Traveling on the wandering seas of time with Rush!Jun 12, 2012
By John J. Martinez I like to review albums from bands who "the mainstream" radio stations dismiss after their "glory years" have faded - which in real people speak means they just don't make them the kind of money these very radio stations and corporations demand anymore. My local rock radio station plays Rush at least once a day when I'm out doing errands in the car, but it's always the same songs, as a reminder they existed once, but time has whisked them away, favoring the newer garbage that is mostly unlistenable.
Well, here it is, album number 20 for the trio from Canada, and this album sounds just as fresh as anything out there. The album explodes out of the speakers with a rapid crystal-clear urgency and tells a wonderful story about a traveler's magical journey, and this time, it's time that is the enemy. Who isn't madly mindful of it when we're out doing what we have to do to survive?
(This isn't your everyday Rush album, as a novelization of the album is coming out soon.)
12 songs adding up to just over an hour:
01. Caravan - this song is about travel, and movement, and the journey begins, steampunk style. Steam engines take our traveler as he thinks about what he setting out to do - find out more truth, find out the meaning of life,and everything in between. The pumping base and vocals of Geddy Lee, the master drumwork of Neal Peart, and the pounding urgent finger work of guitarist Alex Lifeson (along with the unofficial fourth member, producer Nick "Booujzhe" Raskulinecz), have never - and I really mean this - have never sounded fresher and more dedicated to opening an album filled with endless drums, guitar and bass, to make it sound as if ten times the music is there. This is one of the finest and more majestical openings to a Rush album since "Overture" on the album "2112."
02. BU2B - "Brought Up To Believe" gives you the real groundwork and story of the album, even though Rush themselves have said that they weren't going to make another "concept album." The vocals are almost swallowed up by the wonderful machine-gun beats and micro-solos, and Geddy tells us the Watchmaker is there watching us all, as he "loves us all to death."
03. Clockwork Angels - Flying through time, through life, over cities and people and the freedom to simply go and soar higher and higher. This song is the meat of the album, and takes me to a dizzying height, with time itself becoming the demons the angels fight without weapons, the very hands of the clock become swords to battle and fight the marching soldiers of time away - but we all know that game is lost, and the band has simply dazzled me with this over seven minute monster of a song. It's a masterful production.
04. The Anarchist - this is one of the more straightforward songs off the album so far, but it also really isn't. The beat and the drumming and the vocals are there so tightly intertwined, and yet there is so much chaos in the lyrics itself - this is one angry man, so angry about his lost opportunities not to enjoy his life or to simply sing: "A missing part of me that grows around me like a cage..."
05. Carnies - We immediately fall into the magical secretive world of the carnival, with it's deceptive lights and "demon music and gypsy queens." To a young boy, the freedom and swirling spirits floating around him could be intoxicating, but it could also be a beautiful trap, too! Once again, the guitarwork of Lifeson lays the song on it's ear and spins the listener around and around and around with it's old-timey retro but still fresh as hell tricks. A great song.
06. Halo Effect - this is almost a love song, and this will be the song of the album to sing along to when they play it in concert, guaranteed. Deceiving angels, illusions, and what we see may not be what we think it may really be...
07. Seven Cities Of Gold - A fool's paradise, and a fool thinking about the past, and it's our paradise lost, too. They've got it right, "a man can lose himself in a country like this..." This is an over seven-minute song dedicated to the folly of a lost man's failures, and the dreams he might have had once as a young man, and Geddy nails it when he says "that gleam in the distance could be heaven's gate, a long-awaited treasure at the end of my cruel fate." Another wonderful song with a solo will destroy anyone's notions that Rush are just laying down over 35 years later. They never have, and I expect with songs like this, they never will.
08. The Wreckers - this song almost went towards U2 territory with it's extended opening, but the story is anything but that middle-of-the-road garbage Bono spews. Lee and company explain very carefully that like the breakers at the ocean's shore, everything is deceiving, and just when you think you're at your safest, that's when you run aground and it gets really ugly really fast. The truth, brutal as it can be, can kill with just slightest flick of it's wrist. This song nails the painfulness of what happens when you weren't expecting it and it broadsides you so hard, it kinda sucks.
09. Headlong Flight - another over seven-minute monster, and I can only equate it's importance to Rush fans as Pink Floyd fans cherish "Learning To Fly." This song is about flight, and wonderful youthful memories, and massive regret, and the sad rigid responsibilites you MUST have now, so forget what you thought when you were a kid! You steer the ship, you punch the timeclock, and someone behind you does the same exact thing. This song reminds you that back there, somewhere in your memory, you were the king (or queen) of your whole universe, but now you just have what it is now. Neal Peart's drums dominate this song, and the bass beat and the guitar try but just barely keep up with your memories! This song is an opus, and a fantastic work.
10. BU2B2 - "Brought Up To Believe Too" is a reprise of sorts of it's older brother, but boy oh boy this is more like a final determination by your job's management before they fire you. The carpet gets pulled out from under you, and you've just given up. This song segues right into...
11. Wish Them Well - sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture and let it go. The band's advice? Just wish them well and walk away. there are better places to be, better people to know, better jobs to take, better places to simply live in. This song, after the last four or five that have had such a hard edge, now comes off as positive, almost like a pat on the shoulder, as if they're trying to tell you that it's okay to lose sometimes and sometimes you just gotta move on. The sound is positive, and uplifting, and almost reassuring in it's tone.
12. The Garden - Sometimes you've got to step back, and understand that time is our friend, even though it's only purpose is to jeep going once we've been laid in the dirt. And what is our garden? It's our safe place, our slowly moving sun and cool starry nights, and not even time Itself can take those things away from our minds, and our hearts. This song is a mellow reflection and almost seven minute calm down, and it's Rush's way of saying hey! it's okay to dream, and sometimes it's okay to forget, too. Hope is there, and forever waits for the right person to take flight again. Personally, I've never encountered such an unusual ending from any of Rush's albums, but they've got it 100 percent right, time is just a measure of our lives, and what we do with it is the most important thing.
So what can I say except that I give this new album 5 wonderful and healthy stars.
Rush has always been one of those bands who can make you scream and shout and rock one moment, and then the next really contemplate the meaning behind the rock. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, and very proudly, too - Rush can play, and they can create, and they can make you step into other far-off worlds you never dreamed existed, even though you don't even have to leave your room.
I really really want you to check out this album and enjoy their story, and enjoy their fantasy, and understand that the album is only and hour of your life, but boy is it worth it - you'll be glad you did!
p.s. - the album cover? look at the time on the clock, and look at it from a military point of view... it's 21:12, people...
(thanks for reading and check out my other reviews here on Amazon!)
121 of 133 found the following review helpful:
Rush reach back and also move forwardJun 12, 2012
By Todem A new Rush release. It's like christmas morning. It has been 5 years since we have been able to sink our teeth into some new material. The band basically teased us two years ago in releasing Caravan and BU2B in time for their epic Time Machine tour. Those two songs were immediate rockers, filled with great riffs, cool lyrics and a taste of what was to come in Rush's first "true" start to finish concept record.
I had no idea what to expect to be honest. What was this story of steam punk and alchemy going to be about?
Headlong Flight is then released and things start to come into focus. A daring journey, piracy, adventures in the air and on the high seas. A life filled with adventure, peril and as we find out with the rest of the album romance and reflection.
Opening my fan pack last week was truly special. A great package that included a fact filled magazine dedicated to the new release, back stories on the making of the record, and a neat look back at every Rush album with commentary from current musicians (like Steve Wilson and Taylor Hawkins), friends, authors and former producers. The introduction in the magazine (or shall I say fanzine) was penned by Taylor Hawkins and it is a very heartwarming way to start it all off.
Then of course the CD itself is packaged in a wonderful, classy album like jacket complete with visual treats (lot's of great pictures) and the narration of this journey of a boy turning into adventurer, into a wise old man.
Sitting and reading the narration before each song took me back to age 14 when I first experienced 2112. Opening that gatefold jacket and reading the story of the priests etc. I had a huge smile on my face as I read through Clockwork Angels before each song.
Neil is letting his imagination run wild again. After going through the tragedy he went through (which you never truly get over) it is so wonderful and refreshing seeing an artist at work again, writing about living, and having grand adventures. I have missed this so much in Rush's music for a long time.
So on to the album.
Caravan - "I can't stop thinking big" - The newly mixed version has some surprises. A more up front keyboard flourish, some phased guitars and bass. I like it. I prefer Neil's drums in the "single mix" however. But again a great Rush song to kick off this journey to Crown City.
BU2B - " The Price of what we're wining is the same as what we've lost" - I love the new intro. It totally changes up the feel of how the song kicks in and gives it some drama. We find out all about the Watchmaker, and how people in this futuristic world of streamliners, flint and steel are programed what to believe and how to live. I love this song, always have since it was released. A straight ahead rocker with a great turn at the bridge.
Clockwork Angels - "Goddesses of Light, of sea and sky and land" - I was blown away on the first listen and it has only become better and better with each listen. Rush has written an epic song again. The song has a beautiful intro of grandiose quality. A wall of Alex with Geddy holding down the bottom end and then....glass hitting water for the verse. Gorgeous. Lot's of changes, twists and turns that all come together after repeated listens. The song is daring. The bridge after the fantastic Alex solo is really something. I visualize walking through Chronos Square hearing loudspeakers blaring propaganda "Everything will turn out for the best" A brilliant passage in the song that give the sense of living in a controlled world. A Blade Runner moment if you will.
The Anarchist - "A missing part of me that grows around me like a cage" - Here we go....another Rush rocker and our introduction to the boy becoming a man and going off on his adventures in this twisted world Neil has written for us to explore. The chorus of this song is fantastic. Alex growls everywhere on this song. We find the protagonist wandering the streets of Chronos Square observing the masses conforming and he refusing to believe that this is the way to live. I love the 80's Grace Under pressure like feel of this song. Alex's solo is straight out of 1984! Also their is a middle eastern flavor on one section of this tune that is undeniable and really dramatic.
Carnies - "The Glint of Iron Wheels" "The Smell of flint and steel" - Our hero joins the circus, falls in love, and is called out as a outsider not conforming to this order. The song is a full on rocker with again Rush taking us in a totally different direction after the first verse. He latches on to this group of carnies to get away and begin his journey but is driven out. I love this song. Lot's of Vaportrail like musings in the verses, but sonically much better.
Halo Effect - "A Goddess with wings on her heals" - Crushed, his heart stomped on by what he tries to envision as his soul mate. A nice breather from the onslaught we have heard up to this point. Halo effect is placed perfectly in the flow of this album. I like it. A very easy song to get into. Accessible and clean. Short and to the point. Wonderful guitar work and a great vocal performance from Geddy.
Seven Cities of Gold - " A Man can lose his past in a country like this" - This is another bombastic riff driven Rush epic. I feel this is one of the highlights of the album. A visual feast of our hero's journey into a snow filled desert. The jamming in this song harkens back to the 70's style of Rush big time. One of the albums most organic songs. A true power trio rocker and Alex again shines on his solo section, half stepping into space as well. The main riff here is destined to become a classic Rush jam.
The Wreckers - All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary" - The Wreckers brings us what may be one of Rush's finest songs ever. That's right. I can't tell you how much I love this song. Not only is the chorus one of the most melodic ones the band has ever written, the verse music is just delicious! Tell me you can't smell the salty air and feel the wind blowing through the sails as this ship our hero boarded at the port of Poseidon plunges into certain death. A unique gem among many diamonds. This is a song for the ages.
Headlong Flight - "Oh I wish I can live it all again!" - I already really liked this tune, but as I expected once I heard it in the context of the complete concept.....I now love this song. A Rush tour de force in every way. Riffage everywhere, a rousing chorus, a amazing bridge and solo section takes the song into the stratosphere! The entire journey we have been through all comes to a head sort of speak. It feels the like a finale but only for the adventure....the growth and wisdom of our hero will be later reveled.
BU2B2 - A little passage, connecting us to the last part of the album. His optimism fading, he keeps moving forward, living and learning to.......
Wish Them Well - "Just keep on going let the demons dwell" - This was a song that took me 4 listens to really get into....but now I appreciate it for the rocker it is. It reminds me of Carve Way The Stone a lot. I love it's premise and that is what got me to "get it" over repeated listens. It is a lesson I also apply to my own life. Any relationship that becomes toxic...I just wish them well and walk away.
The Garden - "The Measure of a life is a measure of love and respect" - The Garden is such a wonderful piece. Rush always manages to put a tune on every album that just shocks you. A song that you would never expect from them. The Garden is that song. Just brilliant, heartfelt, and real. This may be one of Neil's finest compositions. It is a song of hope, love and understanding of what life really is about. Tend to your garden.
I am floored by Clockwork Angels. Really. Much more profound than Snakes and Arrows which IMO is a strong album as well. But this new record we see Rush taking chances again. Throwing out the standard song writing structure and going for it again. Jams are all over this album, visual beauty, thought provoking fantasy.
Rush has me geeked up all over again. Something that has not happened since Grace Under Pressure. Power Windows and Hold Your Fire were amazing albums but dealt with real world issues, and adult topics and so it would stay that course for the next decade or so. Gone were songs about androids and fear. Gone were tunes about racing a car on the weekend, or marching with the mob to hang witches, or seeing the sun rays break through the clouds as the thunder head roared in the distance.
Rush had moved forward. And I moved with them as well. I have enjoyed that ride oh so much the past 25 plus years.
But here we find the band reaching back. Finding that reckless abandon in the song writing, the lyrics, the playing and letting your imagination run wild with them as they take you on a true journey through a world of mystery, piracy, and adventure.
Thank you again for making me feel 14 years old again if only for a fleeting moment in time.
142 of 158 found the following review helpful:
It's just not fair.........Jun 12, 2012
By Toscano Barga .......that a band can stay together for 37 years (Starting from Fly By Night, their first with this line up) is amazing.
The fact that they can still put out a decent album of new material is astounding.
The fact that their following wants to hear NEW material rather than a greatest-hits set is beyond astounding.
The fact that they can put out an album THIS good so late on in their careers, well that's just not fair.
While tired old greatest-hits bands like Def Leppard, ZZ Top go top up their bank accounts with jukebox like short sets every summer, these guys are still playing vital new material in 3 hour shows.
This is a prime example of why the ALBUM is still the best format for music listening.
Put away your ipads, ipods and laptops. Stop texting for a few minutes, guaranteed there will be nothing urgent to respond to.
Get the lyric sheet out. Put the CD into your music system or, preferably, put the record on your turntable and crank it.
Read the lyrics, don't multi-task, and re-discover (or for the younger crowd, discover for the first time) what it's like to listen to an ALBUM, old-school style.
33 of 36 found the following review helpful:
I ALMOST missed out......Jun 15, 2012
By Sean Moloney PREFACE: Lifelong Rush fan. Canadian. Have all their albums. Last one I truly LOVED was Presto. Since then some OK songs, some not so much. Vapor Trails: don't know because I can't hear the songs through the awful mix. S&A: Some highlights, some lowlights. Ok, all caught up. I'll proceed with my review of Clockwork Angels which I will attempt to get through without referencing any other Rush albums because they all stand on their own merit.
As the title suggests, I almost missed out. 'Caravan' didn't do anything for me when I heard it 2 years ago. 'BU2B' was good. Saw them on the Time Machine tour and as usual they sounded great, then heard 'Headlong flight' and wasn't impressed. Because of these factors I approached the release of Clockwork Angels very cautiously. I apologetically admit the fascinating name of the album and the artwork (21:12! GENIUS!) really drew me in even though the initial 3 songs didn't. Even more apologetically I admit after first listen I was disappointed, as I sadly somewhat expected to be. (Except for 'The Garden'. More on that later.) The hooks weren't there. The melodies weren't there. The musicianship as always was brilliant, but each member seemed to be disjointed from the other 2. I heard no great Alex Lifeson Guitar riffs, no soaring melody in Geddy Lee's voice. OK, Neil Peart is always Neil Peart, but even he seemed reserved. After a second listen I was prepared to write the album off, put it on the shelf with all the other Rush albums and only listen to 'The Garden'. Then a funny thing happened, I woke up one morning with the riff from 'The Anarchist' stuck in my head. I even identified what song it was. I listened to it again on the way to the rink (I'm a College Hockey Coach. Canadian remember?) and to my own surprise, melodies and memorable riffs were everywhere! I listened to it all day on repeat in my office and it got better and better each time. That's when it hit me. There's so much going on musically on this album it just takes a few listens for everything to be fully absorbed. Clockwork Angels is truly, truly brilliant. This is a work of musical art on so many different levels. As unimpressed as I was by the 3 initial singles, they seemed energized by being part of the story. (I'm gonna assume you all know the concept/story the album tells by now from all the other reviews. Cliffnotes version: Steampunk kid travels the world, experiences life love and loss, lives and learns. Can't wait for the book!) That may be the most impressive thing about this masterpiece, in today's single-driven music scene, Rush have revived the ALBUM. 12 songs that work so well together it makes the whole greater than it's parts, yet each song is so different you can't believe how well they all fit together. This is also an argument for physical CD's. I cannot imagine not having the elegiac, sweeping cover art and the lyric booklet to look at while I listen to the music. While 'Caravan' will never be one of my favourite Rush songs it still has layers I didn't hear 2 years ago. 'BU2B' is far better than I initially thought, and it provides the perfect launch point for the title track, an epic in itself. 'The Anarchist' features some of Alex Lifeson's best work in years, although for me, he is the star of this album. He provides whatever each song needs, sometimes understated simple riffs, sometimes aggressive, blistering, crushing licks. But each time it's EXACTLY what the song needs. While I initially thought Peart's drumming was reserved, I realized that he as well was playing what was best for the song. There are a ton of great "ONLY NEIL PEART" fills that become more evident with every listen. He's still the greatest drummer on Earth. 'Carnies' is a tremendous song very unlike whatever notion it's title may evoke, and 'Halo Effect' is one of the better simple, accoustic slower songs the band has ever done. It's touching, and it conveys that point of the story very effectively. 'Seven Cities of Gold' is HEAVY! Lifeson rips this song up from start to finish, yet Lee's bass gets a chance to really groove during the bridge. Again, Lee is forever the most underrated bassist alive. 'The Wreckers' is one of my favourite Rush songs ever. It's a great listen, very accessible, and it's got more melody in it's 5 minutes than an entire day of top 40 radio these days. Lee turns in that vocal performance that I missed initially. In a perfect world, 'The Wreckers' is a hit song. We all know this world isn't perfect, so I'll just settle for it being a close to perfect rock song. 'Headlong Flight' is propelled by a great Lee bassline and great, powerful drumming by Peart. 'Wish them well' is a great song lyrically, but along with 'Caravan' it musically is a bit below the rest of the album. I really don't know what I can say about 'The Garden'. It immediately moved me upon first listen, and has only gotten stronger since. I know it says a lot, but 'The Garden' is possibly the best song Rush has ever done. Musically beautiful, with perfect orchestration, and an emotional, powerful solo by Lifeson, one of his best ever. Lyrically, if this song doesn't stir you emotionally, you don't have a soul. I tear up everytime I hear it. It's a perfect example of what music can do for us as an artform. The notes by Peart about the song in the booklet are stirring, even moreso when you consider what he went through. I myself am battling a life-threatening illness, and the lyrics of this song resonate so strongly for me, it makes an already timeless song even more powerful. Rush fan or not, nobody should miss 'The Garden'. It is the best song this band has ever done and should quiet anyone who suggested Rush wasn't the band they once were. I'm listening to this album as I write this and I'm still hearing some small flourishes within songs that I hadn't heard yet. Clockwork Angels is a masterpiece. It's an album that many Rush fans knew the band still had in them. Yes, I didn't get it at first, and I almost missed out on it's brilliance. I read all the negative reviews, and most are opinions I shared after my initial listens. It's been said this could be their last studio album, if so, they end on a higher note than most bands could EVER aspire to, (Let alone a band in its FIFTH decade, with members in their 60's!) and no other band could ever end a career with a more powerful song than 'The Garden'. Everything about this album is amazing, the songwriting, the lyrics (Peart's best ever IMO.), the musicianship, the artwork. Clockwork Angels is a masterpiece, period. Please, don't make the mistake I almost did. Get this, let it reveal itself over time, and you will in no way be disappointed.
90 of 106 found the following review helpful:
Put `Em In The Hall Of Fame Already!Jun 12, 2012
By J. Hill What more do they have to do? As if all of the hits and albums aren't enough, now they add to that yet another strong release that projects the energy and creativity of a much younger band. To say they've been overlooked is a gross understatement.
Rush finds the zone on Clockwork Angels, concentrating most on heavy, groove-laden hard rock riffs underscored by a thumping bass line. Of course, it wouldn't quite be Rush if you didn't also get ambitious, adventurous compositions and passages in the mix.
These tracks offer those elements in abundance, but never stray too far from the basic strengths that have made Rush one of rock's most enduring acts. While several songs, like the title track and The Garden, are quite dynamic and display the wide range of abilities typical of a band with the skill set of Rush, the foundation still rocks solidly throughout.
The title track is a great example of this. Mellow balladry early on quickly gives way to heavy, bass-happy prog-rock, then a catchy, melodic chorus. They start over and run through the cycle a bit faster, then move into some nice soloing by Alex over Geddy's pounding bass. Next is a journey through some almost trippy verses before the song finishes with the chorus and one last blast of heavy guitar.
You'll also find most of these qualities in varying arrangements on the album's other notably strong tracks, Caravan, BU2B, Carnies, Seven Cities of Gold, and Headlong Flight. My personal favorite is Seven Cities of Gold, an epic track featuring one of the album's best riffs, brilliant jazzy bass work and guitar solos, and a fantastic chorus. This one's an instant classic for me.
And Geddy Lee's vocals sound incredible. His clean, clear, nuanced, melodic singing complements the music as it always has, but I personally think his voice has become more resonant as he's gotten older.
Rush hasn't lost a step in my opinion, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame loses more credibility every year that it keeps out bands like them. Whether they get voted in or not doesn't really matter, because people who know anything about music know that Rush is a legitimate legendary rock act, and this new album just adds more polish to their stellar career.
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