When describing progressive rock legends RUSH, there are certain reactions from fans and music reviewers that are usually given; incredible musicianship, drum solos, high-pitched vocals, eerily long epics and yes, a bit of quirkiness.
It goes without saying that 2010 and 2011 are going to be on the biggest years in Rush’s history. Not only is the Canadian trio touring across North and South America, their popularity is sky rocketing to new found heights now in the 36th year of their existence. Recently, the long awaited documentary, Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage directed by Sam Dunn/Scott McFayden was released to an enthusiastic response, the band released two new songs in June; “Caravan” and “Brought up to Believe”, formerly called “BU2B.”
Although their 19th studio album titled “Clockwork Angels,” produced again by Nick Raskulinecz (Snakes & Arrows), remains a work in progress for a release next year, fans were treated by the release of the two aforementioned songs in support of their “Time Machine Tour.” Bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson stated they decided to release the songs prior to the album in their own attempt to break away from the standard paradigm in which they always followed (Eg: write songs, record album, release album, tour).
The music industry is changing, in a state of flux and uncertainty. While the album format is still artistically and stylistically relevant to musicians and passionate music lovers, the industry is not paying attention as much to this standard.
When listening to the new tracks, it is evident that the songs are not too far of a departure from many of their signature qualities; although providing subtle adjustments and “prog-ism” that makes them relevant, catchy and powerful. “Caravan” starts out with a spacey-psychedelic theatrical intro, slowly descending into the main riff. The track provides introspective lyrics with some interesting words from drummer/lyricist Neil Peart: “In a world where I feel so small, I can’t stop thinking big.”
“Caravan” is unique in that is a six minute steamroller, yet has a semblance of catchy- groovy choruses and cordial undertones. The best part of the song is the two minute instrumental section which demonstrates the band remains capable of making any modern progressive band cry with shifting odd-tempos, dazzling rhythm section work and tasteful guitar solos. For musicians, it is truly inspirational that these guys well into their 50’s remain on top of their games and continue to push themselves to be better musicians with each album and tour.
“BU2B” begins by sounding much darker then much of what Rush has released in recent years. It kicks in with a heavy modern Lifeson riff and maintains a heavy driving force throughout. While “Caravan” may be the jaw dropper of these two songs, BU2B provides plenty to satisfy with several peaks and valleys, Lee’s synthesizers and Peart’s bombastic grooves. (An interesting note: BU2B continues with the band’s trend of delving into organized religion, politics and social conformity as themes in the music) Both songs feature outstanding production by Raskulinecz and one can notice he provides a modern perspective on structures and arrangements.
After listening to “Caravan” and “BU2B”, how can Rush go wrong? A new documentary, a new tour, a new iPhone application and a pair of new songs that will surely keep us interested until the release of “Clockwork Angels.” Rush continues to prove that they are one of the most under-rated and hardest working bands of all time.