Tom Morello is known as one of the most inventive guitarist of our time. The successes of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave have proven that. Last year, Morello made his solo debut with the album “One Man Revolution,” under the alias The Nightwatchman. Although the album slipped under the noses of most fans of his music, he has released another folk album called “The Fabled City.”
The album, like “Revolution,” is an all-acoustic set with Morello and his baritone voice singing mostly about political issues disguised in analogies. The first track, “The Fabled City,” catches the listener completely off guard. As soon as Morello starts singing you’ll swear its Brad Roberts, lead singer of Crash Test Dummies. The rich, low crooning from Morello is so out of place it’s amazing his producer even let this album get out of the studio. To make things even worse, the writing throughout the whole album is just awful. The lyrics are incredibly sophomoric, and whatever Morello is trying to convey, it is just not happening.
The music itself is about as enjoyable as sitting around a fire listening to a friend struggle through “Santa Monica.” Most of the tracks are just too campy and simple. Trying to keep an open mind about this album was hard enough until the track “The Lights Are on in Spidertown,” which sounds like it was written and produced by Flogging Molly. It has the beat and tune of an Irish punk ballad and even has the “aye-da-da-aye” group singing.
The next track, “Midnight in the City of Destruction,” is probably one of the worst folk-ballads ever recorded. Here you have Morello, singing about who-knows-what, repeating “la-la-la’s” over and over again. It’s far from entertaining.
“Lazarus on Down” is a slow track featuring Serj Tankian from System of a Down. The tune is pretty good, with a sad emotional feel to it, especially with Serj singing some very high parts far off in the background. Not to mention the addition of the cello and a piano part plinking around. But Morello sounds as though he’s sitting next to the fireplace reading “A Christmas Carol.” This song would have been ten times better if Serj had sung all the vocals.
Shooter Jennings is featured on the track “The Iron Wheel.” The song is more upbeat and seems like it’s supposed to be inspirational more than anything, but again, the lyrics are just too chintzy: “Sometimes they’ll tell you to just sit still/ When you know that it’s time to run/ Sometimes they’ll tell you it’s all over/ When you’re sure that it’s just begun.”
“The Fabled City” is definitely not for Rage Against the Machine fans or Audioslave fans or anyone for that matter. Leave this album on the rack. But if you already purchased it, use it as a coaster or give it to somebody you really don’t like for Christmas.