Rush’s latest 2012 offering ‘Clockwork Angels’ isn’t just a recent creation. Oh no, the origins of the album go back to 2009.
Written by: gdmonline
ALBUM: Clockwork Angels
LABEL: Roadrunner, Anthem
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Canada
LINEUP: Geddy Lee – bass, bass pedals, vocals, synthesizers * Alex Lifeson – guitars, additional keyboards * Neil Peart – drums, percussion
Additional Musicians: David Campbell – string arrangement, conducting * Jason Sniderman – piano, additional keyboards
TRACK LISTING: 01 Caravan * 02 BU2B * 03 Clockwork Angels * 04 The Anarchist * 05 Carnies * 06 Halo Effect * 07 Seven Cities Of Gold * 08 The Wreckers * 09 Headlong Flight * 10 BU2B2 * 11 Wish Them Well * 12 The Garden
WEBLINKS: Site Link’
Undoubtedly there are a few legacy Rush supporters here at GDM. I’ll count myself as one of them. In recent years though, I’ve found it harder to keep pace with Rush’s material; still preferring to lock into their 70’s and 80’s albums more than most. 2007’s ‘Snakes And Arrows’ was our most review from these Canadian legends, and it received a very good appraisal at the time.
Rush’s latest 2012 offering ‘Clockwork Angels’ isn’t just a recent creation. Oh no, the origins of the album go back to 2009, and some of the earlier written tracks were played in advance on their ‘Time Machine’ live tour during the summer of 2010. With a scheduled release of 2011, ‘Clockwork Angels’ was shifted back by a year, as Rush wanted to continue touring (a.k.a ‘make more money’), and also needed time to complete tracks for the rest of the album.
Eventually, the album would be released globally throughout June 2012. As always, an interesting storyline pervades the album, as quoted by science fiction novelist Kevin J. Anderson. He was recruited by the band to create a storybook for the album:
‘In a young man’s quest to follow his dreams, he is caught between the grandiose forces of order and chaos. He travels across a lavish and colourful world of steampunk and alchemy, with lost cities, pirates, anarchists, exotic carnivals, and a rigid Watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life.’
Longtime Canadian cover-art specialist Hugh Syme again provided the visual aspect for ‘Clockwork Angels’ with alchemical symbols marking the clock pointers rather than numbers.
So what of the songs? Like most Rush albums, a certain degree of listening time is required to digest the material, and I’ll also suggest a high-quality listening environment too. Underpowered and puny 128 kbps mp3’s just won’t do.
Producer Nick Raskulinecz who worked with the trio on the ‘Snakes And Arrows’ sessions returns, and brings out the best in the band, keeping things precise, clean and upfront. Those aforementioned earlier written tracks appear at the head of the CD ‘Caravan’ and ‘BU2B’ (‘Brought Up To Believe’) are these two.
‘Caravan’ should best be imagined with the ‘Clockwork Angels’ storybook (which incidentally has been released as a 300+ page book on Amazon). I won’t go into details within this review, but here’s a good link covering both the lyrics and the story. click here..’
The title track ‘Clockwork Angels’ is the longest track on the CD at 7mins 31secs and possibly the most adventurous too. You can be assured that the song undulates through several sequences, time changes and breakpoints. The storybook talks of a character called The Watchmaker, who rules the mythical world with clockwork like precision. If you hang in there for the entire runtime, I’m sure you’ll appreciate this one for what it’s worth.
‘The Anarchist’ is drama filled, and combines Rush’s sense of angst with some orchestral elements (strings). Not that the song is symphonic rock in any way, but it does add colour to the overall effect.
‘Carnies’ is an interesting track in terms of the ‘Clockwork Angels’ story. The title is in reference to a carnival (‘Spinning lights and faces, Demon music and gypsy queens..’) and sees our protagonist right in the thick of the action. An uptempo track with a near urgent delivery keeps the vibe at a constant level of tension. I love the lush soundscape heard on ‘Halo Effect’. The balladry is something I haven’t heard from these guys for aeons. This is definitely one for lovers of their late 70’s era.
If we wind back the clock (pun intended), ‘Seven Cities Of Gold’ retraces steps of Rush’s past. The involved guitar riffs from Lifeson have that timeless Rush quality about them, easily identifiable from any era, the song itself is pretty melodic, less progressive and more hard rock oriented. Definitely a ‘go-to’ track on the CD.
You’d be surprised upon first listening to ‘The Wreckers’. The jangly guitar making it seem like a power-pop number from the early 80’s. Its lightweight feel is a welcome change to the rest of the material. Sort of like ‘The Madrigal’ or ‘Closer To The Heart’ from ‘A Farewell To Kings’.
‘Headlong Flight’ was the first track lifted as a single off the CD upon release. You would think the decision to release tracks as singles are based upon its appeal to radio and listening audiences. I believe that trend has definitely changed over the years as reliance on hit singles has all but disappeared for hard rock acts. I like this one because of its racy disposition and is aptly named I think. Whether it’s a track worthy of a single, only Rush would know.
‘BU2B2’ is a short 1min 27sec reprise of ‘BU2B’, which is essentially Geddy singing over the top of some violin work. Neil Peart drives the metronome for ‘Wish Them Well’, again highly melodic, and it’s good to hear that aspect of Rush’s music again, as many of their later releases have been clinical to the point of being devoid of feel and warmth.
‘The Garden’ is a 7 minute epic closing the album. Acoustic guitar provides the beginning sequence with warmth and melody and it’s easy to get caught up in the fabric of the song. Lifeson adds some electric excitement toward the end, with solos that add the sonic element. Possibly a Rush classic in years to come? We’ll see.
As mentioned, the CD was released back in June 2012, and I didn’t want to review it prematurely because a CD of this quality needs time to be assessed properly. I’d go as far to say that this is the best Rush album for many a year. One could be forgiven for listening to 2002’s ‘Vapor Trails’ which has nothing on this.
‘Snakes And Arrows’ was good, but ‘Clockwork Angels’ is a much more solid body of work with some key ingredients that have been missing. Noticeably the inclusion of 70’s musical elements, melodic warmth, a contrast between hard driving fare and softer more introspective moments that haven’t been heard for some time (well in my listening experiences anyway).
It may well have been three years in the making, but I am reassured that the final output was well worth the wait. Apparently Classic Rock Magazine gave the album a 9/10 review, and called it Rush’s best release in 30 years, and they wouldn’t be too far off the mark. Rush fans need no introduction.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)