Rush: Clockwork Angels

The time on the clock on the cover of the new RUSH album, Clockwork Angels, reads 21:12. Only a fan of the band will get the significance of that, especially since this album is being touted as a “return to their concept heavy, prog-rock roots”. After quite a few spins I would have to agree…and disagree…with that statement.

Yes, it has a concept; something about a watchmaker and turn of the century steam-punks. But I am not a fan of Rush because of their concepts. I am a fan because of the music, and Clockwork Angels is some of the best music Rush has put out in a very, very long time. I hear echoes of Permanent Waves, 2112, Hemispheres, Moving Pictures and even Signals, but I also hear a progression. Geddy’s bass is more prominent here than on any album since ‘81’s Moving Pictures, Lifeson is back with some very heavy and oftentimes melodic solos and Peart is as proficient as ever, but a little more traditional and not as showy. This is the sound of a band with nothing to prove, revisiting their roots and modernizing them at the same time. And it rocks. Hard.

Previous album Snakes and Arrows was a great album but sounded more like a collection of songs while this one sounds like parts of a whole piece, with or without the ‘concept’. Yes, Lee’s voice is a little ‘huskier’ sounding and at times almost off key, but that’s a small criticism and takes nothing away from the album. His voice has always polarized fans and critics alike. Some have slagged the production as sounding muddy, but I don’t hear it. It sounds just fine to my ears.

I have many friends, Canadian, American or other who despise Rush. Contrary to popular opinion the Canadian government does not require Canadians to purchase 2 copies of every new Rush album when they come out. The quota is actually 5 per household. “Canadian Content” regulations or some damn thing, kind of like a tax. I also have lots of friends who have a great deal of love for Rush, many of whom are fanatics and will scoop up everything they put out the minute it’s released. I know of no one who is in the middle. The thing with Rush, with me, is that there has always been a real sincerity in their music, but more so than that there has always been humor and a willingness to not take themselves too seriously since the very beginning. Even their most proggish album, Caress Of Steel had I Think I’m Goin’ Bald on it.

For a band whose players are pushing 60 and who are still playing like a band in their twenties, I mean, wow, that’s a fantastically rare thing. I like this album more every time I play it. If this is their last album (which I highly doubt, given the band’s friendship), it’s one hell of a way to go out.