We've Found A Groove...It's Only Taken 38 Years

A CONCEPT Album. Seven-Minute Songs. Intense Lyrics About Love And Loss.

By John Perry, UK's The Sun, July 27, 2012

Yep, the new Rush record Clockwork Angels certainly ticks the boxes for their haters the world over. But one thing doesn't follow the script: Near-universal rave reviews.

You'd expect that from rock mags and websites. But it even converted Rolling Stone, which has for decades considered itself way too cool for the Canadian trio.

Clockwork Angels, which shot into America's Billboard album chart at No2, finally relegating Adele to third, is "very good", they conceded.

"Frenetic and heavy", it is "high on power-trio interplay that could put guys half their age in the burn ward".

So what's going on?

Well, this is not so much a new album as a rebirth.

Rush's 20th studio LP bristles with energy, is played with blistering abandon, is packed with memorable hooks and massive riffs and is simply their finest since the classic Moving Pictures in 1981.

All approaching 60, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart ought by rights to be winding down. But something energising happened on last year's epic Time Machine tour that inspired them to throw caution to the wind.

Three amazing musicians, they have always been known for note-perfect virtuosity. But as singer and bass player Geddy told SFTW: "We were allowing ourselves more improvisation on stage - that great feeling of not quite knowing where you were going or how you were going to get out of it. It was really exciting. We were really pushing ourselves. Later we said, 'Wouldn't it be great to have those moments on record too?'"

So Peart, perhaps rock's greatest drummer, abandoned his customary meticulous preparation.

"Neil just said, 'Look, I'm not going to figure out all the arrangements, I'm just going to do it on the fly'," said Geddy.

"What he got out of it was that he was just playing, just flying. He wasn't a slave to the traditional structure. He was experimenting throughout. We all were. You can see that we're really going for it. We're jamming - it's loose, accidental, experimental, and it works.

"We found a groove, the three of us. It only took us 38 years to get our groove on!"

The heartbeat of Rush, third in the all-time list for consecutive platinum albums after the Beatles and Stones, is their friendship, particularly the lifelong bond between Lee and guitarist Lifeson. But that didn't always make Clockwork Angels easy for the pair to write.

"Sometimes it's hard to get into it," Geddy says, "because we have more fun sitting around in my living room drinking coffee and shooting the s***!

"It's like, "Oh, do we really have to go and do some work?" But the results, when they came, were of consistently higher quality than anything they have produced in decades.

"It was just more fun than usual. Maybe we've reached this good place in our friendship. There's very little pettiness involved now when we work."

One jam in Geddy's basement turned into the frantic single Headlong Flight. "I thought it would make a wacky instrumental. It sounded like a drunken brawl, like a wild party. We were going to call it Take That Lampshade Off Ya Head - an old line from some movie.

"Then Neil by chance sent over these lyrics that really fitted. Before we knew it we had this monster song. We finished the rest of the record in only four weeks. Alex and I just kinda knocked it all off."

Rush's profile was dramatically raised by 2010's award-winning Beyond The Lighted Stage documentary, and by one celeb after another "coming out" as a fan.

They will tour Britain again next year with a three-hour set punctuated by an interval, which three blokes of their age need to get their breath back.

"Usually I go off and check baseball scores," Geddy says. "Alex will check his email or some political blog. I don't know what people expect when they come backstage - probably not two guys staring at their computers! Neil will be outside having a smoke."

Clockwork Angels doesn't have a weak track. There are standout tunes all over it.

"I love Fleet Foxes," said Geddy. "It's nice to see a band that can focus on melodies but not produce syrupy pop.

"I think the melodies on our record are superior to those we've made in the past. Maybe that's a subtle reaction to listening to them."