Wednesday, December 5, 2012

All my life, I've been workin' them clockwork angels

at 4:52 PM
Haven't gotten enough time with Zeno Clash for that one, so let's jump off the rails again.

Are Rush Clockwork Angels? Some might say so. Many, in fact. No, all might say so. All have said so. It should come as little surprise, you were one of them. But what did you mean when you said it? Here's what I'm thinking. You were probably trying to articulate that the band has so faultlessly produced such a stellar body of work that they must be some kind of ageless heavenly automatons of unearthly origin.

For the most part you've got a good point, though I have to point out that Presto wasn't particularly great. "Superconductor"? "Anagram for Mongo"? "Presto" itself is probably the worst song they ever recorded (excluding, as I usually do, their initial, pre-Peart, self-titled album (commas)). There's a reason that of all the songs they still play in concert, only "The Pass" ever shows up from Presto.

But woe be to the Clockwork Angels review that spends all of its time discussing Presto. God said that, in the Bible. You can tell because of the word "whoa". God was played by Keanu Reeves in the Bible, don't you remember? Wait... or in The Matrix. One or the other. Sweet, more religious imagery. This is such an @+++ review. Quick, say one thing you've learned about the album so far. Don't blame me, I have no clue how to write a music review. All I ever learned from Mark Prindle is that he had an awful habit of saying "I hate it when reviewers do ____... but I'm lazy so I'm going to do it right now". Definitely it's a bad idea to describe individual songs though. So let's try giving some words of wisdom.
Crockwork Anjers is probably the best thing the band has done since 1997's Test for Echo. It's a culmination of the moody, bitter atmosphere that wove in and out of the past two albums in tracks like "Armor and Sword" and "Vapor Trails", again coupled with a sharp, accusatory tone and overall autobiographical feel (the album actually does have a unifying narrative, though it's more Pilgrim's Progress allegory than Hemispheres epic). If Snakes & Arrows had an undercurrent of pissed-off-at-religion-ness, CA borders on diatribe. It may be over a decade since Peart's family tragedies that nearly broke up the band, but his turmoil still seems at the forefront. To put it simply, Clockwork Angels kinda feels like a big "LIFE SUCKS" that lurks somewhere between DRI/Agent Orange me-against-everyone and Blood on the Tracks confessional.

Still, a kind of wistful sadness emerges here and there, particularly toward the ends in "BU2B2" and the closing "The Garden". It's certainly an album by old men about young men, bringing perspective to the revolutionary declarations ("Going where I want / instead of where I should") and framing them as part of the narrative.

While this is no Signals, Geddy Lee is on form playing bass in a way that's been missed for years. There are times when the bass lines simply echo the guitar, which actually works great for songs like "BU2B" (Bring Ur [own] 2 Beverages?) where a powerful opening guitar/bass double riff gives way to a speedy divergent chorus segment. The songs are on the lengthy side (the 12 tracks run about 65 minutes), though this is well enough justified by multiple parts showcasing instrumental prowess. The title-track is a nigh-epic spanning twangy acoustic country to metal guitar and bass solos. The segmented songs also contribute to the uniformity and tangling that give the concept album its epic appeal.

I went into Clockwork Angels expecting another middling effort with a handful of standout tracks, but Rush has proven that they can still break the formula. For those fans that haven't loved the band since the '80s, this is definitely the time to give them another chance. This is a standout album that shines as both stellar rock AND stellar Rush.


  1. if i had known album reviews were kosher id have been postin' up a storm

    1. Pretty sure I said anyone could post about anything. So yeah please do. Make a column of it if you want.