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Customer Review

73 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh, vital and captivating, 21 Jun. 2012
This review is from: Clockwork Angels (Audio CD)
Hard to believe how fresh these guys are able to sound 38 years after their first album.
I had not great expectations about this one. Based on the two previous studio albums, I just awaited another "Rush by numbers" work. I mean: powerful, hard hitting and masterfully executed, but not especially inspired.. I liked Snakes and Arrows a bit more than Vapor Trails, but somehow the spirit of old Rush' golden era (let's say the one that flew over A Farewell to Kings, Hemispheres, Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures) seemed to be forever gone.

A digression here : Vapor Trails, especially, is a quite tiresome album to me. It stays a bit to much in the low frequency sonic spectre: too much bass guitar, to much bass drum, and too much guitar power chords, not properly equilibrated by other sonic and musical ingredients, which makes it a hard task to listen to it, from beginning to end, without taking a break. Snakes and Arrows, while walking the same sonic territory as V.T., was more varied and dynamic, and I found it more enjoyable. Not bad albums to my taste, but not exciting enough.

Clockwork Angels, however, is gifted with a different nature. It is tremendously fresh, vital and captivating, and makes me recall the best years of the band. Yes, Rush look younger than yesterday, playing with enthusiasm a set of convincing songs. Nothing to do with (like someone could fear), a tired old group. There are no fillers in this album. It is a concept album equipped with its proper organic quality. From the beginnig, the listener is propelled by an exciting, dynamic music, feeling the need to know how the story goes.

Theme:
As I said it is a concept album, based on a sci-fi story. There is a "perfectly organized" world where people are instilled to not to think by themselves and to be content with their destiny ( Planet Earth, year whatever, I guess) . The album tells the adventures and reflections of an inconformist young man during his quest for truth.

Sound:
Compared to previous albums, I find that Neil Peart's drums playing is a bit more restrained, and that the drums are not so loud in the mix . Just a matter of nuances; don't worry, Neil Peart is still there and you can hear and enjoy his playing .
Geddy Lee's voice is in good form, and maturity has made him gain expresiveness. The bass sounds hugely powerful but very defined and clear too.
Lifeson `s guitar makes also a quite restrained job (at least not prodigal in solos), but the instrument has a killer full tone, and the playing is very expressive and piercing when strictly necessary.
The whole album sounds clear and well defined even at a low volume (a quality that was not shared by Vapor Trails and Snakes and Arrows).

The songs:

1. Caravan - Is Rush in pure and best form. Intricate rhythms, guitar riffs, catchy chorus (" I can't stop thinking big ") A
statement of purposes. It ends with a beautiful reflective passage a la Pink Floyd, where acoustic and electric guitar
with tremolo effect take command.
2. Bu2B - Another classic Rush tour the force rocker propelled by mighty drums. "We were taught that we lived in the best of
all possible worlds".
3. Clockwork angels - Rush trademark intricate, fierce ternary tempo. Wonderful guitar solo.
The pedlar 1 - Short instrumental integrated at the end of Clockwork angels. Old (and all) time Rush.
4. The anarchist - Another powerful rocker, where the rebel anarchist character is introduced. Strings and guitar solo with
a northern africa/arab flavour (a la Page&Plant).
5. Carnies - The rock goes on. The young man's fate changes since his encounter with the anarchist.
6. Halo effect - A nice ballad about following false illusions. Beautifuly sung by Lee. Short enough (3:14) so the
trepidant pace of the album is not left for too long.
7. Seven cities of gold - Another uptempo heavy rocker with catchy chorus. High pitched Lee's vocals recalling older works.
8. The wreckers - It begins with an openly pop a la Byrds intro, rapidly changing into a minor key melody. This could be a
rather "radio friendly"song, despite its serious, sour matter: "All I know is that sometimes the truth is
contrary/everything in life you thought you knew". All along the song there is a constant contrast between the a-la Byrds
and dramatic character passages, so the result is melodically varied and appealing.
9. Headlong Flight - A killer epic, vaguely reminiscent of Iron Maiden. Our hero declares he would not change anything he did
("I learned to fight, to love, to feel")
10. Bu2B2 - Short mature bittersweet reflections by Lee & strings only.
11. Wish them well - This is the most pop oriented song in the album, almost in a Paul McCartney's style (no joke) , except
for another piercing solo by Lifeson. It makes sense considering the positive message: the benefit of not keeping anger
and grudges in our hearts
12. The garden - Masterful slow tempo with another positive, mature declaration of principles: "The measure of a life is a
measure of love and respect / ... / A garden to nurture and protect". Strings intro, acoustic guitars, and, from the
4:30, a beautiful, emotive crescendo that soars high for a perfect album's end.

Highly recommended.
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 22 Jun 2012 07:33:43 BDT
Mr Blackwell says:
excellent review.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Jun 2012 10:22:35 BDT
Thank you, Mr Blackwell. I only try to put in words what I honestly think (though I fear that, mistakes apart, my english surely looks a bit too much "latin", but ...). By the way, I have read several of your reviews and I found them very useful, well argued and informative. Thank you for your time (writing and reading).

Posted on 25 Jun 2012 20:27:10 BDT
Last edited by the author on 26 Jun 2012 19:57:22 BDT
G. Young says:
First class reading, a rather excellent piece of writing. I like your comments regarding Vapor Trails; it took me a long time to appreciate that one, it can be a heavy listen but it came out of a very dark place. It is really best listened to in sections, I always like to read different views on that album as it seems everyone has something to say about it.

Neil's drumming has gone (slightly) more into the background on this album, (this is not a complaint I should add) more content now as a solid time keeper without the pyrotechnics of say compositions such as Xanadu or The Camera Eye, you can hear Neil's journey from album to album and this one seems to find him in a new territory and, as always, it is interesting and fresh. If I want the golden age of Rush then I can listen to 2112, A Farewell To Kings, Hemispheres, Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures or Signals, Grace Under Pressure and Power Windows for that matter but I am just so very grateful that they are still recording exciting, intelligent rock music today. They just inhabit a different territory now.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Jun 2012 09:17:37 BDT
Thanks for reading. I agree with your comments about Rush and their music.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Jun 2012 11:42:34 BDT
K. Miles says:
Great review. Enjoyed it. I agree with your rating too. Fabulous album and I don't ever skip a track (which isn't rare in most Rush albums, though the more recent ones I do tend to skip the odd song).

Posted on 10 Jul 2012 14:55:02 BDT
Mr. says:
Thanks for your honesty about Vapour Trails and Snakes & Arrows - that really helped me take your comments about the new album seriously - especially as you go on to praise Clockwork Angels for containing all the things that I had thought the previous two albums so obviously lacked:

You manage to express your misgivings about those albums in a polite and perceptive manner that is reassuring for a long-time Rush fan like me who nonetheless thought they had "lost it" and degenerated into a copy and paste wall-of-sound on the Apple Mac approach to composition rather than the carefully crafted 'polyphonic rock' of the late 70s and early 80s.

As far as I'm concerned, this was the last chance for Rush to get their act together again as least as composers of new music and I was bracing myself for a load of die-hard fan reviews in denial about the emperor not having any clothes any more.

I'm delighted to have been proven wrong on both counts!

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Jul 2012 03:59:00 BDT
RegF says:
It truly IS one of their best in more than a decade. EXCELLENT , review!!!

What a climax , ending with the song , The Garden. Just mind blowing.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Apr 2013 10:19:35 BDT
Phil L. says:
What an informative review Adrian....Thanks.
Just about to clean the dust off the 'plastic' and give this one a whirl.
Cheers.
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