Geeklove: Rush

By Rick Roberts of Sushirobo, illustration by Nick Nieola, CMJ New Music Monthly, November 2003, transcribed by pwrwindows

My friend Eddie, at age 30, has finally hustled enough work writing music for websites and documentaries that he was able to quit his day job. I assumed he'd be proud-but instead, he's a little embarrassed. Most of the music he writes is tailored to the tastes of his clients, who usually favor the clichéd and pedestrian. "Well," I said, "at least your I3-year old self would be proud that you're making a living writing music." "Yeah. right." Eddie snorted. "My 13-year-old self thought that by now I'd be playing bass for Ronnie James Dio."

When I was 13, I had a dream, just like Eddie: I was going to become the young second guitar player for Rush, astounding the audience with my uncanny note-perfect renditions of Alex Lifeson's parts, freeing Alex up to concentrate on his temple blocks and Taurus pedals.

Even in these times of post-post-irony, Rush is a hard sell. I currently sing for a lean art-punk band that owes way more to Wire and Devo than woolly 1970s bands that wrote side-long epics requiring Roman numerals in the track listings. None of my bandmates share my affection for Rush (a band they've described as "Tiny Tim does prog-rock"). I've been met with uncomfortable silence after insisting there are elements of Rush in the music of Slint, Tortoise and Fugazi. I have even gone so far as to say AIex's fluidly textural guitar solo in "Limelight" is the closest approximation in hard rock to John Coltrane's sheets of sound. (As punishment for making this comparison. I was denied access to the tour van CD player for days.)

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At age 13, Rush offered a world utterly free of the real issue of adolescence: sex. Aside from the shamefully tight pants Alex wears On the back of 2112 and the ass crack that recurrently appears in their artwork, Rush's utopia is completely asexual. For a painfully shy boy, their music offered a safe buffer from the urges that embarrassed and overwhelmed me. While my peers groped each other to the strains of Ted Nugent's "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang," I remained a wallflower, timidly clinging to Rush's vision of a world governed by the intellect, not the body. Their excellent album Hemispheres addresses this very conflict, though the gelded lyrics refer chastely to this theme as the contest between "Dionysus (Love)" and "Apollo (Wisdom)."

Too awkward to even speak to a real girl without my throat drying up, I spent my early teens parsing drummer/lyricist Neil Peart's heavy-handed allegories and allusions to Ayn Hand, George Orwell and Samuel Coleridge. l ran to the dictionary to look up "didact," "panacea" and "quantum" long before I bothered to check "clitoris." Afternoons that I should have spent masturbating were spent rehearsing intricate guitar lines in 15/8 time signatures. Other boys dreamed of owning Camaros to impress chicks; I wanted to speak French (listen to "Entre Nous" from the album Permanent Waves for an explanation).

Eventually, I had to accept my biological destiny and acknowledge one harsh, incontrovertible truth: Girls hate Rush. In my whole life I have met only one woman who expressed any fondness for their music, and I suspect she was just being contrary to shock her punk-rock clique. As my voice deepened and my confidence grew. I learned that singing goth and new-wave hits was my inroad to meeting girls, not flawlessly aping Alex's guitar solos. Leaving the arrested boys' club of prog-rock behind. I entered a new age with a new identity. When I finally lost my virginity, it was to the sound of the Violent Femmes' first album, not "Tom Sawyer."

Now that I'm older, I've come to terms with my ugly prog-rock Past, I am no longer secretive about my love for Rush, but respect that my band and my fiancee fail to grasp the greatness of Geddy Lee's voice. I leave my Rush CDs home when l'm on tour, and when my honey is home they stay snug in their cases. But one night last week, after she fell asleep, I gave in to an urge to revisit the soundtrack of my youth. Creeping through the apartment like a horny father with his secret stash of porn, I popped Moving Pictures into the CD player and cranked up the headphones. And it sounded fucking amazing.

Sushirobo's new The Light-Fingered Feeling Of Sushirobo is out now on Pattern 25 Records.