Review: Rush "Clockwork Angels"

Submitted Sat, 06/16/2012 - 10:42am by Anonymous (not verified)

By Dave White, about.com

Who ever heard of a progressive rock band that hasn't recorded a concept album? You have. Their name is Rush, and although they were one of the first, and still are one of the best and one of the most successful prog rock bands, their 20th studio album, Clockwork Angels is their first concept album.

Believe it. Even by prog standards, Rush have traditionally been studiously immune to being identified with any single style or theme, or anything hinting of conventional. So what if this is their first concept album? It's great to see that after all these years, they still have one in them, and a very good one at that.

Being Rush means never being IN a rush

Alexander Zivojinovich (aka Alex Lifeson), Gary Weinrib (aka Geddy Lee), and John Rutsey came together in the fall of 1968. Their first album was released in March 1974. Shortly thereafter, Rutsey (who died in 2008) left the band for health reasons, replaced by Neil Peart, creating the lineup that still exists today.

Progressive rock bands have often toiled in relative obscurity, making memorable music that is heard by only a relatively small number of people. No so Rush. More than 40-million copies of their albums have been sold since that first one, Rush was released in 1974. They have won eight Juno awards (Canada's version of the Grammy Awards) and received four Grammy nominations. The have been the subject of at least a dozen books, four of them written by Peart.

To be sure, many of Rush's songs have told stories (usually quite long ones) but this is their first full blown concept album. Lyricist Peart's stories have often been grounded in fantasy and science fiction, approached from a philosophical angle. This album is no exception.

Future story

The futuristic world of Clockwork Angels(described in the lyrics of the closing song, "The Garden" as "one of many possible worlds") is ruled by a not-so-nice watchmaker and is a place of pirates and lost cities, alchemy and anarchy.

Rush have always been distinguished by their flawless (even in live concert) execution of often complex compositions. Such is the case here, but there are also touches that border on improv -- a little extra something during a guitar solo or bass line or drum riff.

While some artists might use a milestone like a 20th album to engage in some introspection and reflection on the past, this album never looks back.

The band started work on the album three years ago, and recorded a good bit of it in 2010, the year that the first to songs on the album, "Caravan" and "BU2B" were released as singles. After taking time out for their 2010-11 tour, they finished recording in late 2011.

Like chapters in a book, the track list

Rush 2004 tour publicity photoPhoto by Andrew McNaughton courtesy Universal Music Group

(Speaking of books, this album is being made into one. Clockwork Angels: The Novel, based on Peart's lyrics, written by Kevin J. Anderson, is to be released in September.)

1. "Caravan"
2. "BU2B"
3. "Clockwork Angels"
4. "The Anarchist"
5. "The Carnies"
6. "Halo Effect"
7. "Seven Cities of Gold"
8. "The Wrecker"
9. "Headlong Flight"
10. "BU2B2"
11. "Wish Them Well"
12. "The Garden"

(Lest you feel cheated by the presence of "only" 12 tracks, be advised that most of the tracks are in the five-to-seven+ minute range.)

If you're a hardcore Rush fan, you pre-ordered or downloaded the album at the first opportunity. If you're more like me, someone who enjoys prog rock but doesn't necessarily like one band more than the others, I can summarize my review pretty simply. It isn't often that I hear an album for the first time and can't wait for the last track to end so I can listen to the whole thing again. But this is one of those albums.

Clockwork Angels is available in CD, LP and MP3 formats. You will definitely need the liner notes (or digital booklet that comes with the MP3) in order to fully understand the story line.