‘At The End’ is a bugout to listen to. I must hammer away at my readers to let it sink in as to just how weird this song is. So I intersperse this ‘Victor’ review once and for the last time with a blow-by-blow breakdown of the tune. One could picture Alex on the couch, late at night, watching ‘The Blob’ or other cheezy scary B-movie as backwards military-drum-rolls-of-the-Peart-kind, circa ‘Power Windows'(for their electronic feel), fume up in the background till a smackdown beat is assumed. All the fear-filled crazy words I’ve already talked about fill the foreground as the Kurzweil from an old Emerson, Lake & Palmer record, or the ace 1970s glam proggers Angel’s star keyboardist Greg Guiffria(!), shifts the mainframe. The swoozing gives way to Lerxst doing his best blues snarls which are drenched in reverb with an old surf music feel. The six-string licks stand starkly alone. The best example of Lerxst doing this in RUSH would be in MP’s ‘Limelight’ solo; though what’s on ‘At The End’ is not distorted, loud nor heavy. It is just backstreet wailin’, if you can dig what I mean! And the paralell between ‘Limelight’ and ‘At The End’ is in it’s waywardness and solitary shudderment.
Yet, for all the tea in China – to coin a phrase, Neil Peart wouldn’t be caught dead writing these lines as do appear in ‘At The End’ for a RUSH album: ‘He said ‘Pluck out my eyes’, He said ‘Plug up my ears’, He said ‘Silence my tongue’. – (‘Victor”s ‘At The End’) The quark, strangeness & charm that is Alex Lifeson in his ‘Victor’ guise is truly a mad marvel. (And Alex a mad marble(?)); forgive my own strange thoughts as one will not come out completely sane after many a repeat listen to many of the tunes on ‘Victor’. I guess move over Syd Barrett; Lerxst is holding court! Okay, that example might be a little overwrought.
‘Promise’: The perfect compliment to Geddy Lee’s MFH solo feature track, ‘Runaway Train’. ‘Promise’ is lyrically similar and drives along in the same way. The vocals are exemplary and full of emotion; though not necessarily melodic. ‘Promise’ has a grungey, alternative feel with a big dirty rhythm guitar. Though one must consistently remember that, despite my comparisons with MFH by Geddy, this album ‘Victor’ preceeds it by four years. So ‘Promise’ continues… And then all heck breaks loose as Alex Lifeson cranks out a herky-jerky hard rockin’ guitar solo. Darn if ain’t got the strangest phrasing this side of a black hole of Cygnus X-1. The chorus as sung in this song is by I MOTHER EARTH’s vocalist and it’s catchy and a whole lot of fun. So the vocals do possess a modicum of melodicism which takes repeated listens to hit home, as I hereby rescind my just previous comment about the vocal melody. This kind of thing happens alot with RUSH every time a new studio album comes out. At first it goes right by me. Yet I know that if I play the album over and over and over again that it will be worth it. It will reveal it’s charms. And this aspect of RUSH really cuts deep enough to bare it’s mention thrice. And the reward of enjoying ‘Victor”s ‘Promise’ after repititious listening to it has summarily been awarded me.
Alex Lifeson’s admitted NINE INCH NAILS’ inspiration circa their ‘Downward Spiral’ album is quite evident on ‘Promise’. ‘Strip & Go Naked’ has all the makings of a LED ZEPPELIN ‘Battle Of Evermore’ backdrop laden with Alex’s slippery slide guitar. ‘Strip…’ is an instrumental and sails along like a pastoral cold night spent by the fireplace with your partner. Very relaxing to strip & go naked… and the rest is up to the imagination and the magic of the night. An aural psychotropic a YouTuber called RUSH’s music but it was in the comments section of this particular ode to stripping.
Actually, I mentioned the vocalist of I MOTHER EARTH earlier as part of the ‘Victor’ project and Edwin is his first name and he is not with I MOTHER EARTH anymore. Alex recorded the guitar for one of I.M.E.’s songs; it is called ‘Like A Girl’. Let’s talk about ‘I Am The Spirit’ as it has got Edwin ex-I.M.E. singin’ once again. Eddie Vedder of PEARL JAM or FOO FIGHTERS, or perhaps CREED come to my mind as to who could’ve maybe have done a more melodic job with the vocals. To my ears it hasn’t got the catchiness it needs. Instead the vocal part is more textural in nature. This is no more apparent as when at mid-song the music quiets completely down and the whispering starts till it builds up. ‘I Am The Spirit’ reminds me of CREED and by the latter half of this tune I admit to being won over. The vocal melody has latched onto my psyche. The delaying arpeggioed guitar is dope. And the guitar solo with a few minutes left to go in the tune reminds of a warped-out alternate take for Presto’s ‘War Paint’ (which just to remind everyone of the solo in ‘War Paint’ it mimics the vocal lines, for the most part). It is no small wonder that RTB’s ‘Dreamline’ with it’s masterful Lerxstian guitar arpeggios would become a RUSH set opener And it has been inserted late in the second set of the 2012 CA tour to please the RUSHians! So, to sum up ‘I Am The Spirit’ – Alex shines mightily and the singing catches fire and this song is, in my opinion the best tune from ‘Victor’. And don’t think Mr. Lifeson wasn’t thinking BEATLES with ‘I am the walrus’ when he named this song. Then again, I don’t know – I could be wrong. I’ll have to ask him when I, and yes Alex also, get the chance to chat! Many people have alluded to hearing ‘I Am The Spirit’ on the radio; I don’t know as I haven’t checked the stats/the facts to confirm much about it but it sure does extend itself to the term ‘radio-friendly’. ‘Start Today’ is the second best song and the action pick of the whole pack on ‘Victor’. With the riff a tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek LED ZEPPELIN ‘Four Sticks’ blatant rip-up/off, though forgivingly as it sits quite nicely with the hysterical ‘chick vox’ of Lisa DalBello who does her best THE WHO’s ‘Tommy”s ‘Acid Queen’/Tina Turner. And if you picture the early banshee wail of Geddy Lee on the eponymous debut LP that RUSH Zepped out the public with in 1974; it all makes ultra sublime, comedic sense as only Lerxst can dish it out! I love when Dalbello holds the note singing the two word title of the song at the end: ‘Start Todayyyyyyyyy! Geddy Lee has matched this line with the smash hit ‘Headlong Flight’ that preceeded (and is also part of in a bit longer form) the 2012 CA opus: The Gedster goes ‘I wish that I could live it all aga-aa-aa-aa-aa-aa-ain!!’. So crank up ‘Victor”s ‘Start Today’. Follow it up with a cranked up listen to ‘Headlong Flight’ by RUSH and then smoke ’em all with Neil Peart’s ‘The Hockey Theme’ which I know you better be diggin’ too. I mean you ARE reading this book because, like me, you can’t stop thinking RUSH; right?!? Right; I knew it. And it should go without saying that you practically sped-read your way through Kevin J. Anderson & Neil Peart’s novel supreme; ‘Clockwork Angels’ – the book. Right? Good. I knew that also.
Back to the madcap dark looniness that is the ‘Victor’ LP. This record is a product of Alex’s mass homogenization of imagination following on in victorious fashion after hitting all us RUSH fans squarely over the head with his ‘axe’ (re: guitar) returning to Hard Rock territory on ‘Counterparts’ and the subsequent tour. And I hope you have traded for a free bootleg copy of the great RUSH unofficial bootleg ‘live-in-concert’ CD called ‘Nuts & Bolts’ from the 1994 tour that followed the 15th RUSH studio LP as it opened the door to RUSH becoming a ‘sole victor’ headlining/headbanging act by the Mid-1990s. No more having to open for KISS and URIAH HEEP or whomever. So those who think that ‘Victor’ sounds like a dark record should remember that it was a time of great jubilation and supreme success for the collective caravan we know and love as RUSH.
Speaking officially, this era is most officially celebrated on 1998’s RUSH 3-CD ‘Different Stages’ set – which is a live-in-concert audio documentation of the CNTRPRTS & T4E tours mixed with a post-ATWAS ‘A Farewell To Kings’ 1978 live-in-concert bonus audio disc. Though it is ‘Nuts & Bolts’, unless you know of a better recording from the CNTRPRTS tour, alone, that follows on chronologically just before the oddball ‘Victor’ disc. Maybe an even better curio that preceeded ‘Victor’ was a ‘Counterparts’ demos recording with various songs interspersed with interview spillage with one member at least, of RUSH fielding questions with a straight originally-rendered reading by Pye Dubois of ‘(There is a Lake) Between Sun & Moon’ before Neil would cerebroectomize it and put the song back together again & long before it would be ever be played ‘live’ on-stage in remembrance of (as Geddy introducesit) ‘a fallen brother – John Entwhistle’, which is how Dirk introduced it years on from the time of the original studio recording of what simply became ‘Between Sun & Moon’. But so much for the screwy ‘Counterparts’ being the precursing frisbee that would roll into 1996. And by that time RUSH had also officially entered the ‘Tribute age’ that all veteran music acts become prey and prayed to with. ‘Working Man’ on Magna Carta Records came out also in this busy year that was 1996 with some virtuostic players playing a whole lotta RUSH cover tunes. The tidal wave that RUSH had began together in earnest with the eight-song RUSH debut LP in 1974 was now enjoying the fruits of having earned it’s 20th/Rhinestone anniversary with the record industry and the diehard fans and ascending/asserting musicians paying deep homage to the founders of Progressive Metal and lots of other sub-sub-genres of Heavy Rock & Prog that only the dexterous trio of RUSH could & did muster up for the world to figure out & enjoy.
I know I keep on providing lots of related window dressing for this busy and transitional era of Hard ‘n’ Heavy music as to excuse the many who payed none or not much attention to the release of ‘Victor’ by Alex Lifeson & assembled muso cronies.
When Lawrence Gowan released his album ‘Lost Brotherhood’ as THE GOWAN not but six years back in 1990, featuring Alex Lifeson on guitar on the whole album by this hitherto unknown-in-America, svelte Canadian rocker, the market wasn’t as saturated and Rock and Metal had not yet begun to splinter off in every direction; or rather it was just starting to. For this reason alone, as ‘Presto’ came out in 1989 – not able to get my fill of my favorite band – I swooped up ‘Lost Brotherhood’ and played it often, even though I found it ultimately quite lightweight and after the test of time my attention span wouldn’t hold onto it as much as bands like VOIVOD, WATCHTOWER, MANILLA ROAD, CIRITH UNGOL & FATES WARNINg and others I had latched onto in pursuit of what I felt I had lost with RUSH after their penultimate ‘Hemispheres’ album in 1978.
I thoroughly and it can be said lovingly enjoyed the twists and turns that started with ‘Signals’ in 1982 as the good ship Rocinante cruising the black hole of Cygnus X-1 proved to be no joke as RUSH would begin each new album by first creating an alternate musical landscape/universe new terrain in which to only then plunk down new tunes (and bring in the very latest technology at their fingertips and well-heeled feet). Already stretched to the max, and at first unfettered by the punk, new age and death of true ’70s prog-become-Pop, with on the other hand a growing extremity running rampant throughout the dense, dark Extreme Heavy Metal underground bubbling up from all four corners of the globe with the opposite effect of the dense commercialisation of LED ZEPPELIN/ROBERT PLANT/JIMMY PAGE/DAVID COVERDALE, RATT, POISON, DEF LEPPARD, SCORPIONS, ACCEPT & MOTLEY CRUE: As the l990s dawned RUSH were ready to try out new ideas, even if just for a song, Rap (1991’s RTB’s “Roll The Bones” title track), Funk and Groove – (the 1989 ‘Presto’ album) and dirty Grunge/Alternative Rock – (1993’s ‘Counterparts’) spending about five years neatly sidestepping this mainstreamation vs. cretinization of Heavy Metal/Hard Rock that was underway. RUSH had become experts at how to handle a new decade. The same chamelionac nature for stylistic changes of Ged, Neil & Alex would lend itself to these two decades also so far of the 21st century. The towerous medium of Video would be conquered also with documentaries, well-captured concerts, and at times downright hilarious backdrop footage featuring well-acted parts by none other than Dirk, Pratt & side-splitting funnyman Lerxst! Not to mention the massive overhead lighting rig dubbed ‘the spider’that was hauled out on a kind of still recent tour. Having been surrounded by an ever-increasingly familiar circle of people from lighting directors to guitar/drum techs, as an example has shown that RUSH knows the meaning of ‘Team’. And having the chutzpah, skill, experience, and confidence to give it all back ‘in-concert’ has meant that RUSH spares no expense to put on a great show; a spectacle should I say, clearly!
You don’t see RUSH playing festivals (with the exception of Sarstock in 2003 with the Rolling Stones headlining because that was Canada’s ‘Woodstock’ and
Now the multi-faceted humble & talented Canadian trio with their post-summer 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination (gasp-shock-horror; pigs are flying) – RUSH emerging fully as the new cool replaces old geekdom the band has hit top stride at 60 years old in 2012 energized by the 20th studio LP ‘Clockwork Angels’ that pulls out all the stops and for those who haven’t latched onto ‘Victor’ and it’s weirdness it is now time to go for it and it’s zany embrace.
Shall we continue with the critiquing of the other tracks off ‘Victor’. You bet your life, we should! The album that was begun out of boredom in the lazy summer of 1995 as domestic life with a new baby for Geddy Lee and his wife picture-perfectly co-incided with the end of the ‘Counterparts’ tour between guitarist Alex Lifeson and Bill Bell, who had collaborated on ‘The Guitars.’
‘Mr. X’ is for the ‘x’ in Alex’s nickname Lerxst. Not as kooky and off-the-wall as the song portends to be in it’s opening. The opening is cornball, English TV show theme-like. Then Alex lets a solo go that is quite a lot like the monstrous divebomb that is his six-string excursion on GUP’s ‘Between The Wheels’. ‘Between…’ is a song that RUSH brought back to the live show on the strength of… how strong a song it is!; lest anyone forget that Lerxst is on fire throughout GUP, having been muted on the previous album ‘Signals’. Now what you need to do as I believe it concerns the right, or maybe it’s the left, hemisphere of your brain is to take out any notion of superior melodic structure that the guitar solo has in the original GUP version. Then graft onto your mind the widdly bits, as the English say, of the ‘live=in-concert’ version of ‘Between The Wheels’; and you’ll have ‘Mr. X’ figured out. A shoe-in for 3rd best song on ‘Victor’.
Fourth best on ‘Victor’? ‘Sending Out A Warning’. James Bond flick-like Zeppified lick with alot of Paul McCartney’s ‘Live & Let Die’ at work. Alex and his team firing on all pistons. Hi-gain blaring, overstated kablooie distortion is Alex’s next guitar move as the title ‘Sending out a warning!’ is repeatedly shouted. Another one of those Lifeson daymares makes up the lyrical content.
‘The Big Dance’ is my pick for fifth place-best as I like it heavy & this one flat-out cranks. ‘The … Dance’ begins with what I thought at first were whales deep under water sounding off! Actually a techno groove quickly machines up and processed , heavy guitars crank out a sprongy canvas. Alex wouldn’t use this industrial sheet-rock guitar setting for his distortion until 2010’s weighty ‘Caravan’ single title-track. Adrian Zivojinovich does some expert programming that is off-the-beaten-path and beaten-till-it’s-beaten. Mean and tough & rough are the vocals/ lyrics with the chorus as ambiguous as ‘Victor’ gets. ‘Don’t Care”s a-little-less-filthy cousin is what ‘The Big Dance’ comes off as. I’ll talk about ‘Don’t Care’ a little bit later as it needs ‘splainin’ as Babalou, Ricky Ricardo used to say to Lucy on the ‘I Love Lucy’ show. So loud is the gain in the mix that it almost completely obscures the chord progression(s). When I think of this technique being used in the mid-1990’s decade I think of the late ‘Lord Petrus’ Peter Steele’s band TYPE O NEGATIVE, from Brooklyn New York City employing it in a sub-‘Rave’ Heavy Metal setting.
The 1st chorus to ‘The Big Dance’: An angel of love to you is what I’ll appear / Your lonely ache, I can make, disappear / Yes, take me deep inside so I can heal your pain / No angel of love takes another man’s gain. The 2nd chorus to ‘The Big Dance’: An angel of love is what I may appear / What I really am is really not so clear / I don’t live for love, you sticky bitch / All I care about is if you’re rich / You decide if you still want to play this game / The price to you for this is nothing will ever be the same.
I am attempting to show that unlike Geddy Lee’s ‘The Angels’ Share’ or ‘Clockwork Angels’ by RUSH that with the ‘Victor’- mindset an ‘angel’ takes on quite a different meaning. (Common words in the RUSH canon are ‘grace’, ‘angels’, ‘heart’, and even the word ‘red’.)
So it should become clearer with these lines what this song’s subject matter refers to: ‘The Big Dance’ (starting from Line 5 of the first verse): ‘It’s not for love, but I’ll gladly take your money / I can pretend to be so sad or funny / You’ll just love the way I move when I dance / My young hips, they know how to entrance / Nevermind him, he’s not here now / It’s really not my problem, anyhow. And clearer still with these lines: ‘The Big Dance’ (starting from Line 1 of the second / last verse): ‘You want to keep me held inside your cage / You best remember, you’re twice my age / You think I’ll want you with me for evermore / It’s only been two weeks, and you’re such a bore / I can see you’re new to this, you don’t know the rules / You’re just another one in the long line of fools / Can you be happy for my moment in your life / It doesn’t bother you you’re someone else’s wife.
And this character in ‘The Big Dance’ sums up his philosophy in Line 4 of the first verse, (as we jump around a bit): ‘I take what I can take / when the taking’s good’. So you see Alex weaving another dark tale under the ‘Victor’ umbrella.
The seedy side of life is not shed much blacklight upon in the music of RUSH. Yet here with Alex Lifeson’s solo album, ‘Victor’, we get it in spades.
The ultimate darkness and the most daring-do of them all is the title track, ‘Victor’. Alex Lifeson does an excellent reading of it. It should be noticed that Lerxst knows his place as a guitarist/musician and has not attempted to rectify the situation that exists in a RUSH concert, concerning vocals’ volume levels. It has almost become an inside joke that one can see Lifeson doing back-up vox on stage with RUSH – replete with his own microphone – but ya can’t hear him!
Paradoxically & a beauty, eh(?): Geddy’s parameter for the volume for his lead vocals is set in the stratosphere. Alex’s vocal mike is set to ‘accompaniment’; meaning much, much lower in the mix. Alex knowing what he can do and what he shouldn’t do on ‘Victor’ is, well … half the victory! Why is it that some bands’ musicians unlike Alex insist on plugging us with their vocals? Alex is again a wise man who like Clint Eastwood said, ‘A man must know his limitations’; and his guitar-player like – say Jimmy Page – is all we need him for!
So the poem ‘Victor’ by W.H. Auden is what this album has it’s title pried from. Check out one of the verses from this long, long prose piece of utter madness: (And, please if you would, keep ‘Tom Sawyer’ in mind so as to keep an analgous view with the parent band – RUSH.) ‘Victor came to the river Running so deep and so still: Crying; ‘O Father, what shall I do? And the river answered, ‘Kill’.’
Alex Lifeson is one cool dude. Let me tell you why by letting you all read the last piece of ‘Victor’. Like all 35 parts of this poem, there are four lines to each part. Here is the 35th and last part:
‘Victor sat in a corner Making a woman of clay: Saying; ‘I am Alpha and Omega, I shall come To judge the earth some day.’
So why did Alex pick this poem for his lone solo LP showcase? The answer is in the previous to what I just printed (part 35); that being the 34th part of ‘Victor’:
‘They tapped Victor on the shoulder, They took him away in a van; He sat as quiet as a lump of moss Saying, ‘I am the Son of Man’.
‘I am the Son of Man’ would be akin to ‘Son of Life’ = Lifeson. And ‘Lifeson’ is the loose translation, as I know it, from Cryllic Serbian of Alex Lifeson’s real name Aleksandar Zivojinovic(h). The reason that ‘h’ is in parentheses at the end of Alex’s real name is because of translation issues whose scope I don’t think I have to get into now.
A heartwarming verse in ‘Victor’ is the 3rd part. It is these four lines that remind me of Matthew 5:5 ‘Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth’ as it alludes to the 1976 RUSH song ‘2112”s first sung line, (of course); ‘…And the meek shall inherit the earth’. (And we all must remember that from that album on, blessed as it is with it’s outer space Prog Metal inventiveness beyond all human comprehension, no one would ever tell RUSH what to do again!):
‘Victor and his father went riding Out in a little dog-cart His father took a Bible from his pocket And read; Blessed are the pure in heart.’ –
‘Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.’This line emanates from the King James Version of The Holy Bible and it is Matthew 5:8, which is only three lines after Matthew 5:5. This isn’t a co-incidence, as us Christians say, it’s a God-incidence.
The entire chapter of Matthew 5 begins with Jesus Christ’s utterances – ‘And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And it is here that I digress having giving you all a good look into the title track, ‘Victor’. For you see, I realize that this is not ‘Bible class’ and though I believe in Jesus Christ as my personal saviour, I will cut this off before it becomes even more of a sermon than it already is. In summation, Matthew 5 is indeed terrific and a special passage it is indeed. I wanted to touch on the relevancy of Matthew 5:5 and 5:8 to both Alex Lifeson as a solo artist with ‘Victor’ and RUSH as a band.
Well thanks to my bi-polar writing style; I’m going to give you more of Jesus Christ! Feel free to slam the book down but please make sure your fingers aren’t still in them.
As an aside to this deep religious conceptualizing, Alex has recorded a Christmas song in his past that everyone should and probably does know: ‘The Little Drummer Boy’. It is mesmerizing in it’s sophisticated arrangement and is very pleasant on the ear as well as being faithfully reproduced with Alex’s guitar singing the melody perfectly. The backdrop is almost ‘bolero’ in style and nothing in the RUSH collection of songs – past or present – sounds like it. If anything, it might be akin to the layering in a song like ‘The Larger Bowl’ or ‘Spindrift’ from the heavily over-stroked and over-saturated, with stringed instruments from Alex’s mandola to his balalaika’, Snakes & Arrows’ album from 2007. ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ could have just as well have been added as a bonus track to ‘Victor’ as every song on this Lifeson solo excursion is so individual in nature. Steve Vai’s Christmas record has this song on it for those who want to procure a copy of Alex getting down on a yuletide carol. It is on YouTube and can be first checked out there, at no obvious risk but to be pleasantly serenaded. I was uplifted so much with ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ that I keep going back to replaying it more often than not.
And right now I’m having too much fun to stop with ‘Victor’ yet and there’s more music to be discussed therein, anyways.
So lest I forget and leave the most original and humorous cut off ‘Victor’out; ‘Shut Up Shuttin Up’ features Charlene, Alex’s first girlfriend who has been his wife for what seems forever and she goes talking and talking on and on with her friends. She says: ‘I always tell him, honey, shut up and play the guitar’. You see, as Alex wails away the chinwagging goes on & on. ‘Womentalk’ it is, and the breathless conversation includes something about ‘the one thing men are good for’. After a long time during which Alex goes about his business and the ladies keep talking, Alex goes into a shouting fit that begins with a simple p*ssed off ‘shut up’ angrily said. And we are talking the style of an angry good AND nice Canadian guy, so it’s quite tame or my guess is that the expletive deletives have been left out. Alex’s shouting fit continues till he’s all jabberjaw bemoaning, to the females who are giving everybody a headache by now; ‘Shut up, shut up shuttin’ up’, as this ranting ends with the title of the song’s utterance. The song is actually hilarious and the soloing some of the most outrageous free-form Lerxst you will ever hear.
Most thankfully, the guitar-noodly playfulness, like is found on ‘Shut Up Shuttin’ Up’ has come to the fore as of the loose-and-ready ‘Clockwork Angels’ LP of 2012 and the subsequent touring following it. The ‘Time Machine Tour’ got the improvisatory feel going for all three members of RUSH and here in 1996 on ‘Victor’ is where you get the first inklings of it. For those into Frank Zappa, just the mention of Victor’s ‘Shut Up Shuttin’ Up’ will bring to mind that late jazz/fusion/comedic guitarist’s 3 album montage that started in 1981 in earnest with ‘Shut Up And Play Yer Guitar’ followed in the years after with ‘Shut Up And Play Yer Guitar Some More’ and lastly – ‘Son of Shut Up & Play Yer Guitar Some More’: all strictly instrumental songs with solos up the wazoo and back down again. Frank Zappa has every reason to be namedropped in a chapter in a book concerning Alex Lifeson as he was the epitome of outlandish O.T.T. humour; with backing musicians whose talents knew no boundaries nor could the Zappa band members care to fall into any neat category. If any guitar player is going to be compared with Alex Lifeson it would be Frank Zappa and obviously Jimmy Page/LED ZEPPELIN. TRIUMPH, SAGA, FM, STYX, PINK FLOYD, MAX WEBSTER/KIM MITCHELL may have all been Prog & Pomp Rock contemporaries of RUSH’s style, as a whole; then you need to throw in U2, ULTRAVOX, FOO FIGHTERS, DREAM THEATER, and QUEEN/BRIAN MAY, as well. And Alex Lifeson would be the human spongepants raking it all up into his schizy but mellow frame.
It should be pointed out that Alex letting loose in the way he does on, especially, the ‘Victor’ song – ‘Shut Up Shuttin Up’ can’t be found on early RUSH recordings as RUSH were out to prove a lot back in their salad days of the 1970s. RUSH were very busy with not only being as complicated and virtuostic as a trio could be and very concerned to still be playing a style of Heavy Rock that the loyal following could continue to latch onto album after album. Even draped in silk komonos circa 1976-1978 the band appeared ostinately grimfaced and serious as a heart attack – for the most part, while playing. Or so it seemed. To the wise fan ‘By-Tor & The Snow Dog’ or ‘The Necromancer’ were to be considered tongue-in-cheek no matter how stone-faced Bubba looked in the center of the RUSH stage holding court on his drum throne. We who understood all understood that we were witnessing a band that was too individual to be wholly understood. So we just dug RUSH for what they presented with each unfolding & always different-styled album.
Now for those still stuck on ‘Shut Up Shuttin’ Up’ as I am. For me on ‘Victor’ it is this song that is so different from anything but maybe an obtusely sex-ridddled VAN HALEN fronted by original and current, in 2012, frontman acrobat-of-yore DAVID LEE ROTH: So here is the hold up question of ‘Victor’… The rub about ‘Shut Up…’ is that the question of the only thing that men are good for, which the ladies intimate alot about, is NOT answered by the girls’ conversation. Certainly if Alex Lifeson didn’t insert a ‘shut up’ we would have gotten the answer, I believe. Because most of us men who try our best to understand our woman know that you gotta let ’em talk and you just gotta listen! And that’s how it goes. So what is it that is the only thing that men are good for? Is it Money(?), Poopoo juice(?), being the perfect ‘soulmate’ perhaps(?)?? Yeah right! The last possibility to me is the least possibility. Being a man it makes me less likely to know the answer & perhaps the female readers are laughing out loud at this point. Either that or they are yawning. Ultimately, the question posed in ‘Shut Up Shuttin’ Up’ is left in the air. Just as in the same way it resembles masculinity at it’s apex with the Lerxstian patented geetar solo that makes up the body of this number that never really gets to a certain ‘climax’. If it would have gone into some chording/riffing structure I guess the impact of the song would not be the same. ‘Shut Up…’ is to hang like a pendulum swinging below-the-belt, one could say! So a whole lotta ramblin’ is what appears to be goin’ on in this track; both speaking and guitarspeak.
Yet I won’t deny the accolade that the ‘Shut Up…’ song turns out to be in the top best numbers on ‘Victor’ and had it gone into something more I would have put it as the strictly number one song on this ‘Victor’ release. ‘Limbo’ off TFE by RUSH from the same year as ‘Victor’, 1996, should be tried to be played back to back with this ditty, by you readers. If that sounds like it may reveal what I hear as trajectories between the two songs I’d advise going for it. ‘Revelation is half of discovery’, some wise man once said. And this quote can be clearly understood by RUSH fans who have been listening to Alex tuning up his guitar, that he found in a cave as the story goes, on 2112’s ‘Part III-Discovery’ as a vital part to listen to as a great song is revealed by this primordial find.
The second strangest thing on this album is the post-‘Counterparts’ ode to male/female trysting of the husband/wife kind the likes that would make RUSH lyricist go-to-guy, Neil Peart, with his shyness thang blush just reading the lyrics: The song is ‘Victor”s ‘Don’t Care’. This is THE DEAD BOYS Stiv Bators-like vocals meets a thugged-up-completely-messed-up-on-purpose-by-someone-who’s-never-heard-the-debut-RUSH-LP-song-‘Finding My Way’-before-and-doesn’t-care ala THE SEX PISTOLS with Lifeson set on Industrial-distorted stun both musically and lyrically. The lyrics would get Geddy’s quizzical, atypical StarTrek alien ‘Spock look’; and as he would raise his face from the printed page you can picure hearing Dirk go ‘Vhat is dis crep??’
For the closest thing for RUsH’s lead vocalist/(bassist/keyboardist) to a curse in a RUSH lyric, sounds almost vulgar just by listening to him saying the word ‘crap’ in the 1991 RTB’s ‘Heresy’ cut. And forget about any vulgarity-laced banter with the concert crowds; that never happens at a RUSH concert. Never ever. And we, the loyal audience, is happy that way.
Here it’s Alex Lifeson digging into what the, latest at the time of ‘Victor’, RUSH LP ‘Counterparts’ album cover art meant to him. Alex Lifeson, as I’ve come to understand him, lurks just on the edge of madness despite his soft-spoken tone and beateous musical articulation on his beloved guitar instrument. RUSH’s Neil Peart and Geddy Lee bookend Lerxst and keep him on the straight-and-narrow, I’ve come to realize as Alex is quite a zany man despite his affability & open charm. Restraint is something his bud, Geddy Lee gives Alex. And total class without making himself into a total arse/clown is what Neil Peart does for Alex. I’ll just let all the lyrics of ‘Don’t Care’ speak for themselves; barebones they are… vile, coarse and plain ‘re-gusting'(sic)!
‘Don’t Care’ ————-
Shut up and turn off the light / I’ll take you deep right through the night Just leave before you’re in my sight / ‘Cause I don’t need another fight And I don’t need your sympathy / You’ll get no tender love from me Kneel before me on your knee / Do it hard- make me free Do it hard- make me free / Do it- make me free Do it hard- make me free
Don’t want your pity Don’t want your care Don’t care for giving Don’t care for fair Don’t want your kindness Don’t want your heart Don’t care for wanting Don’t care for smart
I’ll come to you from behind / You know my touch will not be kind You’ll feel my loveless power bind / No feelings here that you can find Between your legs I will lay / On your back you better stay I’m gonna fuck you night and day / Do it hard- make me pay Do it hard- make me pay / Do it hard- make me pay / Do it hard- make me pay Do it hard
Don’t want your pity / Don’t want your care / Don’t care for giving / Don’t care for fair Don’t want your kindness / Don’t want your heart / Don’t care for wanting / Don’t care for smart
I don’t need your sympathy / You’ll get no tender love from me Just kneel before me on your knee / Do it hard- make me free / Do it hard- make me free Do it hard- please make me free ————
Alex Lifeson let loose lyrically is not a man of subtlety and hopefully this misogynistic streak is a product confined to the ‘Victor’ project. I feel it is. I KNOW IT IS. Alex Lifeson is a man who paints to pass time and then turns the drawings over to a charity that has to do with helping people with their kidneys when they malfunction. Alex Lifeson is a good guy, a family man, with a dirty mind at best! As the 2010 ‘Beyond The Lighted Stage’ documentary film being all about RUSH illustrates, the guys in Kiss who they did a big tour with the proggy-but-heavy trio in the Mid ’70s: History has it that the RUSH trio would stay in their hotel rooms and read while the notorious Gene Simmons and crew would have sex with ‘the groupies’. And the photos taken of the RUSH boys lost in their newspapers & books is proof.
THE COOLEST THING TO HAPPEN ON ALEX LIFESON’S SOLO ALBUM – ‘VICTOR’:
‘Don’t Care’ could be mistaken for the 2010 single initial version of ‘BU2B’, but only at it’s very beginning and certainly not to RUSH aficionados. It comes in roaring like a lion the way that the 2012 ‘Clockwork Angels’ LP has cleared up for ‘BU2B’ with an intro piece being added before the pummeling starts. Alex is on fire with the lead guitar wrenching out notes that match the audacity of the lyrics. The feedback screams like nobody’s business as if the end of ‘Don’t Care’ were the final angry strains of ‘2112’ itself!
The most notable people on ‘Victor’ are Adrian Z., Alex’s then 18-year-old son doing the programming, Lisa Dalbello – female Canadian singer with a totally professional work ethic that impressed even the mighty Lerxst. Then there’s Tom Cochrane’s right-hand man on guitar who is Alex’s energetic/optimistic/hard-working/party pal, fellow 6-stringer – Bill Bell, Les Claypool of Primus to take a bassline and make it sound ‘outside’ melodically and perfectly fitting in with the beat, & Edwin ex-I Mother Earth who Alex would return the f(l)avor for appearing on ‘Victor’ with a song called ‘Like A Girl’ on an I.M.E. LP that is really more of the same and wouldn’t be out-of-place as a bonus cut. Or will say that you should just check that song out if you need one more ‘Victor’-like song. ‘Like A Girl’ is quite comparable to the heavy Edwin & Dalbello that grace ‘Victor’ as it has that same vorocious bite.
And, finally let me tell you no, Lerxst didn’t use that whole ‘Victor’ poem as it’s got; what did I say 35 stanzas?; I think it’s 36 stanzas … Whatever, it’s long and convuluted.
There was supposed to be a follow-up to the ‘Victor’ LP but it hasn’t materialized and it’s been 16 years hence it’s release in 1996. The 2010 song, ‘Losin’ by JASON PLUMB AND THE WILLING has Alex Lifeson guesting and ripping out a half Rogers Waters of PINK FLOYD / Half Xanaduian, patented Lerxst guitar solo. It is startling to watch the YouTube video of ol’ Al gripping up his face to literally wrench out guitar notes that are so sweetly out-of-this-world.
It was so great to see a guitar hero do a record as challenging and non-masturbatory and startlingly, pitch dark as ol’ ‘Victor’ came out. It’s relevancy beyond the darkened decade of the 1990s is it’s real talkiing point. They just don’t make ’em like ‘Victor’ then and they still don’t now!
‘Victor’ is an album that maybe RUSH fans who haven’t taken the plunge with yet, even this late in the game, should check in with immediately & finally. Just let the songs play over and over again and you will pulled into Alex Lifeson’s creation of a subterranean world. And I think, generally, many have heard certain tracks like ‘Promise’ & ‘The Big Dance’ off ‘Victor’ but never went out and bought the whole thing. It’s quirky, it’s different, it’s loqacious … it’s ‘Victor’! A real group effort: Hail Victor! Hail victory!
– Rich Castle