Saturday, 13 April 2013

Rush "Clockwork Angels"

It has been well documented lately how Canadian progressive power house Rush have made it from being the world’s “Least-Hip Rock & Roll band” to being one of the biggest names in rock history. And this is true. There was a time when Rush fans may have stayed in the closet of their love for the band, didn’t really go out and admit they were fans because they weren’t the coolest band around. In the past ten or so years this has changed drastically; so much so that the band is about to be inducted in a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Through the 40 years that Rush has been a recording band, they’ve released some memorable albums, and have made names for themselves as individual musicians with their undeniable talent, but have also released some questionable albums as well (but when a band releases nineteen albums, that tends to happen). Last June, Rush released their latest (concept) studio album, Clockwork Angels. After going on a slight downward slope with their two previous albums, 2007’s Snakes & Arrows and 2002’s Vapor Trails, one may have worried that Clockwork Angels would follow the suit, but rest assured this was most certainly not the case. In fact, it may even be the best album the band has released since 1991’s Roll The Bones.

Clockwork Angels starts off with a song released almost exactly two calendar years before the album was finally released, Caravan. Though there is some extraordinary talent behind the writing of this song, it is most definitely not the best song off of the album and won’t give its listener a good idea of what they are in for. Being a concept album, it does start off the story of the album, which is of a boy wanting to, and eventually leaving home to discover the either desert world, or “Steampunk” world around him (it is not quite clear). This song does grow on its listener the more they may listen to it. I personally know of one individual whom did NOT like the song at first, but now regards it as their favourite on the album.

Released with Caravan was its b-side, and second track off of Clockwork Angels, is BU2B (Brought Up to Believe). This track starts off on a dark acoustic note, but eventually leads in to the albums signature heavy sound. This track has a much better groove to it, and may be more accessible for a listener to immediately like rather than Caravan.

The title track of the album is your typical long Rush epic, something that is found a lot on the album. The song starts off sounding like its listener is walking through an Egyptian desert, but that only lasts a matter of seconds before it leads in to the patented progressive sound that is a Rush song. Just like any good long song (this one clocking in at 7:31) it doesn’t take long to capture the listener’s attention. It has many pace changes throughout, keeping its listener on their feet. Not to mention the chorus of this song is terrific. The song maintains an Egyptian sound throughout, though it may not be very apparent at parts, the genius Alex Lifeson guitar solo shows some very unique influence from the genre. The Anarchist is another long track, just under 7 minutes. This one maintains a faster pace to it, and starts off with one of those minute-and-a-half long instrumental intros that only Rush can play without losing listener interest. The chorus of the song continues the neo-Egyptian sound that has become apparent to be the trend of the album, this time with the addition of a string section to accommodate the sound. The last two of the long progressive epics is Seven Cities of Gold. This carries aspects of the previous two long epics; it starts off with an incredible instrumental, the pace slightly changes throughout the song, and Headlong Flight (discussed later).

And hard rock lover will love the riff that introduces Carnies. Don’t get me wrong, the entire album up to this point, save for a few parts, have been true hard rock at its best, but the guitar for Carnies just sounds like the band decided to turn up the heat a bit. The chorus of this song is perhaps the best chorus heard on the entire album. The pace of the song generally stays the same as The Anarchist (which is the track that comes before it on the album), but Rush are anything but boring. Whenever Rush play their instruments, magic is always the result, no matter the pace of the song, the music always speaks for itself,  unlike most albums that require a variety of different paces to their songs to make them sound different.

One unique factor of this album is the song The Halo Effect. Rarely in all of the nineteen albums the bands have released has there been a Rush “love” song. Off the top of my head I can only think of Tears from their 1976 epic 2112 album. Well, The Halo Effect comes the closest the band has ever come to a “love” song. The reason I put “love” in quotes is because the song actually speaks of being a “fool” for falling in love, but the heartfelt nature of the music behind the song is something practically unheard of, proving the theory that there is nothing Rush cannot do. Yes, this isn’t the hard rock song that some fans may want to hear, it features mostly acoustic guitar and string section in the background, but for those who like the softer side of bands, you will not be disappointed.

The Wreckers is a track that stands out completely from the other songs on the album. It is not a hard rock song, which should be said right away. It carries alternative influence to it, but maintains a progressive heart to it. The song has a bit of an epic sound to it at points, filled with clean sounding guitars and string sections and a chorus that can get a whole arena to sing along with. This is definitely a landmark of Rush’s entire 40 music-making years.

BU2B2 is in fact a sequel to BU2B. It is essentially the intro of BU2B, just more clear (if you were to hear the intro to BU2B, it is kind of distorted an difficult to make out). BU2B2 serves simply as an intro to Wish Them Well, which is the anthem of the album. It is also not a heavy song, again sounding more like an alternative-influenced song from a music perspective, but Geddy Lee performs his best vocal performance on the album and it’s almost impossible not to notice so.

The last track on the album, The Garden, unfortunately doesn’t end the album off on a heavy note (If there is one complaint about the album, that is it). Rush decided to conclude the story of the album on an acoustic note. Neil Peart’s drums subjected to being just barely heard in the background after about two minutes of acoustic/string music, rather than the Neil Peart we’re familiar with and his dynamic drum licks that carry so many of Rush’s back beats to an incomparable extent. The song slightly picks up after the piano bridge, when we hear one final guitar solo by the great Alex Lifeson. All in all the song is absolutely positively fantastic, definitely a highlight from the album, it’s just unfortunate that the album had to end on such a light note.

One thing about Rush compared to their progressive counterparts that came both before and after them; Rush just makes music that they feel they want to make. Unlike bands such as Dream Theater whom purposely challenge themselves to make the most complex music possible, Rush effortlessly and almost accidentally has made a career of progressive masterpieces that even some of the most talented of musicians can’t duplicate. Clockwork Angels is no exception. Though the band has been hinting that their careers may be coming to an end, they are still just as capable of making another 2112 or another Permanent Waves (taking in to consideration that Geddy Lee doesn’t nearly have the singing voice that he used to), which they pretty much have done with Clockwork Angels.


Headlong Flight – I did say that The Wreckers is a landmark in Rush’s entire career, but one unique thing about this album is that it has two landmarks, the other being Headlong Flight. After their 1978 album Hemispheres, Rush changed their sound, losing much of their classic hard rock sound that initially made them popular. That sound seemed to have been lost, even when they returned to being a hard rock band in the 90’s they just seemed to be missing something and it looked like it would never return. Well the wait has finally ended because this track (with the exception of Geddy’s voice) sounds like it could have been recorded in the 70’s, even at points sounding like their 1975 track Bastille Day at certain points. This is a track for classic Rush fans cause they are certain to hear old Rush, but it also has the inevitable new Rush sound that the album has carried throughout that makes the album so good. But the best part of the song, for any Rush fan, old or new, is the Neil Peart drum solo found in the middle, and the Spirit of the Radio-esque guitar solo that follows.



8.5 (Out of 10)


Track List:

"Clockwork Angels"  
"The Anarchist"  
"Halo Effect"  
"Seven Cities of Gold"  
"The Wreckers"  
"Headlong Flight”  
"Wish Them Well"  
"The Garden"  

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