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Monday, Feb. 11, 2013

Rage Against the Machine

XX: 20th Anniversary Deluxe Box Set (Epic/Legacy)

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Rage Against the Machine, in a defiant move that lived up to its awesome name, released its brain-rattling, politically charged eponymous debut in 1992—not long after Nirvana draped American rock in flannel and left the idea of a socially conscious punk-rock/heavy-metal/hip-hop hybrid sounding preposterous. But even though Rage Against the Machine spawned countless awful rap-metal bands, this album remains a classic, with “Know Your Enemy” and “Fistful of Steel” packing even more lyrical punch today.

They still sound lethal on XX. The deluxe box set version includes the original remastered album on CD (with three B-sides from the era) and a 180 gram vinyl LP, plus a second CD, The Original Demos—songs that achieved mythical status among fans, including “Clear the Lane” and the rumbling reggae of “Mindset’s a Threat,” which both should have landed on the debut.

But the real prizes here are the two DVDs, which inject massive doses of past and present Rage Against the Machine, including the band’s first public performance at Cal State Northridge in 1991 (fascinating despite the bootleg quality) and its explosive historic free concert in London’s Finsbury Park in 2010 (dubbed “The Battle of Britain”), plus a collection of music videos and live/rare clips.

In an era when so many elaborate box set reissues—stuffed with filler and useless knick-knacks—seem like cash grabs by the reeling music industry, XX sets a new standard with a package that actually rages against the machine.