Rush has experienced a renaissance of sorts in the past few years, with renewed interest in their music driven in part by repeated plays of their classic tune Tom Sawyer (thanks in part to South Park and I Love You Man, in which Paul Rudd and Jason Segel confirm the band to be their all-time favorite rockers. Slappin' da bass!).
Now, the stalwart Canadian trio (Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart) is back with their first disc of new material in over five years -- their 20th studio album, Clockwork Angels (Anthem/Roadrunner Records), out this week -- and it's an especially exciting prospect for fans because it's a concept album, driven by steam, intricate clockworks and alchemy.
A signature specialty for the group, Rush has charted similar territory before with such concept entries as 2112 and Hemispheres. Clockwork Angels chronicles a young man's quest across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk and alchemy -- amid lost cities, pirates, anarchists, an exotic carnival and a rigid watchmaker -- as he attempts to follow his dreams.
"I was thinking of steampunk's definition as 'The future as it ought to have been,' or 'The future as seen from the past' -- as imagined by Jules Verne and H. G. Wells," explains Peart, adding, "Rush songs tend to have complicated arrangements, with odd numbers of beats, bars, and measures all over the place. These latest songs are no different."
Not content to stop at 12 tracks, Clockwork Angels is also becoming a novel by acclaimed sci-fi writer Kevin J. Anderson (one of the pioneers of steampunk) in collaboration with Peart, partly conceived during a hike up Colorado's 14,265-foot Mount Evans, where Peart and Anderson started "workshopping" a prose version of the story.
With song titles including Halo Effect, The Anarchist, Seven Cities of Gold and Headlong Flight (the first single off the album), Clockwork Angels continues the band's rich, full sound tradition (how can this music just be three people?) of hard-driving, extended-play jams and thought-provoking dreamscapes. While rarely radio friendly over their last few albums in a world dominated by Lady Gaga, Kanye West and Justin Bieber, Rush's newest entry displays a renewed vigor for a band that's been together for almost forty years -- with no signs of slowing down.
"Alex, Geddy and I have reached our 'mature years,'" says Peart with his trademark wit and humor. "However, we have arrived there hot and sweaty, sliding into third, as a working, touring band. Like our well-tempered friendship, our dedication and inspiration remain strong, combined with hard-won experience and knowledge -- acquired over 20 studio albums, and perhaps most of all by playing thousands of live shows."
Clearly, these guys have earned a listen. Now, how about that criminally overdue Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognition?