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Monday, February 22, 2010

The Rush Experiment: Conclusions

Posted by on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 4:09 PM


Last Friday, I announced the Rush Experiment, my attempt to explore the enigma of Canadian power-prog band, Rush: to discover what I was missing, to learn something new, and to understand what it was about their music that has kept me from being a fan. After receiving some helpful tips (both here and from friends—thanks!), I decided the best way to approach this was head-on—all 18 studio albums of original material and one covers EP from beginning to end in one weekend. As with most bands that started in the late '60s/early '70s and continued through the '80s to the present, I banked on the likelihood that Rush would follow some natural evolution to a level of creative greatness then eventually plateau and taper off. This assumption helped to better engage me in Rush’s development over time and be excited to see them grow as a band.

Having used Friday to induce a tabula rasa mind state via video games and TV (and also to acquire the 19 album discography), I set to work on Saturday at 10:30am and concluded at 11:05pm on Sunday night (with breaks, oh god, with breaks). Here is what I came up with.

The Timeline:

The Beginning — 1974 to 1977: Rush started out sounding like some watered down version of already established blues rock/heavy metal acts of the time (Blue Cheer, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath), mixed with a few original ideas. For their first three albums, one gets an idea that what Rush is going for sound-wise is somewhere between folk and fantasy hard rock with interesting rhythms—but that they were just not able to achieve it. Yet, there is a noticeable evolution taking place. Then their fourth album, 2112, comes along out of left field. All of the momentum Rush was beginning to pick up in their songwriting was flushed down the drain by this severely over-hyped record (at the conclusion of which I actually slammed my fist down on my desk and decided to go take a walk for a bit—it was that disappointing). Fortunately, the band gets right back on course by album five, A Farewell to Kings, and one gets the notion that something wonderful (even for Rush) is about to happen on a creative level.

The Golden Era — 1978 to 1982: During this period, Rush released four albums that are indeed the best in their catalog: Hemispheres, Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures and Signals. Here, the creativity is at an all time high and Rush seems fully realized as a band. Their longer songs are now more compositionally justified (rather than sounding like a bunch of lame parts tossed together) and their short/standard length songs show an amount of confidence and comfort (and, basically, RAWK!) not seen previously. More than anything, Geddy’s voice has smoothed out; having dropped some of that agitating growl he had been attacking the beginning of lyrical phrases with on previous efforts. Hemispheres was my personal favorite, but I would recommend a listen to all four of these albums.

The Dark Ages — 1984 to 1996: I will always hate the 1980s for the unforgivable things it did to a lot of otherwise decent bands, and to music in general. Sure, Rush is still displaying some of that Golden Era afterglow, but poorly chosen synth lines, drums with gated reverb, roto-toms, the active pickup sound of a Steinberger bass, and misguided leanings toward world music-ish passages pretty much permeate the Rush sound until the 1993 release of Counterparts, where the band reclaims some of its rock-centric sound. The '90s were not so great for the band, either (as they now sounded a lot like the big time alternative rock acts of the period, rather than like “Rush"), and they eventually went on a 5 year hiatus due to circumstances in Neil Peart’s life.

The Present — 2002 to current: With the exception of an 8 song covers EP, Rush’s most recent releases are packed with songs that are geared for an aged fan base: somewhat dance-y with a rock edge that might make middle-aged people feel “hip” and “with it.” Music existing in this kind of past-its-prime state can be really dreadful and depressing if one contemplates one's own future (of playing or observing music) while listening to it. All in all, the "new shit" comes off more like live show filler for the band to play in between getting to the hits of their Golden Era.

And now, I would like to address the band members:

Alex Lifeson, dude, you have some good influences and some guitar riffs Jimmy Page or Toni Iommi could probably sue you for stealing from them, but I have one question for you: What’s up with the fucking omnipresent chorus pedal? Seriously, this effect rarely sounds good. In fact, there are only two bands where chorus has ever been totally acceptable in application: The Police and The Cure. Did you see Rush listed there? No? Me either. But, you just decided to go ahead and make that god-awful sound “your thing” and leave it turned on throughout your whole career. Bad choice. It’s distracting, painful, and drove me close to having a goddamn aneurysm on many occasions during my weekend-long listening adventure. Your musicianship is decent, but I eventually hit a wall and gave up. I just kept thinking of building a time machine so I could go back to the day you bought that pedal, remove it from your effect chain and lodge it firmly in your rectal cavity. Without the chorus, your guitar work would have garnered so much more respect from me.

Neil Peart, I will never understand why people give you as much credit as they do. If the ability to mechanically keep tempo better than a metronome substantiates what it means to be an “amazing drummer,” then I am at a loss. I require personality and character from the drums, both of which you lack. There is some attention that needs to be paid to the other instruments, by YOU actually accenting their parts, instead of just hammering on a single beat with predictable, end of melodic phrase fills, all the time, every time. Boring. Look, if I need someone to show me (at all times with the snare drum) where beats 2 and 4 are in a a song, or if I want to listen to fills that are about as interesting as listening to a quint-tom player in the drum corps of a marching band, I will definitely come to you. Also, the sci-fi / fantasy / eastern philosophy / faith-based lyrics fucking suck. Like, really bad.

Geddy Geddy Geddy. You, my friend, are not the problem with your band. Even though you may be the constant butt of jokes regarding your rather iconic-hermaphroditic voice, you are still not the one to blame here. I appreciate how, as the band matured, so did your voice. It eventually gained clarity and lost some of that excited melodrama and gruff over-articulation of words that you seemed to champion in Rush’s earlier years. Your bass playing (especially when you used the Rickenbacker) and synth efforts show a high level of skill and competence as a musician. Honestly, you are the most important part of this band and should take this reality to heart. Unfortunately, you surrounded yourself with a couple of frustratingly snooze-inducing boobs, a fact I may never be able to totally forgive.


So, I didn’t come out of this a Rush fan, but nor do I feel it was a complete waste of time. It might also be good to mention that, outside of a couple late night listening reviews, this whole process was conducted with a sober mind in order to give Rush, and myself, a fair and objective chance. This was a great exercise to put myself through (Rush yoga?), as I now know exactly what albums to listen to if I ever get the urge to Rush-it-up again anytime soon. AND, I suppose I can now hold my own if anyone ever wants to get in a Rush debate with me. More than anything, I discovered that blaming the voice of Geddy Lee (as THE reason to not like Rush) to be a total cop out: don’t blame Canada’s answer to Gandalf for your dislike, blame the other two guys for their absolute and unified failure to bring anything remotely interesting to the table.

(Sorry to my friends who had to deal with me clogging up their news feeds with 19 Rush reviews over 36 hours. Thanks for putting up with that, you guys are great)


Comments (87) RSS

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redbelt 1
Overall I can respect your process here with regard to ranking Rush's albums and eras. What is unacceptable is your obvious lack of an ear for musicianship. Lifeson and Peart are absolute masters of their craft. You've obviously never played an instrument in your life. A chorus pedal on every song/album? Major listening errors like this sorely reduce your credibility as a reviewer.
Posted by redbelt on February 22, 2010 at 4:20 PM · Report this
Fnarf 2
The most notable thing about Peart as a drummer is the sheer number of pieces in his kit. He's got enough drums and cymbals and gongs and whatnot to outfit six or seven real bands. Kick, snare, high-hat, that's all anyone ever needs.
Posted by Fnarf on February 22, 2010 at 4:28 PM · Report this
laterite 3
There were a lot of clunkers on those mid-80s albums but some of Rush's best work also came out of that era. Lately I've been listening to this period of Rush more than any other. Hold Your Fire and Grace Under Pressure are two of my favorite albums ever by any group. Snakes and Arrows was very well-done and is better than Vapor Trails, T4E, and even Counterparts (at least to me).
Posted by laterite on February 22, 2010 at 4:30 PM · Report this
redbelt 4
@2, Peart is a virtuoso. He uses every single piece in his kit with style and finesse. Go back to listening to your Ramones albums.
Posted by redbelt on February 22, 2010 at 4:33 PM · Report this
"Kick, snare, high-hat, that's all anyone ever needs" is the thinking that leads to drum machines wacking away at one two-bar pattern for an entire song.

See also: "Three chords and the truth", "There's no money above the 7th fret", etc.
Posted by tiktok on February 22, 2010 at 4:35 PM · Report this
Brian Cook 6
Bryce, this was pretty great. even as a Rush fan, i can certainly appreciate what it must be like to approach their music as an outsider who's well past adolescence. there's obviously a lot of embarrassing attributes to their music, but it's those same attributes that becoming endearing over time.

i think it's also somewhat important to consider what Rush symbolized in their prime. they were this sexless, ambitious, and technically adventurous band that appealed primarily to teenage males that had some sort of grasp of basic music theory. they were a band that appealed to other dudes in bands. they were three nerdy dudes that really loved to play their instruments and didn't seem interested in playing the part of the average rock stars. that was quite an anomaly for that time period.
Posted by Brian Cook on February 22, 2010 at 4:42 PM · Report this
Mahtli69 7
Exit Stage Left !!!! ... Hello? Jesus, are you kidding me? You decided to listen to every Rush album, but neglected their live albums? Rush Experiment FAIL.
Posted by Mahtli69 on February 22, 2010 at 4:45 PM · Report this
eclexia 8
Bryce-- You got a lot of things right for such a short exposure. I'm actually surprised, because one of the rules of Rush is that nothing sounds good on first listen. It usually takes three times to decide if I like a track or not.

I listened to Rush as a kid in their "Golden Era", and turned out in college. Then last year I tuned back in again. Similar to you, I listened to every album in one weekend because I'd gotten tickets to a show.

The one thing I'm certain of is that you got the last bit wrong. Rush's last album is outstanding and holds up to any of their previous work. In fact, I was shocked. There was no way that guys so late in their careers are supposed to bang out something so amazing. It goes against the Rock narrative.
Posted by eclexia on February 22, 2010 at 4:47 PM · Report this
Fnarf 9
@4, @5, Peart is a thousand times more robotic, drum-machiney, in style than Al Jackson, Jr., to name just one. A good drummer can get rhythm out of a tabletop. I can't think of Neil Peart without being reminded of Nick Andopolis in "Freaks and Geeks".
Posted by Fnarf on February 22, 2010 at 4:47 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 10
A lot of this really has to do with what was available on the radio and in record stores at the time.

The timeline is fairly good, but you have to compare it to the music people could listen to back then. And with people in northern areas able to catch Canadian radio stations which HAD to play Rush (due to Canadian content regs, certain artists got more exposure), especially if they had a hard rock or progressive music format, this expanded the fan base.

Well, that plus Chicago (the band) totally sucked wind.
Posted by Will in Seattle on February 22, 2010 at 4:52 PM · Report this
Neil Peart is one of the best drummers of all time, and certainly in the top 5 when it comes to rock. His technical proficiency, creativity, and absolute mastery when it comes to soloing is why he is consistently named in any credible list of the best rock drummers of all time.
Posted by Ryan Sprute on February 22, 2010 at 5:01 PM · Report this
Rotten666 12
I mostly agree with your assessment of the albums, but you lost me when you knocked the abilities of Peart. The man is one of the best to ever sit behind a drum kit.

Posted by Rotten666 on February 22, 2010 at 5:01 PM · Report this
I agree - if you skipped the live albums, you screwed this up big time. This era was all about the double live album, and in their prime they released TWO!

Also, you can't argue with the guitar solo on "Free Will". C'mon, man.

Posted by g on February 22, 2010 at 5:02 PM · Report this
laterite 14
Oh, and an opportunity to see Rush live is not to be missed. They aren't embarrassing themselves or doing it out of desperation/need-to-pay-for-my English-castle (see: The Who), they are just 3 guys who go out and wreck shit up for 2 1/2 hours. And they've been doing it for 35 years. Pretty damn amazing.
Posted by laterite on February 22, 2010 at 5:03 PM · Report this
Also, I don't think Neil Peart necessarily deserves the accolades some give him, but to knock him for the number of pieces his kit had is no more apt than to knock Ringo for simplicity. They both served their respective bands very well.
Posted by g on February 22, 2010 at 5:04 PM · Report this
redbelt 16
Additionally I suggest you watch the Exit Stage... Left DVD to truly appreciate this awe inspiring band in their element.
Posted by redbelt on February 22, 2010 at 5:07 PM · Report this
@10, early Chicago kicks ass. Some of it, anyway.
Posted by g on February 22, 2010 at 5:11 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 18
Fnarf, you're just wrong about Peart's prowess as a drummer. He really is one of the few true gods of the instrument. His excess is simply part of the era Rush was part of, and a way he distinguished himself.

Full disclosure - years before I knew what punk, power-pop, ska, and all the other cool music forms were (even jazz), I was a 12-year-old Rush geek. I haven't listened to them in over 25 years now, but my sister (who, along with her friends, were the ones who turned me on to them in the first place) still sees them every time they come to town. They're a cult band if ever there was one.
Posted by Matt from Denver on February 22, 2010 at 5:27 PM · Report this
redbelt 19
@18, the biggest cult band in the world.
Posted by redbelt on February 22, 2010 at 5:33 PM · Report this
The Live Albums - I realize this flaw, but for the purpose of gaining more understanding about a band in only two days time, I believe listening to their 19 studio albums was more than called for. Looking at their discography, I saw 8 live albums listed, and I knew my personal tolerance level was just not going to allow me to get to them. Anyway, I listened and listened (and listened) and was able to reach my goal and form MY OWN opinion on Rush based on what I did choose to listen to. Apologies for omitting the "live shit" in this process, but once the circumstances are considered here (time/tolerance), I believe this to be an acceptable blemish.

Posted by Bryce Coatmaker on February 22, 2010 at 5:36 PM · Report this
Posted by paulus on February 22, 2010 at 5:37 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 22
@ 19, I think the Grateful Dead still claims that helm after 15 years of a world with no Jerry Garcia, at least if the vehemence of the cult members is the measure.

@ Bryce, your mistake was in listening to this stuff all in one go. You really need to give yourself some time to absorb this stuff to make a fair call, just as with anything else. Nonetheless, I'm impressed that, your dislike of 2112 notwithstanding, you called it right on all the records (at least through the 80s; the last record I ever heard was Hold Your Fire, and it was enough to make me give up completely and never give them another chance.)
Posted by Matt from Denver on February 22, 2010 at 5:45 PM · Report this
Bryce, I don't fault you for not listening to the live albums. You're a good man for giving a band you previously didn't like a shot like you did.

However, I'd say whether you personally LIKE Neil Peart's style or not, when every good drummer the world over cites him as one of the best of all time, you need to at least admit that maybe the problem is you just don't appreciate his skills, rather than those skills being absent.
Posted by Dave M on February 22, 2010 at 6:03 PM · Report this
Thanks! Yes, I am aware this process was far from scientific. As you noted, I did try to provide every single record with a fair listen, took notes, made a personal list of standout tracks from each, and thoroughly annoyed the shit out of my friends while I got all OCD with Rush. Weeeeeee!
Posted by Bryce Coatmaker on February 22, 2010 at 6:05 PM · Report this
When I was at Berklee College of Music you could divide drummers (and everybody really) into two categories: those who worshiped Peart as a drum god, and those who thought he was a soulless machine. I fall into the latter category. He is undoubtedly proficient and virtuosic, but so is my Alesis SR-16.

Watching him try to play jazz says it all -…

I think Lifeson is good, but is sort of like Larry LaLonde from Primus. He can't really compete with the amazing bass playing, but he isn't detracting from it either. Some of what you perceive as chorus is probably doubling, but yeah his guitar tone is pretty generic.
Posted by T-Bone on February 22, 2010 at 6:35 PM · Report this
Irena 26
What a painfully smug and clinical review. Forgive me for not congratulating you on reaching your goal of forming an opinion. I'm sure you will sound very smart next time Rush comes up in conversation.

"I did try to provide every single record with a fair listen, took notes, made a personal list of standout tracks from each..."

And you're criticizing Peart for being mechanical?

Posted by Irena on February 22, 2010 at 7:13 PM · Report this
It wasn't a chorus pedal. It was a Roland Jazz/Chorus amp. And Al didn't really start using it until "the golden period", and kinda stopped with it after GUP or so. The late-80's and early 90's he had horrible, horrible tiny, thin guitar sounds, but it wasn't due to chorus pedals.

You're right about Andy Summers and Robert Smith rocking the CE-1's, though.
Posted by YogiWan on February 22, 2010 at 7:14 PM · Report this
It wasn't a chorus pedal. It was a Roland Jazz/Chorus amp. And Al didn't really start using it until "the golden period", and kinda stopped with it after GUP or so. The late-80's and early 90's he had horrible, horrible tiny, thin guitar sounds, but it wasn't due to chorus pedals.

You're right about Andy Summers and Robert Smith rocking the CE-1's, though.
Posted by YogiWan on February 22, 2010 at 7:15 PM · Report this
It wasn't a chorus pedal. It was a Roland Jazz/Chorus amp. And Al didn't really start using it until "the golden period", and kinda stopped with it after GUP or so. The late-80's and early 90's he had horrible, horrible tiny, thin guitar sounds, but it wasn't due to chorus pedals.

You're right about Andy Summers and Robert Smith rocking the CE-1's, though.
Posted by YogiWan on February 22, 2010 at 7:15 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 30
This whole drum-god-vs-soulless-machine debate is funny because it's old. My dad, a major classical music aficionado, thinks legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz was a soulless machine because he focused so much on perfect technique. This debate has probably taken place every time such a technically proficient musician was discovered.
Posted by Matt from Denver on February 22, 2010 at 7:21 PM · Report this
I don't know that watching Peart try to play a style he doesn't play much says much about his abilities in Rush. There are probably plenty of good rock drummers who would fall apart trying to play big band jazz. Similarly, I saw Primus at a Lollapalooza years and years ago, and Les Claypool jumped onstage later with Fishbone during a funky song. Watching him try to play actual traditional funk instead of Primus-style hyper white boy funk was just as bad, if not worse. Had no idea how to play with the proper feel. I'm not sure that takes away from Primus, though...
Posted by g on February 22, 2010 at 7:22 PM · Report this
But yeah...that's pretty awful!
Posted by g on February 22, 2010 at 7:23 PM · Report this
But yeah...that's pretty awful!
Posted by g on February 22, 2010 at 7:24 PM · Report this
First woman to post to this thread wins a lifetime supply of Turtle Wax.
Posted by mint chocolate chip on February 22, 2010 at 8:05 PM · Report this
TVDinner 35
I remain wholly convinced and unmoved in my own position about Rush: they are dreadful in every way.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on February 22, 2010 at 8:10 PM · Report this
beelzebufo 36
It must be a guy thing. I've seen too many parties with all the guys in the living room air-guitaring/drumming along to Rush while the women go drink/smoke-whatever in the garage. If I have to listen to Rush, please please make it Golden Era. I am female. Now go wax my car.
Posted by beelzebufo on February 22, 2010 at 8:45 PM · Report this
redbelt 37
RUSH are and always will be the greatest band in the galaxy.
Posted by redbelt on February 22, 2010 at 8:47 PM · Report this
@byrce, i loved the whole review. and the geeky responses. you should subject yourself to another subject. well done.
Posted by johnny ranger on February 22, 2010 at 8:57 PM · Report this
eclexia 39
Forgot to mention... "Rush in Rio" DVD does a good job of capturing a live show.
Posted by eclexia on February 22, 2010 at 9:05 PM · Report this
Brian Cook 40
@39 good call. that dvd is excellent. even the crappy animated dragon with live pyrotechnics bit...
Posted by Brian Cook on February 22, 2010 at 9:45 PM · Report this
matt 41
What I enjoyed most about this post and the ensuing comments is the debate over context, and how to consider context when reviewing art. Do you place yourself in an end-to-end listenfest at age 27ish to experience the art for the first time? Do you discover a particular prog band before you discover punk and have pubes? How does that context shape our opinions? Is it possible to have an airtight interpretation of art that not only endures over time for the individual making the interpretation, but is also valid to anyone else?

Our opinions are so grounded in point of reference.

Pardon me I have a cold.
Posted by matt on February 22, 2010 at 10:54 PM · Report this
LEE. 42

too late, see 26. but I like what you have to say better.

I kinda feel guilty that I love so many 70's hard rock/prog bands, but this is one I've never gotten. I love Yes, Crimson, Zeppelin, early Genesis... fuck I even have a record by Rush-wannabe's Saga, but this fucking band dude... I commend you for your experiment and glad it was something that I didn't have to endure.

and for the record, having a chorus tone on every song is indefensible. and no, using a Roland Jazz Chorus amp during your band's peak of creativity doesn't give you a pass from the previous statement.
Posted by LEE. on February 22, 2010 at 11:31 PM · Report this
PS - Alex-Lifeson-moose-knuckle
Posted by paulus on February 22, 2010 at 11:42 PM · Report this
Tingleyfeeln 44
I was a die hard Rush fan from 13-15, and I owe my eclectic musical tastes and my few intellectual interests (yes, I did read Ayn Rand's Anthem because of them) to this band. Most of the world thinkd Moving Pictures and 2112 are their best albums, but I have to go with Signals, which had Pearts best lyrics, as well as the bands best songs. Bad 80's production techniques ruined Grace Under Pressure. The rest of their albums (OK, I haven't heard anything since Counterparts) all have their moments, but are ultimately incomplete.

Every bass player should learn Distant Early Warning, Red Barchetta, and Freewill.

My regard for Peart as a drummer hasn't stood the test of time, I prefer Bonham. He is all about his fills and rolls. Oh, and the kit he used on Rush's 30th anniversary tour was worth $10,000.

I want to know if Geddy has ever heard that pavement song where they sing about his voice.…………………
Posted by Tingleyfeeln on February 22, 2010 at 11:57 PM · Report this
@25 Your *Peart Categories* are perfect, and the Lifeson/LaLonde comparison is spot on.
@38 What are your thoughts on...Zappa?

Ok, but seriously, for all the love/hate going on here, there has yet to be a comment defending Peart's lyrics.


I am totally making my serious face right now.
Posted by Bryce Coatmaker on February 22, 2010 at 11:59 PM · Report this
Tingleyfeeln 46
While I am here, I have to brag: I briefly worked for one of Geddy's former bass tech's. He told me a funny story from the '93 tour rehearsals, which coincided with the Toronto Blue Jays run to their second World Series. Geddy, the baseball fanatic that he is (if there is a baseball game within 50 miles of where he is on an off day, he will be there), had a TV off to one side while rehearsing. He eventually had his tech realign everything so he could watch a game while playing.

Oh, and even the band jokes that most of the women in the audience are there with their boyfriends.
Posted by Tingleyfeeln on February 23, 2010 at 12:17 AM · Report this
Tingleyfeeln 47
@45, I think the only real defense of Pearts lyrics is the subject matter. I thought he was great when I was 13 because everything else I listened to at the time revolved around pussy and booze. Nothing wrong with pussy and booze, but I found his lyrics fascinating because they were so different from everyone else. I wish I had understood subdivisions when I was 13, it was pretty much about where I lived (suburbia).
Posted by Tingleyfeeln on February 23, 2010 at 12:21 AM · Report this
Posted by redbelt on February 23, 2010 at 12:32 AM · Report this
BunnyBlinks 49
My friend Brody summed it up: "Dude, Rush sucks. Actually they're great, it just sucks to listen to them."
Posted by BunnyBlinks on February 23, 2010 at 5:21 AM · Report this
BunnyBlinks 50
My friend Brody summed it up perfectly: "Dude, Rush sucks. Actually they're great, it just sucks to listen to them."
Posted by BunnyBlinks on February 23, 2010 at 5:22 AM · Report this
Here's a quarter. Go call your mom and tell her you'll never be a musicologist...
Posted by Kevin D on February 23, 2010 at 9:58 AM · Report this
Sorry, I am a diehard fan who never gets tired Of their pre90s stuff. Thanks to Sirius' Boneyard, I hear them on the radio every day. Opinions are like assholes, everybodys got one - but this isn't much of a review.
Posted by Tim g on February 23, 2010 at 10:14 AM · Report this
Stranger writers must get a dime every time they say something nasty just for the sheer shock of it.

Peart's early sci-fi and fantasy-themed lyrics indeed maybe quite trite, but such was the zeitgeist in the genre of prog rock (see Yes, PF, ELP, etc).

In contrast, a lot of the lyrics in their 80s and 90s work touch upon topics of rationalism, secularism, epistemology, and skeptical thinking (for instance, the songs 'Show Don't Tell' (Presto) , 'Roll the Bones', and 'Ghost of a Chance' (both from Roll the Bones). However, I understand the level of discourse that the Stranger aims for wouldn't allow them to dwell on these subjects. Their trendy nihilistic post-mod posing is all too consuming.

Posted by tpo on February 23, 2010 at 10:26 AM · Report this
gttim 54
All 3 members of Rush are considered incredible musicians on their instruments by their peers. You cannot get better regard than that.

Some of the reviewers conclusions really seem lacking in merit.

Talking about Lifeson ripping off Page's guitar licks? 1st, Jimmy Page, while a great guitarist, stole every decent lick he had from old blues guitarists. Second, since after the first album, Lifeson has gone in completely opposite directions from Page. Yes, he did sound like Andy Summers, because he respected him and was influenced by him. His guitar playing is a times thin, but he is not trying t be a virtuoso, but a component of a great band. He is also known for his use of electronics. He sound is very processed, but that is what he likes for what he is playing- although he has backed off that the past two albums for a more natural sound.

Peart is technically one of the best drummer on the planet. No, he may not play with the same feeling or soul of other drummers, but that is not the kind of band he plays in. It is not what is called for. This is not the Rolling Stones, these are real musicians.

Geddy Lee being a great player when he played the Rickenbacker? He has progressed so much from those days. His playing on "Snakes and Arrows" is the top of his game.

Did you call Rush's new music "Dance-y?" I remember Peart used straight 4/4 bass drumming for "New World Man," that sounded a bit dance-y according to my DJ friends, but he only did it because what he was playing up top was too complicated to do much else. "Dance-y?"

Vapor trails was kind of grunge-y. "Snakes and Arrows" was just pure rock and roll- and maybe one of their best albums in their career.

Calling 2112 a over-hyped record? Seriously?

If you actually like rock and roll, I suggest you pick up their live albums. Start with the most recent, listen to it a few times over a week, and then work back. While I disagree with your conclusions, I more heartily condemn your method. Not a good way to get into any band. I recently decided to buy all of Jethro Tull from start to finish- actually started with the 2nd and went from there. I buy 2 at a time- already own some live and Best of cds- and listen to them for a few weeks. Then after I have absorbed them, I buy 2 more. I think this works much better. If I did one listening at a time for all the cds, I would miss some very good stuff. For instance "Minstrel in the Gallery" and "Passion Play" really do not grab you the 1st time through. After a number of listenings, one can really appreciate what they are doing.
Posted by gttim on February 23, 2010 at 10:32 AM · Report this
gttim 55
Oh, I will give you "The Dark Ages." I even kind of drifted away, and do not often listen to a few of those CDs. And some of the lyrics are just painful. "It's my turn to drive....." Some of the instrumentals from that time, and some of the songs, are really good, however.
Posted by gttim on February 23, 2010 at 10:35 AM · Report this
Good catch about Neil being the weak spot of the band. Great technique, but don't you ever get bored of listening to so many notes? Yes, I do. And 90% of his lyrics are bad, although I do like a few, particularly from "Grace Under Pressure." I always thought his lyrics wouldn't sound so geeky if they were sung by somebody else--Geddy tends to over-enunciate and accentuate in a weird way.

Here's what I like: Rush doesn't sound like anybody else. Love 'em or hate 'em, they're their own thing and inimitable. I mean, they have influences, sure, but all of those influences combined in a unique way. And this is why they still sell out shows.
Posted by Bassdropper on February 23, 2010 at 10:35 AM · Report this
By-Tor and the Snow Dog is THE BEST song ever! It's VICTORIOUS!
Posted by erike on February 23, 2010 at 10:45 AM · Report this
Ok Ok Ok. Seems like you require some clarification from me on some topics here, and while I have a spare moment at my job (also of note: I am not a "reviewer" nor am i "stranger staff") I thought I would address your lengthy comment.

Review - This was, by all means, not a review. It was a self-conducted (not even assigned by the Stranger) listening experiment (see? it says *Experiment* in the subject line at the very top). No more, no less.

Lifeson - Yes, I definitely heard some Page/Iommi influences -- mainly during that 1974-1977 era. I don't think having influences is a bad thing and, as I said, Rush seemed to be feeling out their own sound during this period. Just for fun, check out the opening riff on "Working Man" and then compare it to the riff on Black Sabbath's "Lord of this World".

Rickenbacker - I personally prefer passive electronics and the chunky, gritty, woody sound of a Rick (and the bright/mid-range sound of a Fender Jazz Bass - also in Geddy's arsenal) to the sound created by active pickups on basses. Basically, the difference here is the sound created by the body (wood) of the bass -vs- the sound generated by battery powered pickups with their own EQ. It's a "sound" thing, not a "skill" thing.

Dance-y - The reference was to the generic worldbeat-sounding passages that Rush incorporated into their music during the '80s and kept with through their current material. To me, that stuff sounds sort of, well, dance-y.

2112 - Look, I like a lot of classic prog bands and hang out with a lot of music dorks. Consequently, 2112 has always been recommended to me for as long as I can remember. I was actually looking forward to finally just sitting down with it, to bask in all of the glory that had been built up over the years. Unfortunately, 2112 just didn't deliver, as I found myself already losing interest during Lifeson's tuning solo at the 7min mark of the titular track.

Method - Never said it was perfect, but it did serve its purpose.

Ok, I think that is about everything.
Posted by Bryce Coatmaker on February 23, 2010 at 12:53 PM · Report this
redbelt 59
One thing that has gone unmentioned is the importance of Terry Brown's production work on every RUSH album through Signals. As much as I love GUP and a handful of later albums nothing compares to the music that Brown (arguably the 4th member of the band in the studio) had a hand in (of note, Geddy stopped using the Rick after Signals). On the other hand one of the things I most admire about RUSH is their willingness to follow their own muse as a band. The Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame continues to bring shame on itself for not inducting these guys.
Posted by redbelt on February 23, 2010 at 1:17 PM · Report this

If you take on Zappa next I'd like to see your list of recurring themes and musical phrases throughout the process.

Also, you're going to have to listen to 80 albums, including many double-CDs, or 60 if you exclude the posthumous material. Freak Out! through The Yellow Shark oughta do it.

I'd actually like to do it simultaneously with you and compare notes.
Posted by seman on February 23, 2010 at 1:46 PM · Report this
@g - I agree it's not entirely fair to judge a rock drummer when he's playing jazz, but to me anyone with an ounce of feel should be able to swing better than that. He's as quantized as a human can possibly be. Also, why is he even trying? He should have the sense to know he's terrible at it.
Posted by T-Bone on February 23, 2010 at 3:58 PM · Report this
Posted by andrv on February 23, 2010 at 4:34 PM · Report this
gttim 63
Actually, you said his bass playing was better on the Rick, not that the sound was better.

Active pick-ups? Geddy uses passive. He might have had active on the Steinberger and possibly the Wal for the brief time he played them, but they were pretty synth heavy during that time. He uses Fender Jazz for almost everything since 1992 because it has a bigger bottom, not because of a "bright/mid-range sound." Most people find the Ric to be better at high end, not the bottom. It is known to be a bit trebly.

Yeah, I realize it was just an experiment. However, if you are going to do something, reach conclusions and then write about it.....
Posted by gttim on February 23, 2010 at 5:54 PM · Report this
@25, you are PATHETIC! YOU aren't making a living playing drums, being a legend or having anyone care about YOUR "music" at all. JEALOUS MUCH? And throw away your insipid drum machine loser. The day a drum machine is 'virtuostic' is the day this blogging idiot Bryce, writes something intelligent and interesting.

Bryce, can't think of anything intelligent to write so you have to use curse words eh? SAYS SO MUCH ABOUT YOU AS A WRITER DOESN'T IT? Thankfully, my printer is nearby as I have just ran out of toilet paper. Your words on a printed page will definitely suffice. (and you slam Peart for his writing?) People who live in glass houses.........

Rolling Stone magazine just called: they're looking for a CLUELESS, IDIOTIC WRITER, (doesn't have to know anything about music) you're the perfect candidate go apply!
Posted by BRYCE THE BLOGGING IDOIT on February 24, 2010 at 7:45 AM · Report this
As long time Rush fan, from my teens until now which is just touching on 50, I can appreciate the reviews of the catalog of albums by Rush. I too feel there best work was from A Farewell To Kings up to Signals. But throughout thier catalog are fantastic songs before and after the "78-82" era you speak of. I'm sorry you had to sit through the horrible recording of Vapor Trails, but this is probably my favortite release by the band over the past 15 years! After a 5 year hiatus, The band slams you in the face with the opening track of One Little Victory. To hear how excellent the music is, just listen to the Remix version of OLV off the Retropective 3 release.

What I don't agree with is your assesment of the musicianship of the band memebers. Obviously you didn't listen too carefully to Pearts drum work on songs like YYZ, La Villa Strangiato, The Camera Eye, just to name a few. Since when did "CHARACTER" have anything to do with playing the drums? How do you judge a drummers ability based on "CHARACTER"???? I mean Steve Gadd has no emotion behind the kit, but he'll groove your butt off, Bill Bruford is as stoic as can be behind the kit. "Personality" Well there are a lot of drummers with "Personality" that suck, can you say Rikky Rocket, umm Dare I say Lars Ulrich, who is the weakest link in Metallica. I bet you think Meg White is good because she has "Character & Personality"

As for Alex Lifeson, obviously you've never played guitar, because if you did, you'd realize the incredible sounds that Alex makes are coming from his totally unconvnetional Chord forms and style. Some might call his soloing style weird, because its so unconventional, but those in the know appreciate his spacing and ever so slight nuances that give his guitar sound a very unique touch. Often called one of the more Underated guitarists in Rock, Alex Lifeson is more than a Chorus Pedal, just listen to his solo on Freewill!!!

As for Geddy, you give him credit, but your comments don't reflect any idea of how good a bass player he is. Often seen as one of the best in Rock on the level of John Entiwhstle and Chris Squire, Geddy Lee is one of the best bass players in Rock I have ever heard.

Just my own critgue of your writing style. You would be great as a writer for Rolling Stone Magazine. Where you could jump on the band wagon and tout the excellence of bands like REM, The White Stripes and name Guitar Heros like John Mayer. Good luck!
Posted by drmrsdad on February 24, 2010 at 10:40 AM · Report this
I enjoy Rush a lot as a band. Even though when I first became a fan of the band I liked their "Golden Era" stuff the most, recently I find myself picking up Presto, Grace Under Pressure, and Vapor Trails more and more. It took a little while I suppose, for the musicality of those albums to seep in. I now never give a band just one listen before I make an assessment. I play an album over and over until I can try and see the artistic outlook that the musician had when it was written. I find myself liking more and more different types of music and different artists this way. I just figure that if something sounds proggy, or metal, or bubblegum-y, or just plain weird, that was the artist's intention for the sound. I'm not going to disagree with an artist's inention for anything just because it doesn't fit my intention. Some go for originality, and some go for technicality. In fact, a lot of your critiques for the band are big reasons why I enjoy them. I can really appreciate Neil for his ability to be technically perfect, and I really like Geddy for his more original and stylish approach to the bass. I like Alex because he overlays and fills in the spots of the music that are missing just that extra bit of sound. His soloing also takes a unique approach to the rest of the surrounding music. Some people enjoy certain styles, and some people dislike them. Bryce, maybe Rush just doesn't fit your style. I mean, I would give them a bit more of an in depth listen if I were you, and not try to power through everything at once. Maybe just focus on the songs that stand out to you more at first and then start seeping into the things you can't exactly grasp. I mean, I do appreciate the fact that you tried to go for an unbiased approach. It is, in fact, a lot to listen through. As much as I love Rush, I don't know if I could sit through their entire discography at once lol. Anyways, to each their own. Oh yeah, and I am a girl, since that seems to matter to people here.... I'll admit it. I love Rush.
Posted by imprint_18 on February 24, 2010 at 3:01 PM · Report this
merry 67
@ 8 - Your comment "one of the rules of Rush is that nothing sounds good on first listen. It usually takes three times to decide if I like a track or not" is not only absolutely correct, but also totally put me in mind of the Meat Puppets! When I was first starting to listen to those guys, I could only take a song or two at a time -- I was intrigued, so kept going back to the music, but it took a while before I could call myself a fan!!

@ 41 - Excellent point! Context has to have a bearing, even if it's rarely recognized. I'm gonna mull that one over.. Thanks for posting that!

Bryce, thank you for this Experiment. Even though I do like Rush, you are still a brave, brave man for setting yourself this musical task. Let's hope there are more to come (yeah, a Zappa Experiment would be EPIC).

And yep, I'm another Rush-likin' girl-type person. :)
Posted by merry on February 24, 2010 at 6:24 PM · Report this
@25 haha. that clip is awesome. great example. dude plays like an caveman! and all those cymbals hurt my eyes.
Posted by lulu88 on February 24, 2010 at 10:45 PM · Report this
@ BRYCE COATMAKER - you really are retarded, you have no idea what you are talking about, clearly. Wouldn't expect someone like you to be able to appreciate the work of Rush or even grasp the musicianship of these 3 kings. Go back to your computer games you fckin loser. Your experiment is like you - an epic fail and there is no way you would be able to hold yourself in a rush debate.
Posted by 2112 on February 25, 2010 at 5:02 AM · Report this
clearly, Rush fans ruined the music industry. not the internet...
Posted by Jnpanther on February 25, 2010 at 11:07 AM · Report this
To each his own. This dude is beyond help. Besides, you can't make a final judgment on Rush without first watching Exit Stage...Left. The visual complexity compliments the raw energy of this band operating at its peak. It's like judging food without tasting it, which makes this experiement a failure before it begins.
Posted by dude, seriously on February 26, 2010 at 12:41 PM · Report this
You are wrong in every way in this review. I hope Geddy, Alex and Neil travel to your espresso-sipping snoot closet and kick your misbegotten ass. What a tool you are.
Posted by Geddlee on February 26, 2010 at 1:46 PM · Report this
Interesting 'experiment.' The observations are cute in a non-musician-but-understand-what-a-chorus-pedal-is way but sophomoric. I'm not sure what the point of this was, to be honest. You're not going to change your opinion, and you're not going to "cleanse the pallet" with videogames (seriously?). That works with sorbet between courses, but I'm not quite sure what playing videogames does for opening minds. It comes down to this: you listened to a band you disliked (however mildly), and came away mildly disliking the band. Kudos.
Posted by Funnyhaha on February 26, 2010 at 3:22 PM · Report this
Correction: I dislike them *slightly less* than before.
Posted by Bryce Coatmaker on February 26, 2010 at 4:06 PM · Report this
People who don't "get" Rush are somehow genetically flawed. Their music paints a brilliant tapestry in the mind. If you pay really close attention to the lyrics in songs like "Natural Science" and "2112" you will find that Peart was prophesying about people, like you, who hide behind hateful words that condemn what you can't understand.
Posted by By-Thor on February 26, 2010 at 9:39 PM · Report this
I have a friend who makes fun of me because I thought the lyric in Fly by Night was "A fine idea" not "goodbye me dear." I really don't think my take is so ridiculous considering it came from the pen of Mr. Peart.
Posted by paulus on February 28, 2010 at 2:24 AM · Report this
So, Rush still sucks? Good to know.
Posted by killmenow on February 28, 2010 at 11:21 AM · Report this
So, Rush still sucks? Good to know.
Posted by killmenow on February 28, 2010 at 11:22 AM · Report this
Dear Bryce,

I am a long time Rush fan and I agree with most of your assessments regarding the "Dark Ages" and beyond. However, I simply can't agree with your characterization of Peart. Indeed, he was a rigid player, but he simply achieved a level of precision that most producers emulate today with Pro Tools (moving the drum hits on a computer). To say he was uncreative and predictable is flat out not true, and if I had the time to elaborate, I would. But in a nutshell, he made drums A PART of the rock composition, while most rock drumming to that point was predominantly about spontaneity, accenting the lead and strait timekeeping, which was built on the jazz tradition Peart is often compared to Bonham, and the former changed drums - and music too - way more than the latter, who was simply a less-creative and drunker version of Mitch Mitchell.
Posted by steve dedalus on February 28, 2010 at 4:36 PM · Report this
Best quote from my 16 year old son....

"Dad, do you know how cool it is to listen to subdivisions on your ipod while you are in the H.S hall?"

Rush... rocks.
Posted by Rush_rocks on February 28, 2010 at 5:25 PM · Report this
WHEN I see you, I'm going to royally kick yer emo-loving ass. You clearly don't play an instrument or you're a failed musician. Either way, you hate this band BECAUSE they are not hip and you hate them because they have no desire of being hip. You only listened to a couple songs off of a couple albums. For if you didn't do such, you would not have said that Lifeson used the chorus on everything, you cunt! He used it from '77 to the late 80's, so fuck you, you horrible fucking reviewer. I will find you.
Posted by Dirk on March 1, 2010 at 10:22 AM · Report this
@81 really needs to get laid, like ASAP.
Posted by Dave Segal on March 1, 2010 at 12:50 PM · Report this
Steve, I have appreciated your input on this process, so thank you. If you read past the hyperbole, you will see I am on board with your comments regarding Peart's level of precision. Yet, it is this attention to being precise that ultimately turns me away. There is just no swagger to it when everything is said and done (the "rigid player" you speak of). Death metal drummers pretty much do the same thing for me - yes, there is a high degree of skill required to play with such speed, power and accuracy, but there is never much to hold on to as a listener (outside of a few wicked grind fills and the typewriter taps of a double kick). Does that make sense? It's discipline at the expense of letting loose - all "work" and very little "play". Not saying Peart is a bad drummer, just saying his approach to the drums didn't really pull me in as a listener.

Getting laid is rather hip and emo. Might be a tough sell.
Posted by Bryce Coatmaker on March 1, 2010 at 3:06 PM · Report this
I hope you're not actually paid for this garbage.
Posted by JustMe74 on March 2, 2010 at 2:02 PM · Report this
Wow, so you have it all figured out huh? I am guessing you have some deep hidden memory, like a guy with a Rush Jacket kicking your ass and giving you a wedgie.

You use this set up 'experiment' just so you can rag on Rush. You suck, probably did not even listen.
Posted by TommYYZ on March 2, 2010 at 7:33 PM · Report this
Physical threats from a guy names Dirk, to a guy named Bryce...
That's the funniest part of this whole thing.
Posted by killmenow on March 4, 2010 at 8:01 PM · Report this
Hmmm... almost hate to take the chance of being grouped in with some of the other commenters (when did mouth-breathers with single syllable vocabularies start becoming Rush fans?), but while I appreciate your willingness to experiment, you did do it wrong. If you're going to start off as a non-fan and attempt to "get" Rush (and there is something there which needs getting), you really should start with the live albums, the aforementioned Exit Stage Left probably being your best bet.

Note that "not getting it" doesn't mean "too stupid/unmusical/uneducated/other pejorative term goes here" to get it. I often think Rush is like smoking... if you start as a teenager you may well be hooked for life, but once you're past 21 or so it just never really makes any sense.

Rush has long been one of my favorite bands, and they always will be, but I couldn't for the life of me tell you why. I wouldn't for a minute try to get a friend who's currently not a fan to become one... chances are it would just embarrass both of us. But for some group of us, for some reason (rational or otherwise), they really are somewhat magical.
Posted by RandomRushFan on March 27, 2010 at 3:13 PM · Report this

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