Clockwork Angels

Tuesday, July 03, 2012
Clockwork Angels - Rush
If Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures were Rush 2.0; the synth era Rush 3.0; their return to basics as Rush 4.0; then Clockwork Angels is Rush 1.5. Clear callbacks to earlier works can be heard on this album, but that is not to say the power trio are resting on their laurels or trying to capture former glories. Clockwork Angels might be some of the best work the band has turned out in recent memory.

Surprisingly, this is Rush's first full length concept album and it might be their most “proggy” prog rock album. Sonically, this sparkles over their previous album, Snakes & Arrows, which sounds a little murky sometimes. The production on this album features not just the usual virtuosity of Alex, Geddy and Neil but also has string arrangements, filling out an already full sounding album.

Some of my early favorites include Headlong Flight and Halo Effect, though there really isn't a bad song on the album. Both opening songs, Caravan and BU2B were released over two years ago have been re-recorded for the better. BU2B brings great metal flourishes back to the Rush sound.

Alex's guitars haven't sounded this good in years. Sure, the acoustic guitar is brought out for good effect, but his guitars on this album have an edge not heard since the Moving Picture days. Carnies is another hard edged metal tour de force by Alex.

Geddy's bass remains as potent as ever, with some amazing riffs, especially on The Anarchist and Seven Cities Of Gold. I also think that Geddy's singing matches the album well. Neil's drums are flawless, as usual, but the rhythm of drums feels much more organic.
Neil's lyrics tell story set in a steam punk alternate universe where we follow a protagonist through a journey of growth and sacrifice. The opening song, Caravan, sums up our hero well; “In a world where I feel so small, I can't stop thinking big” setting the tone for world populated by, well, clockwork angels, flying machines and run by the Watchmaker, who imposes order on the world. The story is open to interpretation in my mind, but it is soon to be a novel written by Kevin J. Anderson with the following blurb about the plot:
“In a young man's quest to follow his dreams, he is caught between the grandiose forces of order and chaos. He travels across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk and alchemy, with lost cities, pirates, anarchists, exotic carnivals, and a rigid Watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life.”
Most of Rush fans are a bit miffed that this band isn't in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. Prog rock in general and Rush in particular have been snubbed by the selection committee. Maybe that is the point of the song Wish Them Well. As Rush fan, I have taken quite a bit of flack from my music snob friends. Rush has suffered the slings and arrows of many a disdainful critic. In the song Wish Them Well, the protagonist reminds us that you can only wish those critical people well;
All that you can do is wish them well
All that you can do is wish them well 
Spirits turned bitter by the poison of envy
Always angry and dissatisfied
Even the lost ones, the frightened and mean ones
Even the ones with a devil inside 
Thank your stars you’re not that way
Turn your back and walk away
Don’t even pause and ask them why
Turn around and say goodbye 
This is a great album. I am sure it will have it's detractors, but everything that Rush has ever done, lyrically and musically is packed into a juicy 60+ minutes of pure prog rock perfection. Maybe this isn't really Rush 1.5 but Rush 5.0. I can't wait to see what the future holds for these perennially nice guys from Canada.

8 comments :

  1. Sometimes when a band returns to their roots they're better off. I can think of at least one band I like that has some recent songs which completely miss the raw, just emerged from hours and hours of rocking feel that was evident in their earlier albums.

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