One Day As A Lion presents a self-titled, five-song EP that features the return of Zack de la Rocha back on the mike hurling words from his “tongue dipped in funk arsenic,” as he refers to it in the opening track “Wild International,” with a ferocity his fans come to expect, yet with results that are unfortunately disappointing. Both the lyrics and the music fall short in this venture.
Paired with former Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore, whose stellar playing is the best thing on the album, their rap/rock combo makes it almost impossible not to compare it to Zack’s former outfit Rage Against The Machine. The most noticeable difference is that instead of the fantastic one-two punch of guitarist Tom Morello taking the blistering lead and bassist Tim Commerford keeping a tight rhythm, we get Zack’s uninspiring keyboard loops, which creates a similarity in the tracks as the loops offer little variety. They just drone on throughout each song, limiting what the music can be regardless of what Theodore brings. It might have worked for one of two songs, but for all five it doesn’t hold up, causing the songs to sound like RATM demos waiting to be augmented by the rest of the band.
The songs also sound unfinished because Zack repeats himself. In both “Ocean View” and “If You Fear Dying,” he repeats the line, “you can have the mike or the heater but you can’t hold both.” That’s not to say he doesn’t have good moments with lyrics like “the barbed wire dug in around our minds” from “The Last Letter” and “if you fear dying, then you’re already dead” from “If You Fear Dying.”
However he loses me on the title track, which closes the EP. It opens with a sound running through it that brings to mind RATM’s “Vietnow.” It has great potential as the phrase “One Day As A Lion” is taken from a 1970 photograph by George Rodriguez. The picture shows where someone tagged a wall in Boyle Heights with the line, “It’s better to live one day as a lion, than a thousand years as a lamb.”
It’s a cool idea about fighting for your rights if need be, but the song is about a Mexican or someone from farther south sneaking into the United States, getting thrown in jail when caught, who then wants to wage war when his children grow up. Tibetans should live one day as a lion. Georgians should live one day as a lion. The Sudanese people who are experiencing genocide should live one day as a lion. Why on Earth should people who don’t live one day as a lion in their own country, come break the rules of the United States to live one day as a lion and bring war to our city streets?
There's also the line “After dark my city’s a fuse,” but the only city mentioned is Los Angeles. What part of the city that mayor Antonio Villaraigosa looks over are you going to burn, Zack? Should we just assume it wouldn’t include any part where the 4.7 million Hispanics live? Hispanic and African-American gangs are killing each other on the streets of Los Angeles, but instead of challenging them, Zack puts all the blame on Whitey and suggests people burn down what little they have.
He concludes with a take-off on Edwin Starr’s classic line stating, “we’ll show you what war is good for.” I have long been a fan of Zack’s work, and understood his ideas and positions, but here he has completely lost me because he comes across as very naïve and foolish.
One Day As A Lion has potential but really needs to add other musicians to the line-up and to have better lyrics and stories to tell if they hope to make a memorable, meaningful mark on the musical landscape.