocha was saying half the time, I still clung to it. I was drawn to the energy and aggressiveness, yet still somehow catchy enough to play for your friends who only listen to The Used or Taking Back Sunday. I soaked in every single second of this album for years. I was a 12-year-old white kid from a small middle-Wisconsin town. I had no idea what this album was about, I just knew it was the angriest thing I could digest and still comprehend why it mattered.
I wish I still had that clean slate, before everything was dripped in influence and comparison and bias and meaning in anything else. I wish I still was able to listen to an album without an already preconceived notion of what it’s going to sound like or have the ability to not judge an album by its cover. Not saying I can’t still do all those things, but it’s much harder after loving music and listening to so much of it since then.
I have this burned CD that has my 7th grade handwriting on it, a CD with so many scratches on the back it looks like a Jackson Pollack painting, and yet it still plays perfectly. It’s survived 3 different cars and countless time fallen on the floor mats, only to be resurrected back to the stereo. In the corner it just says “RATM Evil Empire”. My dad took me to the library and I rented it, and on the ride home the first few measures of “People of the Sun” started and then De La Rocha says “better turn the bass up on this one.” I smiled, or at least I hoped I did.
by Andy Wilcox (@wilco204)