Album review of 'The Fabled City' by Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman released through Epic Records.
Anyone present at either of this year's Leeds and Reading festivals couldn't have failed to have been swept away by the sheer anticipation surrounding Rage Against The Machine's return to a UK stage for the first time in nearly a decade. Although angst-ridden frontman Zack De La Rocha was always the undoubted focal point then and now, RATM wouldn't have been anything other than your average dyed in the wool rap-infused metal band if it weren't for the guitar virtuosity of Tom Morello, and his unique style can be heard in many an outfit since from My Chemical Romance to Muse. Even later on with the less-influential Audioslave, Morello was the only reason many people gave a damn about what on the surface was just a very run-of-the-mill band when all's said and done. Let's face it, he wasn't chosen to endorse 'Guitar Hero 3' for nothing.
Which brings us onto his other, more confusing and ultimately less rewarding guise as The Nightwatchman. Here at Contact we're all for rock stars trying something different, leaving their comfort zone behind and escaping the boundaries through the side door if necessary. However, what that doesn't necessarily mean is trying to re-invent one's self as a modern day Woody Guthrie, particularly when your greatest asset and the reason why you were fortunate to get the backing of a major record corporation such as Sony/BMG to release a solo record under your name is a direct result of said talent, and nothing more (although the timing of this release coinciding with the aforementioned RATM reformation must have been a key factor as well).
What we have here are eleven pieces of folk-tinged country that if it weren't for some of the admittedly terse arrangements, would be nothing more than satirical comedy along the lines of the inimitably unfunny ramblings of Tenacious D thanks to Morello's overtly pronounced and ridiculously serious vocals throughout.
Imagine the worst bits of Bruce Springsteen tied in with a Nick Cave pastiche and you're halfway towards realisation of just how painstakingly cringeworthy the majority of 'The Fabled City' is. 'The devil is not the King Of Hell' drawls Morello like that annoying poodle-haired bloke out of Nickelback on 'The King Of Hell' and he's probably right; the real Satan was the person sat in Sony's empire that gave the green light to release this. 'The Lights Are On In Spidertown' meanwhile isn't much better, its Eastern European vibe encompassing Romany-style fiddles and an irritating jig that sounds as out of place here as anything like this would on a Rage or Audioslave record. Even the guest vocal talents of Serj Tankian on 'Lazarus On Down' fail to enhance the record, his inclusion being the only positive on one of the album's most plodding arrangements, which amidst this sea of guff, is saying something in itself.
The rest of 'The Fabled City' can be described in one unfortunate word - 'dull' - and as an advert for successful band members embarking on solo projects, this record is an absolute no-goer. Don't give up the day job Tom, please.
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