Review by Joe Callahan
Let me get this out of the way right now – I am a Rush geek. I am one of those guys that has to get the new Rush album the day of release and play it a thousand times in a 2 week period. My love of Rush started at the age of 13 when Moving Pictures came out and I bought every back catalog album before Moving Pictures and it has lead me all the way to this, the new album by Rush, Clockwork Angels.
What I first loved about this album is that it is a concept album. Rush is known for having “themes” in their albums, yet have not done a full concept like this since 2112. It’s the story of a young man, who’s yearning to see something more than small town life. It touches on a theme that Rush used in their song, “Middletown Dreams” from the 1985’s album Power Windows. In this world of Steampunk and Timekeepers, the main character sets out on a journey of self-discovery, beginning the first 2 songs “Caravan” and “BU2B” (Brought Up To Believe).
Both these songs were released before the album and were played on the Time Machine tour. Caravan harkens back to Rush’s past, a sense of urgency is felt right away in the band’s playing. From Neil Peart’s use of the toms and his fast paced rhythms, to Geddy Lee’s kinetic bass playing to Alex Lifeson’s reckless riff and solo, “Caravan” sets the tone of this album and we, like the main character, want to know what’s out there in his and Rush’s world.
“BU2B’s” riff is Zeppelinesque. Driving and catchy, we again are pumping our fists, singing along with the chorus. Alex’s playing on this song as well as his chordal work, is second to none. The man knows spacing.
The title track is a tour de force, powerful and churning, as we are drawn into this city of angels that the lead character travels through. The angst of the scary, big city if felt in their playing. Rush weaves the emotion of the storyline into the song. You can hear the main character gazing at the big city in awe. The guitar solo going into the break is a fantastic touch not seen in a Rush album in a long, long time and the chorus is a catchy and anthemic.
With songs like “The Anarchist” and “Carnies” we hear Rush at their most aggressive and we can visualize the main character seeing a world he didn’t know existed and its tone is set by the Rush’s playing. You almost feel that he’s traveling in a Middle Eastern country for the first time. The main character feels a little piece of him disappear in his travels. Again Alex’s solos are second to none.
Following the loss of infatuation, in “Halo Effect”, we see the young man’s fantasy of a childhood fable of a lost city and his loss of innocence with the driving bassline of “Seven Cities of Gold”. Geddy’s bassline and Alex’s riffs drives this song.
“The Wreckers” is a radio ready song with such a catchy chorus, it’s a shame that radio is dead in this age. The strings on this song work with such emotion as the main character’s ship is taken over by pirates and he is the only survivor. This song has Geddy’s best vocal, sung with such passion.
“Headlong Fight” is the new single and an ode to early Rush, with its reckless abandon in its playing. It shows the main character looking back and wondering if it was all worth it, yet he wouldn’t change a thing. A rocker, “Headlong Flight”, sounds like a perfect fit live. Neil again pushed buy producer, Nick Raskulinecz, excels in driving this song powerfully.
“BU2B2” and “Wish Them Well” settle on the main character’s emotions that were effected by his journey of self-discovery. “Wish Them Well” is in the vein of the band The Who, is another Radio friendly, catchy chorus that gives us the light and the end of the journey.
The last song and the most beautiful and melancholy is “The Garden”. This is the most adventurous Rush song since “Available Light” from the Presto album. The strings accent Alex Lifeson’s acoustic guitar and the sweet melody leads to the emotional guitar solo and end of the song where the lead character learns he belongs back where he began his journey and now, the circle is complete. This road of self-realization was essential to see that he had everything right in front of him.
This album is something that most Rush fans have been yearning for, for a long time. Even with a slight flaw in production, this album is right up there as their best album in the last 2 decades. Well, at least this fanboy thinks so.