TOM MORELLO

TheAt­lasUn­der­ground

Australian Guitar - - Cd Reviews - MATT DO­RIA

Given all the out­landish and con­fus­ing shit that’s al­ready hap­pened in 2018, it shouldn’t come as too much of a shock that Tom Morello would make an EDM al­bum. All 12 of its tracks fea­tur­ing at least one ex­tra hand on deck, TheAt­lasUn­der­ground is a break­neck­paced roller­coaster ride through waves of anoma­lous hip­hop, dance and bass mu­sic flavours, ven­er­a­ble prodi­gies like Knife Party, Gary Clark Jr. and Vic Mensa lend­ing their dis­tinctly idio­syn­cratic tal­ents on tracks that shine a new light on Morello’s ec­cen­tric gui­tar­man­ship.

That alone is im­pres­sive enough. Through his work in Rage Against The Ma­chine, Au­dioslave and a swathe of other atyp­i­cal pas­sion projects, Morello has tried vir­tu­ally ev­ery trick in the book on his fret­board (and then some). That he’s still com­ing up with new ways to rein­vent his play­ing is down­right in­sane.

De­spite wran­gling in artists from a glut of di­a­met­ric gen­res, TheAt­lasUn­der­ground is re­mark­ably co­her­ent. The fre­netic en­ergy of “Rab­bit’s Re­venge” meshes beau­ti­fully with the thump­ing sleaze of “How Long”, and though the fret­work is al­ways in­stan­ta­neously recog­nis­able as Morello’s, the anar­chist ax­elord is un­fail­ingly var­ied and dy­namic in his play­ing. “Vig­i­lante Noc­turno” and “Road­run­ner” see him use grimy, down­tuned plucks and whistling so­los in place of bass drops with un­pre­dicted pi­quancy; “Bat­tle Sirens” has his sig­na­ture rip­ping, arena­sized crunch play sec­ond fid­dle to war­bling synth lines.

Of course, a record like TheAt­lasUn­der­ground is all but guar­an­teed to po­larise. Fans of Morello’s coarse, fury­driven string abuse in Rage might be ut­terly dis­gusted by the brostep­chan­nelling breaks on “Lead Poi­son­ing”, but find its punchy rap verses (cour­tesy of GZA and RZA) a sear­ing throw­back to his rap­rock prime. Too, the slick whips on “Lucky One” might hook Au­dioslave devo­tees in at first groove, but its at­mo­spheric­heavy cho­rus could to­tally sour that mood.

For those with broader palates, there are plenty of weird and wacky gems to sink your teeth in on what is, at its core, Morello’s de­but solo al­bum. Ab­so­lutely none of them should work, all things con­sid­ered, but then again this is Tom Morello we’re talk­ing about – if there’s any­one that can take a metal­lean­ing math riff and slap it on a dance­floor banger, it’s this ab­so­lute unit.

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