“A Street Sweeper isn’t what you think it is,” relates Street Sweeper Social Club mainstay Tom Morello, shrugging off the image of bristly men polishing city avenues. “It’s a machine gun that shoots shotgun-sized shells; the only firearm that the National Rifle Association is in favour of banning.”
One might not instantly recognize the name Tom Morello but the guitarist/producer’s pedigree is certainly unforgettable. Attaining global recognition with his first bona fide act, hip-hop/hard rock hybrid Rage Against The Machine in the 1990s through to sophomore opus Audioslave that featured members of Rage consorting with former Soundgarden throat Chris Cornell, Morello’s work has burrowed further into our brains than most would expect.
“That sheds a different light on what a Street Sweeper Social Club is,” he says, with a grin. “The idea is that our music is the weapon, which we intend to be powerful enough to sweep the streets with.”
Morello’s latest endeavour, Street Sweeper Social Club is best defined as a return to his amalgam of flowing rhymes laid over aggressive, distortion-heavy music. While not a vast departure from his storied legacy, with the influx of fresh talent, namely former hip-hop outfit The Coup vocalist Boots Riley as emcee, Morello feels he is only starting to truly hit his stride as a musician.
“Since Audioslave broke up, I felt this real freedom,” he sighs. “It was great to reunite with Rage Against The Machine and do those shows and now doing this feels free and exciting. It’s some of the heaviest and hardest music I’ve ever been involved in. I enjoy that freedom.”
Essentially a duo comprised of Morello directing the musical output — he wrote and produced the band’s eponymous debut, which was released last week — while Riley steers esthetics, Street Sweeper Social Club is the direct result of years of sharing stages in various capacities honed down into one definable act, what Morello acutely dubs “revolutionary party jams.”
“There’s a very clear and workable division of labour,” Morello beams. “I write the music, Boots writes the lyrics. I produce the records, Boots designs the stage outfits. He comes up with video ideas, I write the set lists. It’s very cool. I’ve never been in a band like this.”
“Moreover, (Riley’s) a brilliant lyricist in the storytelling and satire. He has a way of blending his personal experience to larger issues in a way that people can really relate to. It’s my job as the music writer to deliver a ferocious musical bed that’s the spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down. I describe this music — and I feel it’s pretty accurate — as revolutionary party jams. You can take those words together or you can put a period between them: Revolutionary. Party. Jams.”