Hot off the release of his last EP Union Town, Tom Morello has now given us World Wide Rebel Songs, the third LP as his political-folk alter ego, the Nightwatchman. Although the folk aspect is still dominant, Morello fuses it with his frequency-shifting electric guitar style. Backed by his Freedom Fighter Orchestra, the Nightwatchman’s latest effort blends acoustic strums with intense electric riffs, creating a potent Molotov cocktail of protest songs.
The unity of Morello’s guitar genres come together in a perfect proportion. Although he is more well known for the warped solos and heavy grooves from his Rage Against the Machine days, Morello still stays true to his acoustic melodies. “Speak and Make Lightning” switches from octave-jumping solos to soulful acoustic lines with ease and finesse. The massive riffs of “It Begins Tonight” contrast with the rich chords of “Dogs of Tijuana,” creating a balance of each style that keeps Morello within his Nightwatchman persona.
Besides the addition of a more amplified, effect-driven guitar, the album has typical characteristics of a Nightwatchman record. Morello’s smooth yet gruff voice flows over the tracks similar to the soothing roughness of Johnny Cash, as he sings of left-wing, pro-union politics complete with catchy, protest-chanting choruses. While the Freedom Fighter Orchestra effectively back Morello, they don’t provide any noteworthy rhythms. They merely highlight Morello, allowing him to focus on his own instruments.
Those hoping that the addition of an electric guitar means World Wide Rebel Songs will sound like a new Rage album should look elsewhere. Instead, Morello has created an album that allows him to incorporate both sides of his musical personalities: fiery political activist and revered guitar virtuoso.