Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Music Reviews: Rush - "Clockwork Angels"

Canadian power trio Rush have been on the music scene for close to 40 years releasing albums ranging from classic Zeppelin inspired rock (self titled debut), to prog rock ("2112"), to arena rock (Moving Pictures) to 80's synth rock (Power Windows), to even dabbling in grunge (Counterparts). But now the band is back with their first ever full length concept album entitled Clockwork Angels. Not only is it a return to form, but it very well may be the bands best album in years. Maybe even their best EVER!

The album is 12 songs telling the story of a young man's journey through his life and the people, places and things he encounters along the way. From the "Caravan" that takes him from his home to start his journey to working with the "Carnies" until his final days in "The Garden", this is the Rush album die hard fans have been waiting for all these years. When the band released the Caravan/BU2B single back in 2010 as a teaser to coincide with a world tour, it was easy for fans of all generations to get excited about the possibility of a full conceptual piece. We wondered if the band could pull it off after many years of steering away from long intricate pieces of music in favor of shorter more concise songs. But after listening to CA it's easy to see the band hasn't lost it's touch as far as story telling. And the playing is top notch as well. This is Rush playing at their all time best.

"Clockwork Angels" is such a wonderful piece of ear candy from it's powerful vocal approach that singer/bassist Geddy Lee brings to the mix to the way guitarist Alex Lifeson bounces back and forth between big power chords to gentle notes to drummer/lyricist Neil Peart's thunderous back beat and rolling drum fills. It really gives you chills to hear them playing at this level after so many years. Alex has a really cool and back to basics guitar solo here as well. It brings back memories of older albums from years past where the sky was the limit as far as playing ability goes. The boy's are spot on here.

"Carnies" is another track that bounces back and forth musically. Some folks may find this annoying at times. But I find it invigorating and original in it's fusion of melody and crunch where neither form outweighs the other. It's an equal balance that also never takes away from the storyline. Neil's lyrics can really hit home at times. He has a way of bringing you into the fold as a part of the story. Not just as a listener. "How I prayed just to get away, to carry me anywhere. Sometimes the angels punish us by answering our prayers." No truer lines have even been sung in a Rush song before. It speaks volumes of how this amazing band has grown as musicians and as story tellers.

"The Wreckers" is Rush playing the most melodic and poppy I think I have ever heard them play. And it's pretty damn awesome! It's modern but yet it would fit snug between any 2 tracks on Power Windows (one of my personal favorite 80's Rush albums). This is a band taking chances and coming out on top. This song very well could be my favorite here. I love the lyrics, the way Geddy sings them, the way the guy's play and even the strings! The strings bring it all home for me. It's the icing on the cake to a truly beautiful song.

The albums brightest rocking moments are in the tunes "Headlong Flight" with it's ode to "Bastille Day" to it's lyrics about looking back on the past with no regrets. It's a real barn burner. "Wish Them Well" is the other straight up rocker. Simple it it's approach but still powerful and imaginative at the same time. You can tell the band is having fun here. And when I hear them having this much fun, it brings a smile to my face. This is a band nearly 40 years in, and they can still enjoy what they do. And it really comes through in the music.

"The Garden" closes out this set with soft acoustic guitars and strings mixed with Geddy's beautiful singing. It tugs at the heartstrings with lyrics like "The treasure of a life is a measure of love and respect. The way you live, the gifts that you give in the fullness of time. It's the only return that you expect." True beauty in the form of song. Clockwork Angels is a modern day masterpiece by these gifted musicians. I'm glad I'm here to enjoy the band and their gift of music. "The future disappears into memory with only a moment between. Forever dwells in that moment. Hope is what remains to be seen" Amen.

5 / 5 stars

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