Review Summary: Neil Peart and Rush make a welcome return from having one foot in the grave and sound like a band with a new lease on life and music. Oh Canada, I sing your praises....
Perhaps the best thing to come out of Canada besides maple syrup, Neil Young, and assorted hockey teams with names like The Canucks and, well, The Maple Leafs, Rush returns with their first album of original material in five years with the release of Snakes And Arrows
. In tentative mode for the last ten years due to tragic events surrounding drummer and songwriter Neil Peart's personal life and his subsequent "healing journey", Snakes And Arrows marks a return to prime Rush after the somewhat average for this group Vapor Trails
album of a half decade earlier.
Spurred on and inspired by his new life and memories of his old, Peart and bandmates Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson indeed sound reborn (or at least rejuvenated) on Snakes And Arrows, using the hope and pain of life and turning it into musical and lyrical art. Far Cry
kicks things off in familiar Rush territory, all crashing power chords, galloping, hard hitting drums from Peart, and of course Lee's clean, pulsating bass and unique high alto vocals. Lyrically the song touches on themes that run throughout the album of being up against odds of pain and struggle and somehow finding hope, reason, and purpose to carry on. Nothing new for Rush, but with one of the principle songwriters going through devastating life changing events in recent years, rather then sounding like the same old band touching on familiar themes Rush sound like an old band with a new purpose. And thats good news for any crotchy old band, much less these bunch of hosers.
The music on Snakes And Arrows is also 100% familiar. Alex Lifeson's guitar is sonic, sweeping, and rings out as it always has, Peart's drums powerful and thunderous, Lee's bass precise and exacting. The band explores giant, spaced out prog rock blues riffs on the layered and diverse The Way The Wind Blows
, which sounds like retro Rush of sorts, Lifeson turns in some fine acoustic work on the solo instrumental track Hope
, and those 'ol familiar Rush keyboards ring out on the straight ahead rock track Good News First
. Or do they? Actually they don't, as not nary a keyboard is to be found on this album. Which isn't to say you don't hear a guitar or bass that doesn't sound like something
resembling a keyboard, but it is to say the album has a certain warmth and organic sound that can sometimes be absent from this bands music in the name of studio wizardry or covering up some sub par songwriting. However on Snakes And Arrows the songwriting is solid throughout, the performances generous and busy, the band as tight and focused as it's ever been. And it's been almost forty years for Lifeson and Lee, with Peart just several years behind in band membership. So that's a good deal of focus.
The more things change the more they stay the same. A wise old adage that applies squarely to Rush just as it does most things. Nothing is new here, yet everything is new. A rebirth
, if you will. Not that Rush ever went away. But in a career of a band with many peaks and valleys as is to be expected from such a long recording history, Snakes And Arrows definitely represents not just a peak, but coming after the shaky ground this band has stood on the last ten odd years, a peak that is an unexpected and welcome surprise. Meet the new Rush, same as the old Rush....and as it turns out after all these years that's a pretty good thing.