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01 May 2007

Snakes and Arrows, Rush's Latest

Yes, I'm still a Rush fan. I've never been a fan of the mid-'80s-to-mid-'90s Rush, and my standards are very high, so... This latest album is just great: very light on the synthesizers (thank god), great drumming (no shit?), and a nice dollop of acoustic guitar. The acoustic instrumental, "Hope," reminds me why Lifeson was considered the second coming of Jimmy Page in the mid-70s. Lee's bass is phenomenal, as per usual. The album's not quite as heavy -- or angry -- as the last one, Vapor Trails, but it's pretty goddamn heavy nonetheless. Full of unusual melodies and unexpected time changes galore. Peart just gets better and looser as a drummer. In other words, another typical set of MTV-ready, demographically micromarketed, cookie-cutter pop songs. You gotta love a group that includes an instrumental track of typically jazz-level complexity (but atypical trippiness) called "Malignant Narcissism."

The lyrics are direct -- more than usual, which was never surrealistic. In fact, realism (yes, even unto atheism) has been the touchstone. Luckily, he seems to have dropped his early Objectivism (sic). We all grow up. Peart's flirtation with the Amazing Ayn Rand-y did yield 2112, a great dystopian concept album, but I'm glad to see that it's long, long gone. Some very apt and engaged political lyrics, nonetheless -- well, any sane person can't help but look around and say, with varying degrees of profundity, "What the fuck is wrong with this world?"

So, he's not Lennon or Dylan, but Peart is literate, allusive but not elusive, and interesting. Writes a "pantoum" for this album -- no, I'd never heard of it. Here's a PDF of his album essay. He's written a few books good enough to make you forget that he's the drummer and lyricist for Rush: and that's meant as high praise.

It's just great to hear older artists, like Dylan (Time Out Of Mind, Love and Theft, Modern Times), doing some of their best stuff. Other than that phenomenal chameleon Beck, I don't hear anyone who can hold a candle to the '65-'75-ish crop of groups that were either already working or just starting -- the post-punk (U2, Police -- the Clash, if they don't fit into the Golden Decade), the California '80s wave of Jane's Addiction and the Chili Peppers, some of the grunge stuff (Nirvana, especially), and a sport or two (e.g.: Stevie Ray Vaughan or Laurie Anderson), excepted. The density and variety of popular or rock music between '65 and '75 just can't be beat -- and it's worth wondering why, if you grant that I'm not just an old fogy (I'm 37, so I was 5 to 5 during the Golden Decade -- nostalgia can't play a role!).

I'm sure this apparent artistic downturn is as much a factor of the fracturing of the music business in marketing terms and the consolidation in ownership terms as any dubious theory of mechanism-less artistic downturn. Ani DiFranco is on the list, but haven't listened to much. Please give me tips!


  1. I opened this and at first I thought you meant you were a fan of Rush Limbaugh!