11th November 2016 - Earache Records
01. Sober Addiction
02. The Number
03. Generation Fucked
04. Nail in the Snail
05. La Liberté ou la Mort
06. The Thing
08. New Clear
09. Pigs in a Blanket
At this stage, everyone knows Rage Against The Machine. With their atomic truthbomb of a debut album rapidly approaching the 25th anniversary of its release, it is still a go-to soundtrack for raising angry fists and defiant middle fingers. Of Rage’s members, we already know much about Zack de la Rocha’s thinking through his lyrics, and much of guitarist Tom Morello’s through his activism and eloquent interviews. However, comparatively less has been known about bassist Tim Commerford, other than his penchants for mountain biking and tattoo ink – until now.
Wakrat sees Tim stepping up to the mic as well as holding down the bass grooves, and it doesn’t take long to realise he’s every bit as righteously pissed off as his Rage bandmates. Released, with a not insignificant amount of prescience, on US Election day, the self-styled ‘jazz-punk’ trio’s eponymous debut is a short, sharp and venomous blast.
Before we get stuck in to the meat of the album itself, it is worth pausing to note that in an admirable show of humility, the band has taken as it’s name the surname of drummer Mathias Wakrat. It would surely have been a straightforward PR win to name the project something like ‘Timmy C and the ‘, but it does seem like Tim isnt much of a fan of the path of least resistance.
That last point is further rammed home by Tim’s decision to handle bass and lead vocals simultaneously, which – at the best of times – raises ‘rub your stomach and pat your head’ type problems, especially for a musician who has spent so long contributing little more than the occasional backing vocal. Whilst there are a couple of moments that hint at his relative inexperience, he carries this new role with authority and an obvious passion.
Wakrat is comprised of, effectively, nine controlled detonations. With just a 27 minute run time, there’s no space for ballads or interludes. Every track is a spiky, uptempo polemic. Some wear their intent brazenly on their sleeves, like the gloriously sweary “Generation Fucked“, wheras others are slightly more cryptic. “La Liberté ou la Mort” may well have been named as a nod to the French heritage of Mathias and guitarist Laurent Grangeon.
Whilst Wakrat’s sound is built on a series of rock-solid, power driving basslines (not to mention Tim’s carefully constructed bass tone that balances fuzz and punch), it is not a completely straightforward affair. Mathias’s background is in jazz, which manifests itself in off-kilter rhythms and slightly wonky time signatures, without jumping fully into avant-garde territory. Laurent runs his guitars through a complex, multi-channel web of effects to throw out all manner of thoroughly non-guitar sounding tones – albeit those that sound nothing like those wrought from the neck of Tom Morello’s instrument. However, the recording process seems to have somewhat muted the ragged edges of these tones, possibly with an overzealous noise gate. The unfortunate side effect is that the songs feel more subdued, less unhinged than it seems like they were intended to – but this can be countered to some extent by simply turning up the volume.
There are a couple of tracks that don’t quite hit the mark, like the slightly sing-song vocals of “Nail in the Snail“, but these may well just be the growing pains of a relatively new band. What’s more, they are more than compensated for by absolute stompers like “The Thing” and a revamped version of debut single “Knucklehead“.
On the whole, Wakrat is angry, passionate and loads of fun. It may even appeal to those who sympathise with Rage’s politics, but find the white boy rap stylings a bit much to bear. Fans of bands like Refused or KEN Mode may also enjoy the combination of riffs and discordance. We can only hope that with Tim also now involved with the tremendously exciting Prophets Of Rage supergroup, Wakrat is also given the time it deserves to truly flourish in its own right.