His lengthy career has seen him wander down many strange avenues but on 'The Atlas Underground', alt-rock guitar icon Tom Morello goes down his most varied yet. It’s safe to say that never before have Marcus Mumford and GZA had to vie for space with massive EDM beats, but this album brings them all together. An impressive roll call of guests (also including Portugal. The Man, Killer Mike, Big Boi, K. Flay and Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath amongst many, many others) have joined Morello for this bold, but ultimately disjointed, record.
Mixing the familiar Prophets-style hip-hop fury of ‘Rabbit’s Revenge’, with name-checks for Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin (both victims of white-on-black gun attacks), with a less recognisable Morello style on the likes of the Mumford-featuring ‘Find Another Way’ (which gels surprisingly well) or the heavy club beats of ‘Where It’s At Ain’t What It Is’ (which doesn’t), it feels like there is an attempt to make an eclectic album in the same way that Damon Albarn has perfected with Gorillaz. Unfortunately, the end result feels instead more like late-period Chemical Brothers, where the guest stars take away more from the host than they add.
There is a fairly even split between tracks that work and those that don’t, though the scales ultimately come down (just) on the positive side. McIlrath’s recognisable vocals add a satisfyingly rough edge to ‘How Long’, while 'Leikeli47' swaggers all over ‘Roadrunner’ to great effect. Moments like these are just enough to make 'The Atlas Underground' a worthy addition to Morello’s increasingly stretched canon.