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Coachella 2010: Street Sweeper Social Club covers M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" in the late afternoon

April 16, 2010 |  7:23 pm


The Street Sweeper Social Club's cover of M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" contains multitudes. When guitarist Tom Morello tossed off the opening riff of the song, a sample of the Clash's "Straight to Hell," it was unclear where the song was headed. Would it go to Joe Strummer's "If you can play on the fiddle" line? Or would it land on MIA's "I fly like paper get high like planes"? It was the latter, and SSSC, the rap rock super group featuring Morello, of Rage Against the Machine, and the Coup's incendiary lead singer, Boots Riley, tore into the song. Morello rode that menacing Clash riff while Riley rapped Maya Arulpragasam's words. As the song moved to the expert shotgun-cracks in the chorus, the guitarist moved his instrument like a weapon, blowing out into the audience.

The Social Club proved something important: that rap and rock, such a treacherous pairing given its history of appealing to the testosterone-heavy, shirtless frat-dudes, can be strong and beautiful, smart and angry. The band drew from the hard funk of Living Color, the rolling funk of Funkadelic, the rhythmic funk of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the angular riffage of the Minutemen, the global fury of M.I.A. and, well, Tom Morello. It was potent, vital, and incredibly powerful.

- Randall Roberts

Photo: Boots Riley, left, and Tom Morello of Street Sweeper Social Club performed on the main stage on Friday, the opening day of the three-day Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival on the Empire Polo Club grounds in Indio, Calif. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times