Snakes and Arrows

Written by: MY on 05/05/2007 23:18:04

I am currently residing temporarily around the Holloway area of North London. There isn't much to do here, nothing particularly novel or exciting and I am hungry. I could absolutely murder for something to eat, and it's affecting my mood negatively. The only selection of cuisine around here is burgers, so decision promptly made for me, I toddle off to find a burger joint. I wander into a little Turkish-run cafe and order my food, sit down and pick up a copy of The Daily Mail that's lying on a table. Playing in the background is a frankly laughable cover of the Scorpions classic "Wind Of Change" performed on Pan-pipe with backing band. It's kinda novel at first, until I realise that it is the only song being played here and is constantly on repeat. It's fast getting annoying and I realise that I have a long wait, so I don my headphones quickly and decide to check out this new Rush release here.

You see, Rush songs couldn't really be performed convincingly on Pan-pipe. Their material is waaaay too clever. To be honest I have never been the greatest lover of Prog in general; It tends to carry that same horrid snobbish overtone that alot of Jazz music has - that feeling of not being a part of it unless you appreciate the extended solos, polyrhythmic time signatures, sci-fi lyrics and inanely ludicrous concepts. My attention span is getting lower as I get older, so I have always been more inclined to enjoy music in a basic three-minute format. Fortunately, Rush were never above doing this so I always had a bit of a soft spot for them (for the uninitiated, check out "Spirit Of The Radio" or "Big Money" for the ultimate prog/pop crossover trax!).

I had heard rumours that this was going to be a return to the style embraced on "Moving Pictures", but I don't really hear this, to be honest. It's certainly not cut from the same cloth as "Hemispheres" or "2112", there's nothing as crazy as "YYZ" on this for instance, but it still holds a certain appeal. It sounds more mature, as much of the more recent Rush output has, and the record mainly has a pretty dark and sombre feel. For me, though, it doesn't really race away but just sort of stalls and creaks. Sits there and acts obediently but won't move. Sort of, dare I say, average.

The saving grace of Rush, though, is that they always sound like Rush. Their fanbase is so strong and dedicated that they'd probably applaud loudly at a cover of 'Mary Had A Little Lamb' as long as it featured Geddy Lee's unique voice and Neil Peart's clever-clever drumming (not that this is a negative criticism. They really are die-hards!). These attributes are, of course, all over the record and will immediately please the fanatics through their very existance. Opener "Far cry" immediately starts with an odd time signature groove and distinctly Lifeson-esque chord voicings but ultimately doesn't go anywhere. "Armor And Sword" has a verse that kinda reminds me of "The Trees", but sticks in that dirgy mid-pace tempo. "Working Them Angels" starts off promisingly, and then kind of whimpers away. Things pick up a little with the experimental "The Main Monkey Business" and "The Way the Wind Blows", which has a bluesy then up-tempo feel, but the pointless acoustic instrumental "Hope" follows into the dull "Faithless" and it doesn't really pick up again apart from "Malignant Narcissism", which sticks on an interesting groove.

Overall the record sounds a little like Rush on Autopilot for me. The innovation that they are known for isn't really there and far too many of the tracks stick in a similar zone with similar tempo's and similar feels. The die-hards (of which there are rightfully many) will probably love it by the pure virtue that is a new Rush album, but it doesn't set me on fire nor offend me after repeated listens. A cautious cut, I'm afraid, so approach with trepidation.


Download: Far Cry, Malignant Narcissism
For the fans of: Dream Theater, Spock's Beard
Listen: E-Card

Release date 01.05.2007
Atlantic / Wea Records

Written by Dan Turner

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