I had almost forgotten that Rush still existed. The Canadian hard rock trio was a firm fixture on “progressive” FM radio stations in the late 1970s and early 80s, but had somehow faded from the limelight as the years progressed (well, there was that reference to singer Geddy Lee in one of Pavement’s songs in the 90s). As it turns out Rush is still going strong and their new album, Clockwork Angels, is that most abused of musical artefacts…the concept album.
Fear not! This 66 minute sprawling work of art is actually rather listenable. But first a bit of background for the uninitiated…Rush is comprised of guitarist Alex Lifeson, drummer Neal Peart and the afore-mentioned Geddy Lee on vocals and bass. The threesome have been together since 1974 and quickly gained a reputation as “the thinking man’s hard rock band” thanks mostly to Peart’s somewhat intellectual lyrics. Their 1976 album 2112 is a classic of the era…a futurist concept album with ideas and theories that have been compared to Ayn Rand.
Well, the future is now and Rush hasn’t really changed much. Geddy Lee’s voice is a bit mellower, a bit less shrill, and that is a good thing. With 37 years of history behind them, they are incredibly tight musicians and all three play phenomenally well on Clockwork Angels.
The story deals with a young man yearning to escape the pre-ordained mundane life that seems inevitable. His society is overseen by the Watchmaker, a big-brother-type of authority figure. Our hero goes off on adventures and comes away with some significant life-lessons. It may sound a bit book-ish and pretentious, but the band takes plenty of opportunities to rock out.
The “story” is surprisingly easy to follow (makes much more sense than Quadrophrenia or Tommy) and the finale actually contains some insights that just might be meaningful.
Long-time Rush fans will no-doubt welcome this album as a wonderful return to form…although considering the fact that I probably haven’t heard a new Rush album in 20 years, they may have been making top-notch stuff all along.
Anyway, it’s good to hear that they’re doing well, still rocking and still taking themselves just a bit too seriously. Some things never change.
Click here to listen to Seven Cities Of Gold from Clockwork Angels: