Review Summary: A trainwreck that does absolutely nothing right except the guitar solos and the occasional nice bass line.
Rush are a band that has always been hit and miss for me. Several of their albums such as 2112 I consider to be flawlessly executed progressive rock music, but albums like their debut turned me off the band completely. In 2012 the band put out an album that is supposed to be their best since their classic era and unfortunately I felt no nostalgia of 2112 that I expected to feel when listening to this. Instead, Rush traded in their progressive sound for more of a straightforward hard rock edge to their music and coupled this with the worst vocals in their history (including their debut), turned the bass up far too loud and used so much repetition that it was almost unlistenable.
The album starts off with Caravan, which opens up with an annoying bell toll before diving into Rush's new, heavier sound and this song straight away shows what is wrong with this album. The guitar work repeats itself far too much and not in the clever way that it was done on their earliest works. The lyrics are rather terrible, with Geddy's annoying refrain of "I can't stop thinkin' big" cast out around every corner, and the vocals are just so irritating. The tones that Geddy takes here are the most stupid ones possible-he puts so much arrogance into his voice, with an idea of him being better than everyone else that comes off in my head every time I hear this song.
The one saving grace this album has is the guitar solos. They are found on many of the songs and are honestly the only remainders of the spark of creativity that Rush previously had on their masterpieces they released during the earliest parts of their career. The solos are fun and add a little bit of respectability to the songs. Aside from this however, the album is pretty much a trainwreck. The title track and BU2B are far too long, with the latter in particularly having a pointless quiet section at the start that is clearly intended to create some manner of an atmosphere but really fails. If this album quit doing stupid things like this then perhaps it would at least be listenable but really the only thing that saves this album are the guitar solos.
This is an album that is about as drawn out and overly long that it gets tiring and boring. The drumming and bass work is semi-decent, with the latter instrument being performed nicely by Geddy but nowhere near as well as on their previous albums, but this can not make up for the guitar work. Whereas the bass at least has the occasional fun bass line such as on the track I previously slandered, Caravan (which is still abyssmal), in the guitar department literally all the band does is throw together as many four and five string chords as they can and call it a guitar riff but it doesn't work. There is the occasional good moment such as on the title track but that song in particularly is way too long.
This is also an album that carries a concept throughout of going on an adventure and some other stuff that happens that really does not matter because you can't understand what is going on half the time, but it really fails to even get this across very well. Lines such as "I was brought up to believe the universe has a plan" are quite well written but some parts of this album such as the aforementioned "I cant stop thinkin' big" drag it down to the depths. Sorry, Rush, but you failed completely with your 2012 effort. Better luck next time.