Rush – [Album]

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Is there any band with as distinctive a sound as Rush? They are instantly recognizable. And it's not just Geddy Lee's vocals, unique as they are. Every member contributes, often at the same time, because the identifying characteristic of Rush is how they fill every available bit of space with sound. It is amazing how much noise they produce for just a trio, and those of us who have seen the band live that the music they make doesn't sound the way it does courtesy of studio trickery; what listeners hear both on stage and on records is all Rush.

The problem is, that means most people have already made up their minds about Rush. They know what they sound like, and they either like it or they don't. The sonic overload that the band is capable of producing (and almost always does produce) turns many people off, and Clockwork Angels is probably not going to change that; but maybe it should. It changed my mind, at least a little bit.

I have always been a "Rush in small doses" guy. A song or two is fine, but don't ask me to listen to a whole album. Clockwork Angels is different though. Maybe it was because I had to listen to the whole thing for this review, but the deeper I got in, the more interesting it became, the more I got caught up in it.

They may be doing the same old thing here, but on Clockwork Angels they do it really well. They are incredibly fierce and tight here, driving the music forward with amazing power. This music is the epitome of the phrase "power trio,” but it's not just power, it's technical expertise. These are definitely three talented fellows. There is superb musicianship throughout. There are some standard solos, especially from Alex Lifeson on guitar, but more impressive are the jams; when all three lock in together for what are, effectively, group solos (yeah, I know that's an oxymoron, but it's still the best description of what's going on here).

In spite what I said before, there are quiet interludes to be found in this run-time too, and they prove to be exhilarating – but they are only quiet by Rush standards; there's still a lot going on. They may take it down to the drums, for example, but Neil Peart still insists on throwing in a bunch of fills. And Lifeson can't just strum an acoustic guitar for an introduction, he strums with flourishes.

But the key to Rush is the overload; how they can produce a solid wall of sound, and yet keep it interesting, keep it moving. All those fills and flourishes really pay off here, there's always something to pick out, to follow, and to discover the next time around. Sure, it all gets overwhelming at times, but then there will be a guitar run, or some bass/drums interaction, to grab your attention again.

Another aspect of Rush's music which is well known is their propensity for a certain spaced-out pseudo-philosophy in their lyrics, and Clockwork Angels fits right in to this tradition. It is being promoted as a concept album, with a lead character and a story to follow, and there is even supposed to be a novel based on the album coming out soon, but what one hears (or at least catches) in the lyrics are more philosophical catch-phrases. The album kicks off with "I can't stop thinking big" (in "Caravan") and we get "sometimes the angels punish us/ by answering our prayers" ("Carnies"), "I was brought up to believe/ the universe has a plan" ("BU28"), and "All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary/ of a miracle too good to be true" (The Wreckers") further along the way. Now maybe there is a progression to these ideas, but I didn't catch it. I guess I'll have to wait for the book to find out for sure, but it doesn't really matter – even without the story, this is a strong, powerful album. Rush fans should love it and I would recommend that Rush non-fans at least give it a good listen – you might just be surprised to discover that you'll be hooked too.



Clockwork Angels is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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