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Rated: E · Column · Contest Entry · #2071095
...a brief review of Clockwork Angels by Rush
(Contest Entry: The Writer's Cramp. 845 words)


Fresh off the success of the Time Machine tour, Rush returns with their twentieth studio album. Clockwork Angels with be released June 12, 2012 by Anthem Records in the United States. The boys in the band played two tracks from the album during the Time Machine tour. Caravan and BU2B were instant classics and worked well live. The two tracks, remixed and remastered, now open the complete album. If you are a Rush fan, you know that drummer Neil Peart writes the lyrics for Rush. You should also know that Neil, in addition to being one of the greatest drummers in the history of rock, is an avid fan of science fiction. Neil’s lyrics for Clockwork Angels tells a complete story of a young man, in a dystopian future, who dreams of making it big in a steampunk universe. The story is compelling—so much so that author Kevin J. Anderson is collaborating with Peart to pen a novel to flesh out the Clockwork story. That being the case, this review will focus on the songs themselves.

Caravan starts out with a creepy, descending three note line, but quickly gets heavy when the entire band enters. This track is a showcase for how tight the power trio is. The riffs are complex, yet the sync between drums, bass, and guitar is otherworldly. As the Caravan thunders onward, we feel we are on our way to experiencing a new world. Perhaps, even, a new life.

BU2B, or “Brought Up To Believe” was the second track previewed on the last tour and, man, does this track rock! Geddy Lee is convincing as he explains the world view of a young man, stepping out for the first time, into a wider world. The opening riff, mirrored from bass to guitar, adds enough funk to an otherwise standard rock anthem to make this song stand out among its peers.

Clockwork Angels, the title track, is simply beautiful. Guitarist Alex Lifeson is a master of rapid alternate picking and the chords he selects to open the song are simultaneously brilliant and romantic. Geddy sings, “clockwork angels, spread their arms and sing, synchronized and graceful, they move like living things” above an accompaniment of distant guitars, heavy, low drumming, and Lifeson’s soaring guitar lines.

The Anarchist introduces the “villain” of the piece. I won’t spoil you on the story here, but I will tell you the bass line in the chorus is especially vibrant, and that is saying a lot when you are speaking of Geddy Lee, the master of the bass guitar.

Carnies, with playful pinch harmonics, has the feel of a carnival visit to another planet. The Canadian trio is bringing compelling rock to this album.

Halo Effect proves that Rush can play lush, emotive music and makes us yearn for a full album of new Rush instrumentals. Halo Effect is not an instrumental. The lyrics are reflective and regretful, but the track would certainly work without a single word being sung.

Seven Cities of Gold has a hook that sounds like Led Zeppelin on a good day. It is fun, funky, and flat-out rocks your socks off. I paid little attention to the lyrics, because I was having too much fun grooving.

The Wreckers will likely find a home on radio. It is a pleasant, accessible tale of caution with a fun Beatle-esqe quality that is unusual in the Rush discography.

Headlong Flight is, as the title says, certainly a trip! From the bouncy bass guitar intro, to the heavy power-chord guitar entrance to the energized drumming of Neil Peart this song is the one to play to friends who think of Rush as “the Tom Sawyer guys”. I found myself headbanging and jumping up and down and making my ears ring as I blasted this track out of my speakers. Do not miss the fun of this song!

BU2B2 is a short transition piece to shift from the heavy energetic feeling of Headlong to Wish Them Well, a song that advices you not to stress out over the things people do—just let them go, and wish them well.

The Garden, the closing track, is the most intimate and hauntingly beautiful music on the album. The vibrating strings and high-up-the-neck bass guitar picking that open the track draw us into a sonic world that is stunning in its simple, sincere beauty. The lyrics hint at a world in which the Watchmaker makes all things an infinite jest. Peart’s lyrics contend that “the measure of a life is a measure of love and respect”. I cannot disagree.

Rush have earned and maintained my love and respect since the first time I heard Working Man in 1974. This album, one of the finest concept albums of the decade, will earn the band well-deserved appreciation from all who listen. Do yourself a favor. Close your web browser. Grab the lyrics and some headphones and spend the next hour with the Clockwork Angels. This is more than music—it is art. Synchronized and graceful, Clockwork Angels spread their arms and sing!

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