Review Summary: They've still got it- rare for a band their age.
What I've always loved about Rush is that they know what the people want, while simultaneously doing what they want to do. They've never been a band that has ever had to drastically change their direction in order to get our attention, because despite how many times they change, everything that makes a Rush album is still there. All of this is perfectly displayed on their eighteenth studio album, Clockwork Angels
. They're doing what they've done for all these years, but there's still some new elements brought to the table. It's hard to believe these guys are in their sixties already, because their playing and craftsmanship shows a band who hasn't lost their touch one bit. If this were any other band, they'd be giving a more conservative effort, but come on, folks. Rush is Rush. They don't mess around.
If there's one thing that stops this album from being the masterpiece that it could have been, it's the fact that it's a bit too focused on vocals and lyrics. There's a constant string of lyrics on much of the songs, and it does sort of take away what's going in behind it- the vocals themselves are showing signs of wear and tear as well, but then again, with Geddy having done this his whole career, obviously his voice is going to show some signs of age. But that said, the album is still a bit too "wordy". Part of this could be chalked up to the fact that this is a concept album; based on a story that Neil had written with a friend named Kevin J. Anderson. It's not that the lyrics aren't good- they're stellar, it's just that there's a few too many lyrics on the album, which does sort of get in the way of the music's power.
But don't fret. That being put aside, this album is still a hell of a ride. From the moment you hear bells toll and the sounds of engines humming on the opening track "Caravan", you know you're in for something big. The track starts off with some strings before kicking into a face-melting metal track that will blow you away. The track is a typical Rush rocker, but with some jazzy bass lines, tribal drum fills and a beautiful chorus thrown in there for good measure. And the momentum isn't about to give out any time soon. With the next track, the heavy and in-your-face "BU2B" and the stunningly beautiful "Clockwork Angels", the album begins to feel more and more like an adventure. The title track is like the marraige of a folk song and a metal tune that blends heavy and in-your-face instrumentation and almost church-hymn vocal melodies. Ad even as heavy as this album is. There's still time for moments of beauty. "The Wreckers" shows the band doing more alt-rock stuff that wouldn't feel too out of place on Presto
, and has an incredibly dreamy, surreal feel, even all the way down to the fade-out- a song that will for sure remain in your head long after the album is done.
And in the latter half of the album there's some real gems that I imagine will be instant "compilation" choices- songs like "Seven Cities of Gold", "Headlong Flight", "Wish Them Well" and "The Garden" show the band at their most experimental yet nostalgic. "Headlong Flight" even has a few callbacks to previous Rush tunes, "Wish Them Well" has a few elements of the Test for Echo
album. "The Garden", however, is the real highlight- a beautiful ballad, heartfelt delivery by the band with the emotional vocals by Geddy- his aging voice adds a sweet personal touch to the song, that I imagine wouldn't be possible if sung by someone younger. To hear him sing "The hours fade away, the cells fade away" with that voice really hits home, and even seems reminiscent of the song "Time Stand Still".
Rush have never been a band to try too hard at anything, and even if what they have done has fallen below par, it still manages to stand out head and shoulders above what other bands have tried to do. The band spent a lot of time working on the album and it shoes. Even if the tracks come off as a bit too "wordy" at times, it's still Rush. They know what to do and it's very apparent here. There's tons of spectacle to be found, but it never once outdoes the actual music itself, even if the production by Nick Rasculinecz is a bit excessive and in-your-face (he's never exactly had the best reputation, really). The music is what matters, the words are what matters- Rush are Rush. And for all its headiness, Clockwork Angels
is an album that confirms Rush are still relevant, and still have what it takes to deliver in this day and age.