Hard Rock Haven Review: Snakes & Arrows
by Edwin Van Hoof
Comments: In life some things are best categorized as facts, one being that Rush is one of rock's greatest bands of all time. The band has an undying will to exceed their previous performances whether it be live or in the studio. Fact! Lifeson, Lee and Peart are top of the bill performers live. Fact! Peart is a gifted songwriter whose lyrics are poetical and esoteric, create yet another focal point in the wave of musical expertise provided by the band and provide enjoyment for fans and listeners. Fact! You could go on and on. Are there any other bands like that? Might be, but like with white wine; you can have plain and simple white wine sweet and tasty served cold, or you could decide to have a sparkling Champaign tickling your senses. Rush however equals no less than Dom Perignon Rosé!
1. "Far Cry" the song is somewhat the key to the new and improved Rush sound. Blending their elusive past with the high standards in production of the 3rd millennium, the band already gave us a little insight on "Vapor Trails." "Far Cry" however instantly builds the bridge between the bands elusive rock sound from the past and their newly found 'youth' making it all become full circle. The pumping and driving bass line in combination with Peart's drum rolls and shuffles are absolutely magnificent. Lifeson edgy and blunt riffs make it a rock hard experience warming us up for more to come. The song immediately captures the band's intentions and can hear the amazing multi layered production, best experienced with a set of head phones.
2. "Armor and Sword" is announced by Neil with a drum roll timidly coloured by some tasteful guitars and bass, warping us back to the "Cygnus" heydays raved by die hard fans. Opening all registers along the way the amazing lyrics of Peart stand out almost living a life in 2-diverse dimensions as an observer. "No one gets their heaven without a fight" is a mindbender, reflecting on modern day society as well as on ones personal well-being. The phrase will have you reflecting on the lyrics for many days to follow.
3. "Working Them Angels" reflecting on the bands history in a rear view mirror driving towards the East, Neil found his inspiration. The rear view however also flies for the sound of Rush with the old and new seemingly sown together in a radiant cocktail of rock. A larger than life sound with numerous breaks and fierce drum breaks and shuffles creating a dense atmosphere. The building tension is broke by the chorus which is warm and mega melodic.
4. "The Large Bowl" is the dish on which life's luggage is collected, building character and moulding a personality. Dealing with the issues of life it sounds rather poetical, and the song comes off as one of the most radio friendly tunes on this disc. Musically it reaches back to the feelings of the recalling "The Trees" with a nice guitar lead and slightly hypnotically hook, slowly building up tension and power unleashed by a blistering signature solo from Alex.
5. "Spindrift" picking his strings and added noises slowly creates a taunting setting over which Geddy's high pitched vocals seem rather frustrated. But not only Geddy's voice marks the difference here, his playing is effective and vivid, with Peart laying down a pompous loud rhythm. Lifeson's flying retro guitar sound jangles and moans often reviving the sound from the Led Zeppelin era. At 4:30 the song unloads a tremendous pompous power dying out in merely 50 seconds.
6. "The Main Monkey Business" is the first and best of three instrumental tunes on this remarkable CD. Without being bound by lyrics crying to be brought to life, the band goes absolutely soul free like in the old days resulting in a cross over of the impressive live smacker "YYZ" and the 'space opera' "2112". Signature ingredients such as Neil's stop 'n go drum breaks and percussion work and Geddy's breathtaking bass extravaganza alongside an inspired and full shred Alex Lifeson. Halfway being "2112," inflicted sound fragments fly by after which the band pumps up the impressive sound more with layers of keys, slowly flowing into the gripping harmony once again to be followed by a blistering guitar outing. The song is an explosion of progression and profession which will do extremely well as the opener on their upcoming tour.
7. "The Way the Wind Blows" drums announcing the entrance of a swelling heavy duty '70s inspired guitar hook which repeatedly drives by loudly. Lee takes place as the announcer on vocals and arriving at the bridge acoustic guitars take over for a warm melodic chorus. "We grow the way the wind blows...or be broken down blow by blow" is another brain boggler. Like in the previous track the song is slightly boosted by some space rock elements in the best Hawkwind tradition, and Peart's amazing percussion work and cymbal torturing is a highlight on this great song.
8. "Hope" showcases more of Lifeson's skills on 12 string guitar with his unique trademark sound that must tickle the senses of many Rush-ians all over the globe. Even though it is rather short, it is a perfect breather towards more of the hard to define Rush sound.
9. "Faithless" catches ones attention for numerous reasons but for mostly because of the following lesson of life "I've got my own moral compass to steer by." Anyone's downward spiral can be broken because of a captivate words like these. A grand opening of a wall of sound vividly coloured by Lee with a low tuned bass and some hard driving guitars and humming riff do the rest. During the bridge, before the chorus a Beatles-esque montage flies by, keys and mellowtron start pumping up the sound even more, the song enrols it's electric and (somewhat) eclectic beauty. By Thor; Geddy can be heard bringing his "Templars" back to life on this.
10. "Bravest Face" another "V T" embedded song that has a grand opening and timid continuation, with a maximum pompous "Signals"-days chorus and "Roll the Bones" underscores. Calling back to a different era and huge sound the song also delivers depth and difference in the sound and approach.
11. "Good News First" the full shred opening immediately warps us back to the "Farewell" era with high pitched vocals from Geddy giving his best. Hard and driving are the keywords before unveiling a pleasant chorus even though guitars are still driving and playing up front in the mix. Awkwardly loud, yet the vocal line is mega melodic. The songs features a warm laid back mid section which builds upon an acoustic foundation of guitars and vocals leading to a humming melodic solo. The song definitely deserves more than one spins to for the listener to digest.
12. "Malignant Narcissism" is yet another guitar led staccato rocker with a loud bass attack and impressive drum breaks and shuffles. Whammy and distorted guitar sounds and sound fragments warp us back to the old days again whilst bass and drums keep progressing in close harmony almost like it doesn't cost them a drop of sweat. Unlike the inaccessible previous track, this one is combusted by the signature Rush sound and feeling and embodies the impressive power and capabilities of the musicians.
13. "We Hold On" finishing of a big hour of progressive musical mayhem is the powerful rocker, that leans off of some hard hitting drum beat and colourful bass playing. Upbeat and evolving, it features some ominous guitar work from Lifeson who clearly enjoys his spotlighted presence on this record like never before. Double bass rolls over the mid Eastern inspired guitar lick while Lee's vocals are moaning and drenched in melancholy. The song is the perfect topping on a tasteful cake in which the band has been slowly building up towards a top performance.
Snakes & Arrows is yet another gem that unlike the aforementioned Dom Perignon needs no aging. With the quality of song material at hand, one tends to wonder if there's ever a point where the band runs out of ideas. Every single song is a hit, and even those few which need several spins and are tougher to digest, have all the key ingredients for a Rush classic song. On top of that the band has made a wise decision to bring in Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver) who delivers his finest work to date. The sound is multi layered, crystal clear, energetic and vibrant without lacking its tremendous (needed) power. For die hard fans as well as for fans of all genres in rock, this is a must have. And while you're at it make sure to get your hands on the special edition in MVI format, which has to be an even better experience!
Hardrock Haven rating: 10/10
Originally published on HardRockHaven.net, April 2007.
Arrows hits the mark
By Darryl Sterdan
Snakes & Arrows
Sun Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5
Rush has always been a band that acts its age.
When its members were young, their hypercomplex prog-rock epics and sci-fi lyrics reflected their boundless ambition and creativity. And now that they are older and more thoughtful, with lives shaped by tragedy as well as triumph, their 18th studio album mirrors that just as clearly.
Snakes and Arrows, for the most part, stays on the path established by 2002's Vapor Trails and their nostalgic 2004 covers EP Feedback. The songs are simple and direct. The arrangements and performances are economical and restrained. The lyrics are dark and topical, preoccupied with questions of faith and war and politics. The overall vibe is slow and mellow. The sound is warm and contemporary, thanks to co-producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters).
Fear not, fans: It's still a Rush album. Geddy Lee's bass clangs along below his nasal wail. Alex Lifeson reels off searing guitar licks and fiery solos. Neil Peart's drum fills sound like trigonometry.
Even so, the leaner and meaner Snakes and Arrows does not sound quite like your dad's Rush albums. Though it does sound like a Rush album your dad might like.
Far Cry 5:18
With its syncopated shots, low-slung bass groove, prime-number time shifts, wah-wah guitars and feedback solo, this opening single comes closest to classic Rush.
Armor and Sword 6:36
Neil bashes out a slow-paced funk groove that gradually morphs from dreamy prog-folk to slow-grinding rock monolith -- driven by a power-chord riff on loan from 1975.
Workin' Them Angels 4:46
Another mid-tempo grinder, with a nice rhythmic twist -- the time toggles back and forth between 3/4 and 4/4. Alex adds some pretty mandolin licks to the bridge.
The Larger Bowl 4:07
Alex works the acoustic guitar on the verses, and pulls out the electric for the choruses and solo. Neil keeps it simple (for him, anyway) while Geddy weighs in on the imbalance of fortune.
An ominous descending guitar riff straight from the Led Zep fake book fuels this grandly swirling rocker about being cast adrift in a relationship.
The Way the Wind Blows 6:28
Neil's ominous military tattoos introduce a tense 6/8 electric blues flavoured with plenty of Cream. Outstanding.
Instrumental 2: Alex takes centre stage with a pretty, folksy interlude on 12-string acoustic.
The Main Monkey Business 6:01
The first and most elaborate of the disc's three instrumentals layers tom-tom-heavy beats and haunting synth melodies over a mix of 7/8 and 4/4 rhythms.
A stabby guitar lick adds a hit of droning, Beefhearty psychedelia to this brooding endorsement of love over religion. Ben Mink adds some stirring strings.
Bravest Face 5:11
Another slow-burner that alternates acoustic-guitar verses with electrified choruses. Extra points for the groovy bridge and Alex's jazzy, piercing solo.
BEST LINE: "Though we might have precious little, it's still precious."
Good News First 4:51
Churning guitars and a downbeat groove support a yearning, reverby vocal and romantic lyrics laced with political overtones.
BEST LINE: "The best we can agree on is it could have been worse."
Malignant Narcissism 2:16
The boys cut loose on the final, funky instrumental, with Alex working the whammy bar as Geddy unspools a rubbery bass line -- then trades solos with Neil.
We Hold On 4:12
Out with a bang -- a punchy, insistent little rocker with a rangy guitar lick and lyrics about perseverance.
Originally published in the Toronto Sun, Toronto, ON on 04.29.07.
A rock-solid survivor in an unpredictable world
Drummer Neil Peart lays down the beat and the philosophical foundations on Rush's new album
by Brad Wheeler
'We were listening to Far Cry, towards the end of it, and he asked if I could solo over that part. I said, 'Well, of course I could!' But it's not the thing, by nature, I would do. My natural exuberance is balanced by my natural reserve in music, too. Yes, I love show-offy fills and all that stuff, but I never intrude on a vocal part. And I never would co-opt an instrumental section, saying 'I should solo here.' It's not the Canadian way - ha, ha!"
Neil Peart is talking. A lot. The "he" to whom the drummer refers is Nick Raskulinecz, a Grammy-winning producer (Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver) who co-produced Rush's new album, Snakes and Arrows.
"And what was the third thing you mentioned? Oh, yes, the blues. That's funny. Of course, where we all started were those kind of bands that were playing Jimi Hendrix, the Who songs and Blue Cheer and Cream. I think the first band I played in played six Cream songs, and it was the same for Geddy and Alex. So, anyway..."
Peart, speaking in his rehearsal studio, refers to the blues of a few of the new songs, including The Way the Wind Blows, with its 12-bar moments. Being released next week, Snakes and Arrows is the first new collection of original material from Rush in almost five years, and it's the 33-year-old band's 25th album overall, not counting compilations and such. The band's last studio effort was 2004's Feedback, an album of cover tunes that explored the group's early musical influences. The bluesy ventures of Feedback seeped into the lean, power-rocking new disc.
When a publicist briefed me for the interview, she led me to believe the drummer liked to talk. In fact, she said: "And of course you know Neil likes to talk."
I didn't know that, though. Peart stopped giving interviews related to Rush's tours and albums years ago. After the tragic death of his daughter in an automobile accident in 1997, and the subsequent loss of his wife of 20 years to cancer months later, Peart went on hiatus from the group. For the next two years, he hit the road, logging countless miles and hours on his motorcycle. The experience is recounted in his book, Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road. The 2002 album Vapor Trails brought the band back together, but the chores of press junkets and meet-and-greet sessions with fans were left to guitarist Alex Lifeson and singer-bassist Geddy Lee.
But now, in his Toronto rehearsal studio, the 54-year-old drummer's on a roll, so to speak. Erudite and enthused, Peart looks like a happier, larger and much more verbose Buster Keaton. There's not much to the studio, a dark space dominated by a spaceship of a drum kit in the room's middle. "I thought we could sit over there," he says, motioning to a pair of folding chairs next to a roadie case. "You can put your tape recorder right here."
Being a prolific writer himself (as the band's lyricist and author of four books), Peart is accommodating to journalists. "I wrote that for people like you," he says, cheerfully referring to a lengthy essay on the making of the album, posted online. (He not only wrote the essay, but also a 2,893-word blog on the actual writing of the essay). His highly readable and informative work may make the article you read now superfluous.
The new album's Parker Brothers-meets-Hamlet title comes from a line in a song - the fluid hard-rocker Armour and Sword - about how the scars of youth and fanatical upbringings extend into adulthood. ("The snakes and arrows a child is heir to are enough to leave a thousand cuts.")
"All of these well-armed religions start with children," Peart explains, mentioning Richard Dawkins' bestselling book The God Delusion. "A Christian child, a Muslim child - there's no such thing. They're made that way by their parents."
Other songs lean in the same direction. "Faithless was born out of the same reflection," Peart says, picking up speed. "Faith, for some people, can be a consolation, an answer to the big questions or solace when they're feeling hurt and lonely. It's a kind of armour. But bad faith, that's a kind of sword."
In that the song's chorus is slower than the verses, the tempo of Faithless is a departure. (The band is called Rush, remember.) Lyrically, with lines about one's own moral guidance, the ground is much more familiar. The song Freewill, from 1980's Permanent Waves, would not be out of place among the libertarian themes of Snakes and Arrows.
"Completely," Peart agrees. "You can't know that the outpouring of your youth will withstand time," he adds, admitting that some of his early drumming and lyrics make him wince today.
"But the same elements are true. Given these choices, even in the wake of sorrow or grief or frustration or whatever, I'll still deal with it myself. Nobody else or other thing is going to help it."
Faithless, in a sense, is a coda to Freewill. "That's so long ago," Peart says, "so much has happened to me in the meantime. And yet the basic simplicity of what I thought then is true. Now, it's 'Here's how I got along without that [faith].'
"It's like a carpenter's level, the bubble. I have a moral compass. I have a spirit level."
What's The Rush?
Rush was deliberate in the writing, planning and recording Snakes and Arrows. And now, with the album out Tuesday, thorough preparations for an upcoming world tour are well under way. A timeline follows.
At Geddy Lee's home studio in Toronto, guitarist Alex Lifeson and singer-bassist Lee craft music to lyrics that Neil Peart had couriered from California.
The band meets at Neil Peart's house in Quebec, where Lifeson and Lee present the drummer with a handful of songs.
Rush reunites in a Toronto studio for a month-long pre-production meeting.
The band reconvenes for another month, this time with co-producer Nick Raskulinecz. Eleven songs are completed in rough form.
Final recording begins in Allaire Studios, a rambling residential studio in the Catskill Mountains. The band planned to stay for two weeks to get the basic tracks down, but stay a month and a half to complete the album.
The album is mixed in California.
At his Toronto rehearsal space, Peart begins rehearsing for the tour. Lifeson and Lee join the drummer a few weeks later.
After full production rehearsals at a Toronto arena, the whole thing eventually moves to Atlanta for more rehearsals.
Rush kicks its North American tour on June 13.
Originally published in the The Globe and Mail, Toronto, ON on 04.28.07.
Closer to the heart
By Ben Rayner
Although he's been the man responsible for putting thoughtful words into Geddy Lee's mouth for the past three decades, Neil Peart has rarely spoken publicly.
A simple, human desire for privacy is no doubt the main reason, particularly in the wake of the horrific period at the end of the 1990s when the Rush drummer lost both his wife and 19-year-old daughter within the space of 10 months.
But given the amount of writing done by Peart, who has authored four autobiographical travelogues - The Masked Rider, Traveling Music, Ghost Rider and the more recent Roadshow: Landscape With Drums - over the past decade and religiously maintains the content at his NeilPeart.net website, perhaps the man would just prefer to air his thoughts in a different manner.
True to form, he's mulling over his laptop, cigarette in hand, and attempting to finish up a review of the latest Dave Eggers novel for the "Bubba's Book Club" section of the site when this writer arrives one Monday morning at a Port Lands rehearsal space. That's where Peart has been whipping himself into shape for Rush's upcoming world tour. One of the virtuoso drummer's legendary kits practically glows on a raised dais behind him.
The lengthy road swing - Rush won't hit Toronto until a pair of dates at the Air Canada Centre on Sept. 19 and 22 - follows this coming Tuesday's release of Snakes & Arrows, the trio's first album of new material since 2002's Vapor Trails.
Co-produced with 36-year-old young Turk Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver), it's a muscular, wholly contemporary sounding update on the classic Rush formula of elevated musicianship, metal anthemics and lyrical food for thought, the latter honing in this time on matters of love but mainly of faith.
"There was no concept of Nick being the young guy at all. We were just kindred spirits equally enthused about the work we were doing," says Peart, who like bandmates Lee and Alex Lifeson is 54 and appreciates the occasional kick in the ass from an outside observer in the studio. "We always like to have somebody else's spirit, really - not just their voice or opinion but somebody else's overlook on things. Somebody to encourage us, to prod us, with arrangement ideas, performance ideas.
"That's what happened with Nick. We know how to arrange a song and we know how to record it and produce it. We could do it ourselves, but we know it's better if we don't."
The band was, in fact, slightly awed at the precociousness Raskulinecz exhibited in the studio. Peart credits the producer, a lifetime Rush fan who would air-drum his ideas to Peart, with pushing the trio's already renowned playing to new levels ("I wouldn't ask you if I didn't think you could do it" was a favourite expression) and refusing to let it repeat past glories. He was a vigorous enough taskmaster, in any case, that Peart is forced to concede, "I've got nice blood blisters all over my fingers right now from trying to emulate that performance."
Peart's words, meanwhile, came from some of the usual, rarefied sources - Richard Dawkins and evolutionary psychology are current inspirations - but also in large part from his experiences touring the back roads of America and Europe by motorcycle during Rush's 30th-anniversary tour in 2004.
It was on his rides through various Bible Belts, chronicled in print in Roadshow, that Peart realized he could no longer "stay neutral" on the topic of religion, he says. Snakes & Arrows addresses some of his conclusions in tunes like "Armor and Sword" and "The Way the Wind Blows," which ponder the perversion of faith into oppression and war, and the telling "Faithless," which rejects adherence to higher powers in favour of a humanist allegiance to one's own "moral compass."
"It came from travelling through all these back roads and small towns and seeing these church signs everywhere," says Peart. "Some of them are amusing, like: 'If you give the devil a ride, pretty soon he'll want to drive.' That's fantastic. But other ones were just so presumptuous with these big crosses and scripture. What makes you think that's okay? I tried to imagine going by one with the crescent and star saying, 'There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet.' Or one with the Star of David saying, 'That carpenter wasn't our messiah.' It makes me laugh, in a way, but in another, this is so f--ked up.
"It's so arrogant and that's what I can't get over. So I was trying to weigh all that .... I didn't want to make enemies gratuitously, but I decided I had to say something because if I didn't I was just allowing that to happen. It's worth speaking out despite the vilification and stuff that might come back at you. If you're not speaking for reason, you're speaking for unreason."
For all the prose he's mined over the years from his touring experiences, however, Peart remains only a grudging participant in the process.
When Rush hits the road, it hits it hard - the Snakes & Arrows tour kicks off in Atlanta in June and wraps on Oct. 29 in Helsinki - and this has always been an odd source of inner conflict for a drummer's drummer blessed with playing in one of the world's most vaunted live bands.
To keep things interesting, though, he promises Rush feels somewhat "liberated" from its catalogue after doing a pure greatest-hits tour three years ago, and will this time be honing in on new material and "old songs that we haven't played for years or that we've never played." One such gem from 1979 is in the works, although he won't say which.
"I've written before that I first quit touring in 1989 and I've been quitting touring ever since," laughs Peart. "No, I don't find it rewarding at all. It's arduous and repetitive, but it's part of the job. I love rehearsing. What we're doing right now I love, learning the songs and the three of us playing together and getting in lockstep with the band and such. All of that's great and the first couple of shows are great, but then it's six months of my life. I don't get my life back until November."
"What does a band do? A band plays live. To me, that's fundamental and one thing that's kept me from quitting all this time because it seems obvious to me that if we stop playing live, we stop growing. It's not real. For us to be a real band, I just accept that it's what I have to do. Nobody's job is heaven - I look around all the time and I feel grateful to have that choice ...
"I know there are a lot of bands from our generation slogging around clubs and state fairs just to make a living and we can choose every few years to do a tour of huge venues and travel by bus or motorcycle, so I'm not being cynical about it.
"But I spent last year at home writing a book ... and writing new songs and that's the good stuff. What we just did - the three of us going away together and working together and creating new material - that's the ultimate part of the job.
"Going out and doing the same thing over and over again, how can that be great unless you're so shallow that you feed off that?"
Originally published in the Toronto Star, Toronto, ON on 04.28.07.
New songs on tap as Rush releases "Arrows"
By Gary Graff
Thirty-three years into its recording career, Canadian hard-rock trio Rush is finding it easier to make music together.
"You can argue that we don't have much to prove at this point," guitarist Alex Lifeson said. "We're in our 50s now. Geddy (Lee) and I have been doing it 40 years, as a band with Neil (Peart) for 33 years.
"But this was maybe the most fun record I think we've ever made. It just feels different somehow. It's very positive, very forward, all fresh and new to us for some reason."
He was referring to "Snakes & Arrows," which comes out Tuesday (May 1) on Anthem/Atlantic and as an expanded set with a 43-minute video on June 5.
It's Rush's first set of all-new material since 2002's "Vapor Trails." But unlike the six-year hiatus before that album, the trio has been busy in the intervening years. It has toured twice, released a covers EP, "Feedback," a live album and two concert DVDs -- "Rush in Rio" and "R30."
"At no time do we feel like we're retired or not functioning," singer/bassist/keyboardist Lee said. "We were just waiting for the right moment to get back together and write."
It also appears to be the right moment for Rush to re-enter the marketplace. First single "Far Cry" is already a No. 3 hit on Radio & Records' Rock chart, the band's fourth top five in the past five years.
IN THE HOUSE
Rush started work on "Snakes & Arrows" in early 2006, when Lee and Lifeson, who reside two blocks away from each other in Toronto, began working on new music at Lee's house, with lyrics supplied by Peart from California. The project, Lee said, was inspired by the band's covers album "Feedback," which "put us in touch with being kids again. I think we came into (the new album) with a real nice mental attitude."
Lee and Lifeson had five new songs sketched out when they convened with Peart at a home the drummer owns in Quebec, and the trio continued to develop material in May and September in Toronto -- bringing in Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver), Rush's first American-born producer, for the latter session.
In November, the group then repaired to Allaire Studios in New York's Catskill Mountains for five weeks ("We finally got a Borscht Belt gig," Lifeson cracked), whose residential setting allowed for such spontaneous creations as the instrumentals "Hope" and "Malignant Narcissism."
"There's a lot of playing on this record," Lifeson said. "To me it's got our whole history in it, somehow. It's got little bits of the way we wrote songs in the past, the kind of chords we might have used, but not in a nostalgic kind of way."
In fact, Lifeson and Lee agree that many of the new songs hew back to the intricate, prog-rock stylings on which Rush staked its reputation in the '70s -- and in turn have inspired more recent rock bands whose work and sound techniques interest Rush.
"We like to feel we're current," Lee said. "We listen to a lot of younger bands, especially Alex. A lot of those bands cite us as an influence. It's ironic that bands that have been influenced by our playing or our past have some instruction for us, too. They help us grow."
That pattern has helped Rush become a kind of rite of passage band, handed down from one generation of fans to the next. The trio maintain a particularly strong live following, so expectations are high for a 42-show North American tour that begins June 13 in Atlanta and will be followed by dates around the world, perhaps returning to the States in 2008.
Originally published by Reuters on 04.29.07.
Team Canada: Rock 'n' Roll Police
By Jane Stevenson
Yes, veteran Canadian prog-rockers Rush deal with some pretty heavy issues -- such as religion and war -- on their new album Snakes & Arrows, which hits stores Tuesday.
But they also maintain their sense of humour, having lifted the title of one of their new instrumentals -- Malignant Narcissim -- from a line about how terrorists think in the outrageous 2004 movie comedy, Team America: World Police.
The irreverant film sprang from the same minds, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who brought the world South Park.
"We're all big Matt Stone fans, and South Park fans, so we we were all fans of that movie," Rush singer-bassist Geddy Lee said yesterday in Toronto. "And (Rush drummer-lyricist) Neil (Peart) is friends with Matt Stone. And Matt and Trey Parker were both Rush fans at some point. So they keep in contact. And (Neil) said, 'Look, we want to do this song called Malignant Narcissim, and (Matt) was thrilled. He said, 'Great!' "
But when the band found out their Snakes & Arrows co-producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver) had never seen the movie, they set up a special screening while recording with him in the Catskills.
"We were recording during American Thanksgiving," Lee said. "And we planned this big dinner, actually in this big drum room, in this big recording room. So we set this giant table up and everybody and the crew, even the chef who was cooking for us that night, sat down with us and had this big meal. And at the end of it, we all crowded around the control room and on their big giant screen that comes down for when they're doing film work there, we watched World Police as our big celebration."
Raskulinecz laughed his butt off.
"Oh, yeah, how could you not?" Lee said. "It's so ridiculous. I think it should offend, but it's funny. They'll offend anyone. They're equal-opportunity offenders."
Originally published in the Toronto Sun, Toronto, ON on 04.27.07.
Billboard.com Review: Snakes & Arrows
By Chuck Eddy
Initial impression with these proggers' first album since 2002 is that the venerable trio from the Great White North is doing its best to keep up with complicated concept-metal bands like Mastodon the group's no doubt inspired. Closer inspection, though, reveals that most of the proceedings are fairly clean-cut and midtempo, with guitars only intermittently attaining heavy density (amidst the Cream-like blues-rock of the wartime statement "The Way the Wind Blows," for instance). Still, despite the lyrics' typically diverting barrage of paradoxical metaphors and philosophical bumper-stickers, and one commendable, down-to-earth homage to "factory town" life built on a Link Wray-reminiscent twang riff ("Workin' Them Angels"), three of the album's most notable tracks are instrumental: "The Main Monkey Business" (mythic with exotic world percussion), "Hope" (folksy, new age loveliness) and "Malignant Narcissism" (booty-shaking, jazz-funk fusion). Here and elsewhere, as usual, time changes will keep the customers satisfied.
Originally published on Billbard.com on 04.27.07.
Evening Standard Review: Snakes & Arrows
By Paul Connolly
Formed in 1968, Canadian power trio Rush have never been critical favourites (for excellent reasons during their dire Eighties period) but despite tragedy (drummer and songwriter Neil Peart lost his daughter and wife within a year of each other) they've never stopped. The 18th studio album offers a neat sample of the Rush modus operandi: sinuous hard rock embellished with folky touches, Geddy Lee's tremulous voice and Peart's vastly pretentious lyrics (witness Workin' Them Angels: "Driving down the razor's edge between the past and the future"). But they sound more relevant than the likes of the Rolling Stones these days, and with the tough pop of Far Cry, a return to the charts wouldn't be out of the question in a more just world.
Originally published in The Evening Standard, London, England on 04.27.07.
Recordings: Rush - Snakes and Arrows
By Chris Mertan
Classic-rock radio mainstays Rush are unimpressed with the state of the world and feel the need to let it know. Granted, they haven't released a killer album since Signals in 1982, and its masterful predecessors Moving Pictures and the criminally underrated A Farewell to Kings are even further gone.
It should come as no surprise that their state-of-the-world album Snakes and Arrows (did Samuel L. help them out?) doesn't rank up there with the legendary rock-god riffs that showed us that Tom Sawyer really did have a mean, mean stride. This new venture kicks off with two relatively decent tracks - "Far Cry" and "Armor and Swords" - which, on a greater album, could serve as decent filler. From there, Rush descend into hollow religious insights, pun-filled political sleepers and lyrics cheesed in anti-Bush rhetoric that even Neil Young wouldn't touch (in "The Way the Wind Blows," singer Geddy Lee wants to know why we let our "child get left behind") - not to mention three, count them, three droning instrumentals. Even the percussive beat of Neil Peart (still the greatest drummer of all time) and the Jimmy Page-lite guitar of Alex Lifeson fade into the expressionless noise of repetitive crescendos and stunted melodies. Once successful in combining the heavy metal of Led Zeppelin with the experimental prog-rock of Pink Floyd, Rush repeat the same error of their past 25 years: They abandon the progressive virtuoso that once connected them to their fans. Then again, this calls for another tour, delivering generations of pseudo-psychedelics the epic sounds of yore blasted through 3,000-watt amps three inches from their faces. Just like the good ol' days.
Originally published in the The Guardian, San Diego, CA on 04.26.07.
Snake & Arrows Promo Poster
Power Windows has reported that just as when Vapor Trails was released, independent record stores will be giving away an 18x24 poster with the purchase of Snakes & Arrows next week.
Snakes & Arrows Lyrics
Official lyrics for most of the tracks on Snakes & Arrows have been posted in the Discography section. Lyrics for a few of the songs are best guesses based on repeated listens.
Alex Comments on Tour
Alex was on Q107 in Toronto this morning. Some of the highlights:
- He mentioned that they would likely play 8 or 9 songs from the new album
- He said that they are trying to go through the setlist now, and that they will try and play songs they have never played before or haven't played in a very long time
- He was surprised at the demand that resulted in a second show being added in Toronto after the first date sold out
Second Toronto Show Added
According to this event listing on Ticketmaster's Canadian site, a second show at the Air Canada Centre has been added for Saturday, September 22. The presale begins this Wednesday at 10 AM with the general onsale date this Friday, April 27.
RUSH on Rockline
RUSH will be appearing on the nationally syndicated radio show Rockline on Wednesday, May 9 with a rebroadcast on Monday, May 14. It's not clear at this point if all three guys will be on the show or if it will just be Geddy and Alex as appearances on this particular show have been the past few times they've been on. Check the affiliates link on the Rockline web site to see if the show airs in your area or to find a station that streams their broadcast online. The live show begins at 11:30 PM Eastern (8:30 PM Pacific) and fans can phone in with questions during the program at 1-800-344-ROCK(7625).
Here's a great article from Canada's National Post about Snakes & Arrows with lots of good quotes from Geddy about the recording, air-guitar, air-bass, and air-drum teams at their concerts and alienating longtime fans.
RUSH Special on Sirius Radio
RUSH will be on Classic Rewind, Sirius channel 15, on Thursday April 26 at 10 PM for a Snakes & Arrows special.
All three members of RUSH stop by the SIRIUS Studios for an exclusive interview. Join Geddy Lee, Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson as they talk about all sorts of things including their new CD Snakes & Arrows, their upcoming tour, what they like to do when they're not on the road and much more.
Rebroadcast: Sat., Apr. 28th @ 12 pm ET; Sun., Apr. 29th @ 11 pm ET; Tues., May 1st @ 3 pm ET.
Charity Prints From Andrew MacNaughtan
RUSH photographer Andrew MacNaughtan is offering limited edition, signed and numbered prints of the band in the studio as they recorded Snakes & Arrows. Proceeds from the sale will benefit several of Andrew's favorite charities. Head over to Andrew's site to check out these and other great prints available for sale.
Andrew also gave some insight into the making of documentary that will appear on the Snakes & Arrows DVD.
For years, I've wanted to make a documentary of RUSH in the recording studio, and tell the story of the process of making an album. So, it was the opportunity of a lifetime to be a "fly on the wall" and capture rare footage of the guys at work on their upcoming release, Snakes & Arrows. The documentary, entitled The Game of Snakes & Arrows, was filmed over the course of 20 days at a beautiful studio in New York's Catskill Mountains.
The band gave me unprecedented access into their creative process and I had the privilege to witness first hand the writing and recording of their songs. In fact, I was able to capture on film a rare moment of Geddy jamming on his bass as he created a new song for the album.
Nick Raskulinecz Talks Snakes & Arrows
Here's a nice 4 minute video of Snakes & Arrows co-producer Nick Raskulinecz talking about his thoughts on RUSH's new album.
Snakes & Arrows DVD Album
While the standard audio release of Snakes & Arrows will be available on 05.01.07, a DVD album version will hit stores on 06.05.07.
RUSH has recorded Snakes & Arrows on a new format called DVD Album. Another name for this is the MVI (Music Video Interactive disc). With a higher storage capacity than a standard CD, the DVD Album is loaded with exciting new features. It plays in all standard DVD players, computers and game consoles with DVD drives. This release will include the album in 5.1 surround sound as well as an approximately 43 minute video documentary - RUSH: The Game Of Snakes & Arrows, an intimate look at the making of the new album. Also included will be cell phone ringtones, wallpapers, buddy icons and more. Other digital extras that will only be accessible via computer include the ability to extract the album tracks onto the users computer for use in mp3 players. The Snakes & Arrows DVD album comes in a deluxe box and includes all 13 new songs from the standard audio release. Rumor has it that this is a limited edition release so pre-order your copy now.
Snakes & Arrows Album Bio
Be sure to check out the Snakes & Arrows album bio written by Neil. This is the narrative that will appear in the tourbook and gives some great insight into the making of the new album.
Rush Star Fights For Florida Justice
LATEST: RUSH star ALEX LIFESON is appealing a ruling that cleared Florida sheriff's deputies who arrested him and his son at a New Year's Eve party in 2003 of brutality, because he's sick of heavy-handed police operations in the area. Lifeson, real name Alex Zivojinovich, was shocked when Judge Paul Magnuson ruled last month (Apr07) the officers were "objectively reasonable" in their behaviour - even though they tasered Lifeson and his son Justin and broke the guitarist's nose in a fight at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Naples, Florida. And the rocker is now fighting back after collecting video evidence and witness testimony, which will prove the police officers and the judge were wrong. He says, "We have thousands of pages of documents, we have about 15 witnesses, we have video, we have so much compelling evidence of the brutality that we went through that night. "To have it just thrown out, and to have a judge, who advocates me being punched in the face twice by two cops, breaking my nose and tasering me six times, (rule it) as adequate and appropriate conduct on the part of the police, that's not right." Lifeson hopes his appeal will prompt officials in Florida to clean up their act: "I'm not the first person that's been beaten up in Florida... but I can't just not do something. I can't just let it go. "I feel terrible for the guy who doesn't have any money or doesn't have any celebrity who this happens to all the time... If I can do something to make it easier for the next guy who gets jumped on by the cops, then I'll feel good about it."
Originally published on ContactMusic.com on April 5, 2007.