Rush – Clockwork Angels
***** Five Stars out of Five
Well, they did it again.
Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart have some how managed to catch lightning in a bottle again with what can only be called a near perfect record. Most bands are lucky to have one hit single in their life and or one hit record. Rush have never been the “hit” making machine when it came to singles so they let their music do the talking on entire records instead.
What Rush accomplishes with “Clockwork Angels” is almost dare I say, “miraculous”?
After an extremely successful and lucrative run of shows on their “Time Machine Tour” of 2010-2011 which featured two premiere tracks from the then yet to be released Angels, “Caravan” and “BU2B” start the album off with a pure musical rage that fans have literally been salivating for two years waiting to hear what kind of genius were the boys from the great white north up to next?
The band decided to re-mix “Caravan” and add a fresh new spacey intro to BU2B and remix it to go along with the tempo to its sister segue song later on in the record “BU2B2”. Rush obviously made the wise choice to freshen the tracks up a bit to give the album the new car smell a listener wants when opening their new album on release day. Once the familiar chorus of “BU2B” ends it is then the listener is taken on a journey with sounds of middle eastern tinged chanting and a sort of rock prayer that brings us to Rush Mach IV.
Rush Mach IV is the next chapter and phase of Rush as they head into their fourth decade of existence and show no signs of sounding like it. The title track delivers a performance from Peart and Lifeson that could be described as a mirror to Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland except heavier and more modern, but make no mistake about it…you can still hear The Police’s influence on Rush all of these years later after the band used to dive heavy into The Police pool with 1982’s “Signals” and 1984’s “Grace Under Pressure” albums sounding like more advanced records than The Police could ever dream of writing.
With tracks like “The Anarchist” and “Carnies”, the listener is now becoming more aware that “Clockwork Angels” is going to be a showpiece for Lifeson and Peart this time out as both display chops that fans have been waiting 20 years to hear. Someone along the way gave the members of Rush some really bad advice and told them that the formula that had delivered platinum after platinum record was not the right one and they needed to play it more safe and in the pocket rather than showing off their musical talents and that is a real tragedy in the band’s history. A tragedy because so many Rush albums of the last 20 years have felt “safe”. The band just rarely let it all out and went with their natural instincts which thankfully have been recovered safely and placed on the new record.
An emotional ballad that has radio hit written on it “Halo Effect” gives Lee a moment like we have never heard before. A true love ballad that is short, simple, and sweet and pulls it off with an almost cinematic feel that has an Asia-like flashback to “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes”.
From there Rush continues the story and journey of the character of “Clockwork Angels” (which has been written into a novel to be released in September), with “Seven Cities of Gold” giving a Lee/Peart groove that provides nothing but smiles as any hardcore Rush fan will wear this song as a musical badge any day of the week to show proof that YES…Rush CAN groove and they can do it WELL. Very well.
Up next is the forthcoming single “The Wreckers” which has a chorus that will stick in the listeners brain with a kinetic buzz and a moving arrangement of strings that the band hasn’t delved into since “Nobody’s Hero” back in 1993. The current single racing up rock radio charts is up next with “Headlong Flight”. Fans had their faces blistered when the track was released two months ago and in short…were stunned that these three men who are nearing the age of 60 were getting away with this sonic assault on their musical weapons err..instruments. If at this point in the record you don’t have a clear understanding on the direction of where Rush is going with all of this then just wait. Because the tracks “Wish Them Well” and “The Garden” deliver Peart’s most inspiring lyrics since 1989’s “Presto” record which was one of his masterful lyrical achievements.
Positivity has found its way back into Rush with the dark records of “Vapor Trails” and “Snakes & Arrows” which both contained a darkness that smothered the records to death not to mention the production and mastering were dreadful. The catchy and radio friendly “Wish Them Well” and “The Garden” could be the best 1-2 punch to close a record in Rush history.
The bottom line? If you got out of Rush after the 1970s then “Clockwork Angels” welcomes you back with open arms. If you got tired of Rush after the 1980s and moved on to hair metal but still pulled out your old Rush records from time to time to relive glory years of the past? You too can welcome Rush back. Oh, and you 90s Rush fans? Yeah you know the ones I am looking at. Those fans who think records like “Roll The Bones” “Counterparts”, and “Test For Echo” were brilliant but when Rush returned in the 2000s they just didn’t suit your taste any longer? Step right up and welcome back…that band has returned too.
Rush is back. For everyone. The complaint department is closed. Go buy the record and wish them well and give thanks for 38 great years.