Some people say that while Rush is a great band, they have no classic album. They say; sure, everybody can boogie down to songs like "Working Man" and "Limelight", but the only album worth buying is a best-of compilation or a greatest hits record.
People who say this obviously haven't heard their 1978 magnum ***ing opus, Hemispheres
In 1978, progressive rock was no longer at the forefront of mainstream music. Bands like the Bee Gees and Foreigner were ruling the airwaves, and bands like The Clash and The Buzzcocks were critics' darlings, so not much room was left for former giants like Jethro Tull and Yes, who were now being referred to as dinosaur rock bands, and while dinosaurs are indeed pretty cool, this was a negative remark that referred to the age of the band. It was even at the point where legends such as The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin weren't even considered cool anymore, whereas three to four years ago these bands ruled the goddamn planet. With the sudden hatred for guitar solos, lengthy songs, and lyrics about books you read, what was a band like Rush, who thrived on these things, ever to do?
They did what the band has always done best: Whatever the *** they wanted to.
While some may say the band recorded their wankiest, most over-the-top proggy album as a major Canadian "*** YOU" to the Robert Christgau's of the world who couldn't appreciate a song unless it was titled "White Riot" or "Blitzkrieg Bop", I'd like to thank that this was just Rush playing what they wanted to play. And that is exactly what they did.
Beginning with Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres, the band crafts a song that destroys even the likes of 2112 in sheer complexity and rocking-out-ness. Here you will find riffs and intricate time signatures and changes that sound like a 1970's Canadian version of Tool with a wackier sense of humor. The lyrics are a continuation of Cygnus X-1 from the band's previous album, A Farewell To Kings, and they manage to be even more geeky and ridiculous, and to this listener, that means better
. In fact, this is indeed my favorite Rush song. It combines everything that is/was ever good about the band. Neil plays drums like Satan on speed, and the almost robotic precision of Alex and Geddy's guitar and bass, respectively, are mindblowing. The song goes through six different sections, each with their own special parts, and although classified as a prog rock song, truthfully, this is pretty close to pure heavy metal. The riffs are as heavy as Sabbath, but they still keep that Yes/Genesis sound that made them so good to begin with, and Geddy's shrieks are as funny and as great as ever. Clocking in at eighteen minutes, it shouldn't disappoint any fan of progressive rock.
From here on, this is usually the part where a Rush album goes downhill. But nay, Rush had a mission with this album. With the next song, "Circumstances", they play more progressive hard rock, with complex riffs and trademark proggy drums in the vein of Mastodon or Tool, but it's still catchy enough to be liked by even the most simple of music listeners. The next song, "The Trees", is one of Rush's best singles, and it's also probably their funniest song, lyric-wise, especially if you don't get the metaphors that Neil uses (if there even are any, I don't even give a ***). It begins with some of the prettiest acoustic playing you will ever hear, and just turns into a catchy rock epic from there.
But these middle tracks, phenomenal they may be, cannot even compare to one of the finest (and most admittedly self-indulgent) instrumentals ever recorded, "La Villa Strangiato". It begins very atmospheric and mysterious-like, bringing up the question "Is Rush gonna be serious?". The answer is no, when the strangiato "theme" comes into play, which shows Rush at their silliest. Clocking in around nine minutes, the song is epic and soaring, it has light moments and heavy moments, and you can hear influences from this tune in many bands that would come later, from Iron Maiden to Tool to Primus.
is a perfect album. It honestly has no flaws. Unlike every other Rush album, there is not a single song worth skipping; it's wanky but not boring, and it's self-indulgent and pretentious at times, but at least it's fully aware of how ridiculous it is. Hemispheres is a beast in rock music history, and while often over-shadowed by other more famous Rush albums like 2112 and Moving Pictures, don't let Rolling Stone magazine fool you: Hemispheres
is Rush at their very best.