Miscellanea Inc: Retrospectively speaking with 20/20 hindsight
Here on Alex Lifeson’s birthday is a little time capsule. Join us as we turn the page……
This is the album that should be called the witche’s brew; the burning cauldron. The hodgepodge smorgasbord. There is ‘Far Cry’ that hammers itself into your skull. There is ‘Bravest Face’ where Geddy has learned to do what he does with his bass vocally. And that is slay the dragons. S&A could be best ascribed as akin to the legendary adventure writer Jack London’s sprawling Great White Northern scenery images. S&A is RUSH unfettered. RUSH as the successful band clear and free to roam. Maybe the finest element of the RUSHian year of 2007 is that it is a totally confident band that is playing the slowest blues, the most obtuse tunes and running amok using way out there, advantageous titles – ‘Spindrift’, ‘The Larger Bowl’; what is it with S&A? Okay, so it is pretty obvious that life throws snakes and arrrows at us and each one either rips us to the marrowous core or it flambes us with the scintillating scent of desire. The snakes are that which we try to uncoil ourselves from and the arrows are those that we dodge.
Everything you see and can thump along to; that is what this album is all about. Forget about thinking big – which would be the case in another five years with the album Peart would herald with the title Clockwork Angels – just be confident about anything and everything: The Peartian ethos; genius Neil Peart’s mind at work.
And Geddy excuses Neil (and Alex – co-conspirator as 1/3 of RUSH) and their rapt indulgences by saying before ‘Malignant Narcissm’ on the Snakes and Arrows Live album – ‘We can’t help ourselves’. That open-minded ethos extends not only to the whole band but specifically the other nutty instrumental ‘The Main Monkey Business’ on ‘S&A’. Then there is Alex Lifeson’s shimmering quiet guitar piece, in the ‘Broon’s Bane’ style of yore, ‘Hope’. How come ‘Hope’ is subtitled ‘Live For The Art Of Peace’ on a compilation album, as it should have been on the actual studio album? (btw: RUSH are purported to give very generously to charities; all 3 guys but this is a line to be whispered, okay?). ‘Hope’ is a gorgeous 12-string acoustic guitar piece. Alex is such a master that he has a special piezo pick-up designed for him to use on his electric guitars that bring numbers that feature acoustic guitar like ‘Presto’ and ‘Closer To the Heart’ crisp and clear as if the guitar was unplugged. The Amazing Lerxst Lifeson; What can I say?
‘Snakes & Arrows’ is built on freedom and confidence and the 2007 RUSH band works wonderfully.
‘Faithless’ could’ve easily appeared on ‘Vapor Trails’: It has that disharmonic tone where the lyrical message is more important than the musical substance, by a large degree. Which makes the the overall song, with music, a dangerous beast. Just listen to Alex ‘Lerxst’ Lifeson lumber along reaching deep into his sing-a-long pocket guitar to follow with his lead guitaring.
Neil Peart has a fixation with not knowing – not being able to pick up a book entitled – ‘God’s Mind’ and that is whence he ends up dismissing topics he confonts and their entire premise. I just love his self-scrutiny and courage to live perilously as if to continuously jump up and down on the plank of wood, (Elton John used this metaphor) – known as ‘the diving board’. His BMw motorcycle is perpetually revved up to seek out the four corners of the Earth, lest our loving Professor miss something important.
When his mind tries to wrap itself around such a variegated concept as, par exemple, Christianity Neil loses himself in the throes of vagueness. Peart is a watcher who has to hear and see and feel something to embrace it. He also seems to show great affection and love for just about everybody. When Neil says that he is a bleeding heart libertarian he is not kidding. The fact that it was pointed out to him that he didn’t have a particularly good drum sound up till Grace Under Pressure seems supremely unimportant to him. And I agree, as a lot of you reading this book will be nodding their heads in the affirmative when I say that that is why the first album that is so satisfying from a sound picture angle is definitely ‘Power Windows’. It is here that if you strap on the headphones a marimba or mawamba or whatever the frick those sampled drums that Neils owns the whole arsenal of are called. From ‘Mystic Rythms onward Bubba wasn’t playing any games no more; just fast-forward to the kick-butt red drumset for the S&A tour. Yet personally I can say that ‘Hemispheres’, and few other RUSH albums are exceptions drum sound wise. And in concert, if you listen to RUSH recordings you will find that the drum sound varies according to the hall/arena, to be quite fair about assessing this aspect of Bubba’s drums.
My revelation: The freedom extremist is Neil. Not the Anarchist in the Clockwork Angels tome and LP. From the ponytailed Santana-refugee hippee to the born again Yogi of all things about all things in the 21st century’s awesome computering-era B I G N E S S. Forget the MacIntosh computer – our Bubba *is* the MacIntosh.
‘The Larger Bowl’, eh? They even dregged up those Canadian, beer-guzzlin’ hosers Bob & Doug whose album framed Ged in ‘Take Off (The Great White North)’ for the introductory video backdrop for the song on the S&A tour / S&A live DVD OF 2008. And that was just to pass off the ludicrous title. …Brilliant! Where is the larger bowl(?) would be the next question after ‘Where’s My Thing?’. Either way us Rush fans know to leaves those things alone. Alex, Geddy & Neil have total artistic freedom to do with what ever they want. It is, as some have made up the phrase that fits, one of the 2112 reasons that we love RUSH.
Another minor shitestorm for a brainy mind is ‘We Hold On’. As in canada’s premeir sport, this last song on S&A is the ‘save’, in the only-one-player-needed style of the goaltending Martin Brodeur of the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils, propogated by Alex Lifeson with an unreal arpeggiated thunder and screaming lead guitaring display that would rear it’s modern-styled head reverently on RUSH’s ‘Clockwork Angels’ album. ‘We Hold On’ doesn’t really sound like it belongs on ‘Snakes & Arrows’ as it doesn’t have the everything-in-the-chicken-soup approach that the rest of the songs have. The one thing it does have is ferocity. Akin to ‘Vapor Trails’ as RUSH returned as victors who overcame the dreaded Rock return syndrome where a band comes back after years of inactivity and falls flat on their butts. Nope RUSH has a supervibe for anything, for that matter for all they touch past the year 2000. RUSH and the Clockwork Angels String Ensemble have ploughed this triumphant road together during the years 2012/2013 concerts.
‘Good News First’ has a harpischord underpinning that saves the song from an aural scraphatch. Ged plays with freakish, obscurist abandon recalling the Hugh Syme moroseSound that made ‘Tears’ what it was – all the way back on the flipside of the runaway great ‘2112’ album. It is an ancient keyboard that was smuggled in as the Rush trio had supposedly swared off of the use of keyboards even if it meant ten layers of guitars or vocals. A mellotron., I believe it’s called?
‘Far Cry’ achieves it’s deft key change in the beginning by having the Hemispheres chord wrung. Alex claims authorship for the F#7sus4 (suspended) chord; and by golly it closes this electrifying new Rush classic off also. The band had a great day in the studio with ‘Far Cry’ and it could only have been written by a manic depressive like Neil Peart: ‘One day I feel I’m on top of the world and the next it’s falling in on me’. Yep. You can almost hear the circuits blowing and current flowing and the cerebral juices glowing as Rush have sculpted a modern day warrior of a new classic tune for their itinerary: ‘Far Cry’ is a stone cold classic in the RUSH cirriculum henceforth.
Armor and Sword – The lumbering beast that juxtaposes the benefits of armor and opposite benefits of the sword. Peart putting forth every possible meaning of the two words. Rush have come a long way from ‘Anagram (For Mongo)’ from ‘Presto’- 1989 and ‘Red Lenses’- 1984 to be able to sculpt an incendiary beast of a song hath conjured forth on a two pronged, word based concept.
‘Workin’ Them Angels’ has a ringing, Alex fueled beautifulness to it; much like being unleashed into an open field in Nebraska with the sweet smell of a wheat field on a l00% sunny day. ‘Half The World’ introduced this Limelighted clarity to the RUSH listening populus in 1996 and here on S&A it comes to full fruition.
‘Spindrift’ despite it’s spiffy – no spitty – title has a tension to it tht drives the song along. The waves crashing in an obtuse way against raggeDy rocks is not just heard but felt.
‘The Way The Wind Blows’: A giant bashing, clashing beast that is meaner and leaner than alot of recent Rush albums’ material. It has that every-accent-stings feel of 1980’s ‘Permanent Waves”s ‘Natural Science’. Yes folks; it is that good. The wind blowing becomes the sleeping metaphorical greased wheel for this album’s vehicle. ‘Time And Motion’s from the 1996 ‘Test for Echo’ RUSH album as is it’s distant cousin.
2010 – 2012: Post S&A
‘Clockwork Angels’ threw out it’s first noisey, clang-and-bash single in the shape of ‘Caravan’/’BU2B’ in 2010, after journeying two years for the album proper Neil and the boyz would streamline their creative crowns to create the musical journey of Our Hero, Owen Hardy. Neil decided the main character would join the circus, fall in love for a second time – but for real and for life, be happy to be an apple orchard manager turned ‘juggler’ in the ‘Carnies’ and an adventurer for righteous adventuring’s sake. And guess what? Like Bubba himself, Owenhardy – as his tightrope walkin’ wife Francesca would call him (as that’s how she speaks) would go on to be a lucky bastard with a raft full of loot to bring back to his misfit bunch to have training grounds and a mansion. All in a world where life was supposed to go the predictable way of The Watchmaker. Beating the odds and being the proud grandfather from Albion, ‘The Garden’ would be watered daily and life would be just as it was meant to be lived as if there had been no Watchmaker at all. Life is for the taking. Oh so free and fun and without the mundanity that it was meant; Owen Hardy is a victor. A winner.
Snakes & Arrows poked it’s busy head in all different subjects and fired up all kinds of sub-melodies and seen in the hindsight of the massively huge ‘Clockwork Angels’ album and book and tour and on and on; It proves faith enough for me. RUSH cynic Peart don’t believe in destiny or the guiding hand of fate, or forever, or love as a mystical state, or faith in faith, or belief for belief’s sake; but when all is said and done and the bones have been rolled and the snakes have bitten off whatever it is they wolf down and the arrow strikes it inevitable target: Bubba believes he can and therefore succeeds in his labour of love. Neil Peart is a man on a mission of mercy made so to work perfectly with Geddy and Alex being the great buddies that they are on and off stage. Alex Lifeson has said that as long as he could have a cup of coffee at Ged’s place there will still be music made. Sounds good.
‘My Supreme Revelation: RUsH – ‘p/g = E’
‘Snakes & Arrows’ is most reminiscent of the hardwire mesh of ‘Grace Under Pressure’ in 1984 just before it gave birth to the deliberate perfection of ‘Power Windows'(which featured with up to 5 songs of 8 from said LP on the first leg of the CA tour of 2012)… pre-greatness in a highly enjoyable fun record that would only enhance the legendary status of RUSH and propel them forward in a ‘Headlong Flight’.
It is so interesting to approach a road by turning around to see just where it was trodden upon. RUSH have scaled the heights of 20 studio albums and entered the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, all in 2013. Then they finish the ‘Clockwork Angels’ tour and now is a great time to fill in the collection and compare albums like true RUSHfans love doing.
And today is August 27th, 2013 and Alex Lifeson, the youngest member of RUSH is now 60 years young, joining his compadres Geddy Lee and Neil Peart who both turned 60 earlier this year.
RUSH is on top of world.
And we’re right up there with them, as you may choose to be also because as for myself,
I was brought up to believe.