The topic today is heavy metal. Loud, screechin' and screamin', bone crunching and back breaking heavy metal.
Rush is the name and you may have seen them two weeks ago at the Gardens with Uriah Heep. If you didn't, well, just try it the next time out. Because the band is a fine show.
Rush is a three man group from Canada, operating more or less in the Cream or original Grand Funk tradition. Three men exploring every possible sound with guitar, bass and drums.
They've been together six years, hanging out mainly in Ontario. American audiences are catching their first glimpse with an album called "Rush" (Mercury) and in a few carefully selected concert halls. They did four dates with Uriah Heep. Coming are dates with Blue Oyster Cult, PFM and Rory Gallagher.
While in Cincinnati, Geddy Lee, the group's bassist and lead vocalist, talked about a few of the things happening right now to Rush.
"This is the fourth day of our first American tour, so we're still sort of settling into things. Mercury has sort of swept us off our feet lately."
To be sure, Mercury signed the group some 24 hours after first hearing them -- unheard of in this "wait and see" business -- rush released the first album and chased them onto the first tour all within a matter of weeks.
"I think maybe because of the luck they were having with BTO. Not that we're anything alike, they just seem to like heavy Canadians right now.
"It's strange hearing this album they've released. We did it almost two years ago and although I'm pleased with it, it's sort of old to me. I see it from a different standpoint."
The album in question here is a loud, very fast and hard rocking metal thing ("I don't like 'metal.' We need a new name," Lee says), which lives up to the group's name, Rush. It is that.
It's a simple sound, as is most metal, based on the interplay between the three instruments. Guitar and bass dominate with drums only slightly in the background. Also like most metal, we're going here for the effect through the sound generated by all three players. Not for any development through single instruments or any of the solo work.
Unlike most metal, and here's where the group excels, Rush is not working with the same three or four basic sounds, masquerading the same riffs and playing them over and over again. Instead, it's a more polished sound, complete with the variety you hardly ever find in heavy metal.
Especially the vocals. Lee sings them with the same touch of drama you hear in Alice Cooper vocals. That "I'll die or sing it approach." On some of the cuts he's a screamer, on others a singer. On all of them keying his voice to the acrobatics of the music. A difficult chore, considering some of the riffs doing down here.
Lee himself seems to think the album's strong point is the tightness coming from the fact that there's only three of them playing. Add to that the variations explored within the format -- three people sounding like five. Add also the various skills on the chosen instruments. And the ease and comfort with which most of the music is presented.
The only weakness with all of this has to do with the lyrics. They could use some polish. And a little variety. Perhaps some getting away from the "love is the thing" and "let's boogie" thing for a time.
But they're secondary, as with all metal groups. The important thing here is the music. Loud, hard, driving, painful if you want it to be, all bursting with living and loving.
There's a second Rush album due sometime in the winter. With, Lee promised, "some slightly different music, improved lyrics. Still more variety. But still in a three man -- no, having only three people isn't restrictive at all -- format."
Okay. So the first one's a little rough around the edges. Still in need of that final, gelled sound. It's still all full of natural talents and raw energy and sounding just fine. Which is a pretty good start.