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Somebody has got to sit Rush down and read them the rules – you know, the ones that state that they have to act their freaking ages and stop jamming around so damn much; that six and seven-minute songs with lots of badass musicianship are out; that there can’t possibly be new sounds to discover; that concept albums are so, like, Hemispheres; that songs are supposed to be verse, chorus, verse – c’mon, call in the pro LA tunesmiths already!
And don’t forget to tell them to get at least five or six backing musicians on stage – that’s what all the really big bands do; that they need to write some tunes about chicks, for chrissake; that the drummer must play to the song – knock it off with all that, you know, “extra stuff.”
And most of all, won’t somebody please tell these guys that groups that have been together for 38 years are supposed to suck? They’re not meant to have breakthroughs and keep getting better and better. Can't anybody send them the memo?
But wait… hold on a second. If Rush decided to buckle down and behave, if they adhered to the standards and practices of Music 101, that would make them sound like practically every other band out there. They would become safe, predictable and oh so un-Rush-like.
Fortunately, the three men (bassist-vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart) who power their way through the sprawling, open-hearted and wildly alive Clockwork Angels know that the best way to avoid creative stasis is to simply be themselves, and in doing so they’re growing in sophistication and revealing new depths of feeling at an astonishing rate.
Produced by the band and Nick Raskulinecz (the same team that yielded 2007’s Snakes & Arrows), the album is built around a narrative of a young man’s journey towards his dreams, and fittingly, the music comes at you in a nonrepetitive succession of images, textures and moods, many of them strikingly abrupt – the band never hammers a point for too long; they make a case quickly and move on. It’s propulsive and heady – by turns dizzyingly sensual, gut-rocking, lofty and raw – but there’s a warm, human spirit to the band’s rhythmic volleys, and they have an uncanny gift for imbuing even their most orgiastic musical moments with a unity of feeling and purpose.
What’s most amazing about the general state of Rush in 2012 – and this is played out vividly throughout Clockwork Angels – is how comfortable they are in their own skin. “The best actors don’t let the wheels show,” Henry Fonda once said, and in their own idiosyncratic way, Rush never get bogged down in craft. Their songs, epic in scope, abstract yet achingly personal, rendered here with a commanding sonic radiance, are born out of instinct and impulses, unique as a fingerprint and every bit as fascinating.