Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Maclean's magazine feature on Rush concept songs
Maclean's magazine ran an article today on Rush concept songs as a companion piece to their Neil Peart interview from earlier this week. In the article they profile six of Rush's most-beloved concept songs including their first full-blown concept album - the recently-released Clockwork Angels album.
Rush's first full-length concept album is a dense, churning work whose individual songs are relatively short but cohere into a 66-minute whole. The narrative, set in a steampunk alternate world, reflects Peart's ongoing preoccupations with disillusionment, state control vs. individual freedom, and Don Quixote (the ballad Halo Effect brings to mind Quixote's fascination with his ideal, Dulcinea). But overall, it's more melodic than its predecessors, and it ends with the surprisingly reflective piece called The Garden. Here, the album's hero hoes his own row, leaving others to fight their battles, and acknowledges, in a nod to David Foster Wallace's epic novel, that "time is still the infinite jest." According to Peart, "Only at my age can such wisdom be attained."
Here's what they had to say about their first concept song - 1975's By-tor and the Snow Dog from the band's Fly by Night album:
Clocking in at a relatively svelte 8'39", Rush's very first multi-part suite is drawn from their second album, Fly by Night. Not only did the bookish Neil Peart take over from John Rutsey as the band's drummer, but he also took up the lyric-writing reins. Led Zeppelin-influenced songs with lines such as "I just want to rock and roll you woman" were scrapped in favour of pieces like this: a suite about a battle between a "centurion of evil" and a beast with "ermine glowing in the damp." As Lee's bass snarls and Peart pummels his drums, the fight rages through a section called "7/4 War Furor" (making explicit the band's fascination with odd-metre time signatures), and ends with the canine victorious. Thanks to him, "the land of the Overworld is saved again." Granted, the lyrics are over the top, but there's an element of Rush's vaunted humour here: the antagonists were, in fact, inspired by their manager Ray Danniels' real-life pooches.
You can read the entire piece online at this location.