Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Slave is dead, long live The Nightwatchman

Audioslave is dead. That’s more a cause for celebration than mourning as far as most Rage fans are concerned.

Initially, the death of the odd mesh of Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell and Rage without vocalist Zack De La Rocha inspired hope that Rage Against the Machine would come back permanently. That may happen, they’ve already gone from a one and done at Coachella to three more shows with the Wu-Tang Clan on this summer’s Rock the Bells Tour.

But what is certain, is that Rage axe man Tom Morello, one of the most innovative and best in the business, has launched his own solo project. With a guttural singing voice backed up by nothing but his own masterful acoustic guitar playing, Morello becomes The Nightwatchman.

The Nightwatchman has to be hands down the coolest solo project name I’ve ever heard. More Morello, while succinct and right to the point and my chosen name for this endeavor, lacks the political flavor the act will intone.

I’ve listened to The Nightwatchman’s first single, Until the End. Sounds like Morello has gotten serious not just about music but about hammering home his politics. Morello, a Harvard graduate who went to high school a few towns north of my hometown, shows that Rage’s message comes from more than Zack De La Rocha’s Chicano experiences growing up in Southern California.

Cornell killed Audioslave because of differences with the rest of the band. I like to think Tom and the rest of the Machine got fed up with making music for money. Cornell, who never came across as the bastion of activism, balked at beefing up Audioslave’s lyrics. Besides, no one took them seriously anyway. So Audioslave imploded, Rage rose for a reunion and Morello went out on his own. Not the ideal scenario for long-suffering Rage fans, but a desirable one none the less.

Coachella has Morello scheduled to play Saturday. The Nightwatchman’s album drops the Tuesday before. You can bet we’ll blare it as the sun rises over New Mexico. Listen to the first single. It’s fitting enough.

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