Goldmine Review: Snakes & Arrows
This first studio album from Rush in five years finds the Canadian trio progressing forward from where 2002's Vapor Trails left off. In between, they've stayed busy releasing two multidisc live albums, a cover album, and two multi-DVD concert videos.
Though not prog rockers anymore, the group - now in their mid-50s - has always worked to change its music, not falling back on its prior sound, and Lee, Lifeson, and Peart again succeed on this count.
Peart's lyrics are wonderful, as per usual, and the music by Lee and Lifeson will keep their fans, as well as more passive listeners, happy. This is a solid effort, and though not one of Rush's best, a great album.
What Snakes & Arrows lacks is a song that immediately strikes the listener as a standout. Nonetheless, all the songs are good, and in particular, "Armor and Sword," "Far Cry" (the first single), and "Faithless" are the best of the 13 tracks.
Of the three - count 'em - instrumental pieces, "Hope" stands above the rest, and it is written and performed solo by lead guitarist Alex Lifeson. With this album, Rush continues to show that they are vital, dynamic, cohesive, and entertaining, even after more than 30 years.
Originally published on GoldmineMag.com, May 2007.
Blender Review: Snakes & Arrows
Relentlessly unfashionable Canadian trio returns to the tuneful virtuosity that inspired bands from Iron Maiden to the Bad Plus.
by J.D. Considine
After spending half of the '90s on hiatus, Rush made a tentative return with 2002's Vapour Trails, then found their feet with two live releases and a collection of covers (the '60s?themed Feedback). On Snakes & Arrows, Rush combine their strengths, offering plenty of the flash that made them guitar?magazine pinups in well?focused, hook?savvy tunes. So, though they may play more notes per song than some bands play on entire albums, Rush ensure those notes matter ? from the churning, semi?orchestral swell of "Faithless" to the quiet intensity of the acoustic?guitar solo "Hope." Even better, there's an edge to the lyrics that makes bassist Geddy Lee's keening vocals seem unusually urgent (as when "Wind Blows" assails know?nothings "from the Middle East to the Middle West"). The result is their best album since Moving Pictures in 1981.
Download: "Faithless," "Spindrift," "Armor and Sword"
Originally published on Blender.com, May 2007.
RUSH Audio Interviews
Thanks to some fellow RUSH fans, audio of some recent specials and interviews the guys did promoting Snakes & Arrows is now available.
Nights with Alice Cooper interview with Geddy and Alex on 04.26.07 - Thanks to NightsWithAliceCooper.com.
The FMQB Productions radio special Inside Rush: Snakes & Arrows - A World Premiere Event on 04.29.07 - Thanks again to tst4eko.
Interview by Max Webster's Kim Mitchell with Alex and Geddy on Q107, Toronto on 05.02.07 - Thanks to animateme from Counterparts for recording and sharing this great interview.
Icebergradio.com World Premiere Special with Neil Peart on 05.05.07 - Thanks to barney_rebel from Counterparts for this one.
Geddy and Alex on Rockline on 05.09.07 - Thanks once again to tst4eko.
New Single: Spindrift
Spindrift is the second single from Snakes & Arrows and was sent to radio stations yesterday (05.29). The info sheet that was sent with the single reads:
To coincide with the start of the 2007 Atlantic Ocean Hurricane Season...Atlantic Records brings you the exciting new RUSH release that will leave you soaked and dizzy after one listen! "SPINDRIFT" from the band's #3 Billboard debut record "Snakes & Arrows", rocks you like a hurricane on June 1! RUSH will hit the road June 13 in Atlanta and will continue a massive world tour through 2008!
So start spinning the "SPINDRIFT" today!
Be sure to call your local rock station and request Spindrift often!
The info sheet also states "purging the country/ac/heritage" markets with The Larger Bowl this Summer. So it appears The Larger Bowl will be released as a single later this summer.
Snakes & Arrows News Update & More
A quick roundup of some Snakes & Arrows news and a couple other tidbits.
- The MVI DVD release of Snakes & Arrows has been delayed until at least June 12. Amazon.com lists the release date as June 19 however. It's unclear which of these is the correct release date.
UPDATE 05.29: According to the RUSH Backstage Club, the MVI release is now scheduled for release on June 26. Amazon.com is still listing a date of June 19 and Best Buy's web site is showing the release date as June 12.
- RUSH's first music video since Half The World from the Test For Echo album is now available. The video for Far Cry is available on YouTube along with a higher quality version here. It is believed this video will also included on the MVI DVD release.
- On May 20, the CBC aired "Bob And Doug McKenzie's 24th Anniversary" prime time special, celebrating the 24th anniversary of the film Strange Brew. Geddy Lee, who grew up with Rick Moranis and sang on the duo's hit Take Off, made a guest appearance which can be seen on YouTube.
- Rounder Books is publishing "The Roadshow Illustrated Companion" on September 25th to coincide with the release of "Roadshow : Landscape With Drums: A Concert Tour by Motorcycle" in paperback. Here's the description from Amazon.com: "A stunning companion to Roadshow: Landscape with Drums, The Illustrated Companion combines eloquent text with a range of full color photographs depicting the byways, bystanders, backstage hands, and other features of Neil Peart's ever-changing landscape as he journeys by motorcycle between dates on Rush's historic 30th Anniversary World Tour. Including concert photos taken by official Rush photographer Andrew MacNaughtan The Roadshow Illustrated Companion vividly chronicles Peart's ultimate travel adventure delivering a sublimely executed treatise on the art of travel."
- The members of Rush are featured on the covers of magazines for dedicated to their respective instruments. Alex Lifeson is featured on the June issue of Guitar One, Neil Peart is on the cover of the June issue of Drum! and Geddy Lee can be found gracing the cover of the July 2007 issue of Bass Guitar Magazine. Neil Peart is also featured in the new Modern Drummer collectors edition, Drum Gods. Also featured in the June issue of Drum! is collector Michael DF Lowe, creator of NeilPeartDrumsticks.com.
Music Review: Rush - Snakes And Arrows
By T. Michael Testi
Although Rush was formed in 1968, it wasn't until 1976's 2112; the band's fourth album, that they defined their progressive rock style they would become famous for. The album would be come gold on November 16, 1976. Now, over 30 years later, Rush has released their 18th album, Snakes And Arrows on Anthem/Atlantic Records.
The CD contains 13 tracks whose listing can be found below. Rush is made up of the legendary trio of Geddy Lee on vocals, bass and mellotron; Alex Lifeson on guitars, mandola, mandolin and bouzouki (a Greek long-necked lute); and Neil Peart on drums, percussion, and tambourine. All songs were composed by Lee and Lifeson with lyrics by Peart with the exception of Hope which was written by Lerxst Lifeson (Alex Lifeson) all by his own self!
What I found as I listened to this CD is how mature this band is within the culture of their style. At heart, they are an instrumental band in that they really focus on the composition of their music. They have a very complex system of integrating their instruments together to create a powerful wall of sound. The lyrics, which are sometimes simple, sometimes profound, act as a thread that ties the whole package together.
Take for example the first track, "Far Cry", it is a swirling sound that plays against a driving bass line. The lyrics are not complex, but they work as conduit bringing the song back to a home base allowing the instruments to take off on their own threads.
"Armor and Sword" begins as an acoustic tome with the lines: "The snakes and arrows a child is heir to/ Are enough to leave a thousand cuts/ We build our defenses, a place of safety / And leave the darker places unexplored."
Clearly a song about life and how the things that happen to us can make us put up defenses to protect ourselves and can also cause us harm. Here the music revolves around the words and it is the words that drive the song from its acoustic tone to the hard driving finish.
"Workin' Them Angels", is a typical Rush song, transitioning from tones and sounds; from hard guitars to mandolins. This is more of a transition song. "The Larger Bowl" is another song that begins with acoustic and forms around the lyrics and builds to a catchy refrain that ties the song together.
"Spindrift" is a compositional song that the simple lyrics try to tie the song together. This is probably my least favorite song on the CD. "The Main Monkey Business" is a 6 minute instrumental that focuses on the musical talent of Rush.
While I like many of the tunes prior to this point, the rest of this CD is great! "The Way the Wind Blows" starts off with a bluesy feel; it quickly grows into a driving beat. This is the only attempt at a "political" statement, but at that is very minor in its statement. I love some of the intonations that Lee does with his voice on this one and the way it mixes with the blues lines from Lifeson.
"Hope" is a nice little ditty that at 2 minutes is truly a transitional piece for guitar. "Faithless" is one of those songs that balances composition with lyrics and harkens back to some of the old Rush circa 2112. "Bravest Face" is another one that combines a catchy tune with, Lee doing some funky vocalizations and lyrics that tie it all together.
"Good News First" is a slow driving tune that builds throughout the song with a catchy middle eight. "Malignant Narcissism" is another instrumental that drives on with the bass line playing off the guitar. A 2 minute transitional that works. "We Hold On", the final track that blends lyrics with instrumentals that not only is classic Rush, but may be a classic in and of it self.
Yes, I like this album! My first take was that the second half was better than the first half, but after three times through, there are no songs that I would remove and only with Spindrift; the worst that I can say about it, is that I don't always notice it when it is on. This album is worth the time and you will find many of the tunes remaining in your head long after the music's done.
Snakes and Arrows' song listing:
Armor And Sword
Workin' Them Angels
The Larger Bowl
The Main Monkey Business
The Way The Wind Blows
Good News First
We Hold On
Originally published on Blog Critics on May 28, 2007.
Classic Rock Revisited Reviews: Snakes & Arrows
Below find two reviews of Rush's new album Snakes & Arrows. Both CRR Editor Jeb Wright and CRR Scribe A. Lee Graham are Rush-a-holics so instead of fighting over who gets the limelight, here are two different views of Snakes & Arrows.
By A. Lee Graham
With Snakes & Arrows, Rush rekindles the prog-rock flame. Whether it pleases longtime fans depends whom you ask. Some await every release as if "The Spirit Of Radio" just hit airwaves; others dismiss everything since Moving Pictures. Yet the band's 18th studio outing holds something for everyone, for what we have here is a return to form. "Far Cry" has it all: breathless intro, insistent groove and chops aplenty. This is prog for the new millennium - lean, mean and catchy. Compared with the spare, solo-less mess that marked Vapor Trails, "Far Cry" sees the boys regain their footing.
If "Far Cry" is a mission statement, then what follows is an exhilarating, if uneven, journey through Neil Peart's mind and the trio's seamless interplay. The drummer's well-chronicled motorcycle treks logged more than miles; they discovered contemporary religion, human suffering and the quirks that make the modern world so fascinating. Those observations reveal melancholy and joy, sometimes within the same song. Take "Armor and Sword," whose slow, churning power chords surrender to softer acoustic passages and bittersweet bite. Then there's "Workin' Them Angels." Is it just me, or does the beginning echo Supertramp's "Give A Little Bit?"
Heavier - at least musically - is "Spindrift." Check out the chilling introduction, invoking "Witch Hunt's" primacy while carving its own identity. On its heels is "The Main Monkey Business," the first of three killer instruments. Rush fans disagree on many things, but most have a soft spot for virtuoso musicianship, and "The Main Monkey Business," "Malignant Narcissm" and "Hope" deliver, the latter seeing guitarist Alex Lifeson offer his first unaccompanied acoustic performance since "Broon's Bane." The six-stringer even goes bluesy on "The Way The Wind Blows," no doubt influenced by the stripped-down Feedback sessions.
Much deeper is "Faithless." On its surface, it might reveal Peart rejecting faith. On closer inspection, he simply disputes society's definition, preferring his own viewpoint. Fleshing out the sound is Ben Mink, whose string skills enlivened Signals' "Losing It," not to mention Geddy Lee's My Favorite Headache project. While Peart delivers perhaps his bravest lyrical journey, and the trio fires on all cylinders. Snakes & Arrows wouldn't sound the same without Nick Raskulinecz.
Yep, the same guy who produced Foo Fighters delivers a crisp, taut production worlds beyond Vapor Trails. Geddy Lee's bass strikes the perfect balance amid layers of guitars and drum fills, but his voice occasionally falters. Still, there's no denying some amazing work from the multi-instrumentalist.
Snakes & Arrows should please most Rush fans. From die-hards who drew pentagrams on their high school notebooks, to younger listeners just discovering Moving Pictures on iTunes, Snakes & Arrows slithers with confidence and nails its target.
By Jeb Wright
The last Rush album, Vapor Trails, was a convoluted, confusing and coagulated piece of work. The album did not flow and the songs were not up to snuff. The band took some time off, recorded an album of cover tunes and released some concert DVDs. The time off did them good. They have returned with a CD that incorporates themes and sounds from each era of the band's career.
This time around the listener is asked to pay attention as the album features mostly mid-tempo tunes that can just as easily loose ones attention as gain it. You have to seek this one out as it is not going to bash you upside your head to garner your attention. Instead, all the ingredients are there but the flavors compliment each other to a degree that one must savor in the moments of music to discover the subtle genius that hides within each song.
The good news is that Alex Lifeson is at least plucking out a guitar solo or two. I wish he would leave the artistic sentiment to Geddy and Neal and pound out some six string heroics instead of relying on complex rhythmic passages to get his point across. At times, this happens as the songs, "Far Cry" and "The Main Monkey Business" attest too. Lyrically and emotionally this album has a lot of light and shade intermingling between songs. "Faithless" and "Bravest Face" deal with topics of God or the lack thereof and the underlying, inherent evil in mankind. "Hope," on the other hand, is a beautiful instrumental featuring Alex playing acoustic guitar.
In the end, this is a solid album. It is more prog oriented than it is hard rock. Snakes & Arrows shows that Rush is very in tune with where they want to be at the present time. Don't look for a new version of "Tom Sawyer" or "Working Man" though because there are simply not any songs with that spirit. Still, there is enough going on here to peak the curiosity and keep the disc calling back to you to play it again, which is the ultimate sign of a good collection of music.
Originally published on ClassicRockRevisted.com, May 2007.
Geddy Lee's Caption: The Pain Of Politics
Every month the Toronto Globe and Mail's Evan Solomon sends an unidentified image to someone in the public eye along with a challenge: Give it a title and share the ideas and experiences it evokes. This month it was Geddy Lee who submitted to the challenge.
Evan Solomon: Geddy, when I sent you this photo, what caption came to mind?
Geddy Lee: Being me, I over-thought the thing a million times. But since I think the photograph is dealing with North and South Korea, the caption that struck me was, "The pain of politics."
Why "the pain of politics"?
I look at this photo and I see this suffering woman saying goodbye to a family member of some sort - perhaps her husband or her father, I can't tell - and he's reaching out to her. Korea is still, essentially, at war, 54 years after the ceasefire. This photo reminds me of the limited visits that North and South Koreans are allowed to have in order to reconnect families that have been torn apart. The Korean War is kind of a forgotten war and this picture really provoked me to think about that time and how little has really changed in terms of the division of life for family members in Korea.
You're right about the picture. It does show some South Koreans crossing that heavily armed border this week to be reunited with North Korean relatives that they haven't seen since 1953. But, of course, after the short visit, they each have to go back to their own countries.
I can't imagine that - family members that you have no access to. They can't phone each other. They don't have Internet contact with each other. Unfortunately the kind of comic presence of Kim Jong-il has made us look at North Korea in a slightly ridiculous fashion, but we forget they are half of a state that is divided and still at war. I was thinking about the Cold War that we all grew up through and this is a "cold war" of a different kind - it's totally out of our mindset as North Americans, but in that part of the world it is very real and it's an ongoing thing and you look at this picture and you see that.
Geddy, earlier you said that in typical fashion you over-thought this caption. What do you mean by that?
Oh well, give me a project and I'll think about it six ways to Sunday. I tried to think of a caption that would be revealing.
At one point, I thought "Not Enough Time" would be good. Because these two people, as they're feeling this pain, they're thinking we don't have enough time together. So that was one feeling I got from this photograph as well.
So much of your life - in a very different way - has been about not enough time. You are always on tour, making connections and leaving. How did you handle that with your own loved ones, as a father raising a family, always saying goodbye?
Well, that's an interesting question. When I was younger, it was easier for me because I was so enthralled with the dream. The dream of chasing my career. So I justified the leaving and the pain I caused my wife and my children by saying this is the job I'm meant to do and I have to follow my dream.
But it's never that simple. Life got much more difficult. There were many times with my relationship with my wife and my kids where it was a very painful thing to have to leave. You know, things go on in your life that require your presence and the older I got the more I felt the damage from my continual departures, the divisions were growing. When you are not present in a marriage and not present in a parenting situation, there's going to be damage and there's going to be alienation.
So I realized at a certain point in my life I had make a stronger effort to be present, to tour less and to come home more and to make sure I keep my family together. I always tell my friends that marriage is the toughest job you will ever have and keeping a family together is tougher than any job in the real world.
Did you almost lose your family?
I will say my wife and I, we teetered on the brink at one stage in our relationship many, many years ago, but we both wanted to make sure that didn't happen. This was when my son was very young and I was touring at that point - oh my god, I don't know, almost 250, 300 shows a year.
That is the rock-star life, isn't it?
It wasn't so much the rock-star life as trying to be a rock star. When you are trying to get there, you don't say no to anything. We would stay on the road for months at a time without coming home and obviously all of us experienced damage to our home lives.
And that's when we started to institute some pretty strong rules. We wouldn't go away for more than three weeks without coming home for a week and we began turning opportunities down in order to preserve our family lives.
I think that was the smartest decision we've ever made.
The Korean photograph also has to do with loss and how people try to cope with it. How has loss affected your life?
I experienced a massive loss very early in life. I lost my Dad when I was 12. And that was a terrible disruption and a terrible thing for a 12-year-old boy to handle.
How did he pass away?
Complications from the war. My parents were Holocaust survivors. My father was never 100 per cent healthy and his heart was not healthy from his labour during the war. And one night, his heart just gave out.
Was he in a concentration camp?
Yes. Most of my family was in camps. My mother and my father were both in Auschwitz and they then got transferred to different concentration camps. My mother was liberated in Bergen-Belson and my father spent some time in Dachau as well before he was liberated.
Was living with a sense of tragedy and loss, and even the guilt of survival, a shadow in your family?
My mom is an amazing woman and she very openly talked about [her] experiences. I know other children of Holocaust survivors tell different stories - how their parents won't speak of it, they won't discuss that pain - so I feel very fortunate that I had a tough mother who had a good sense of humour, who embraced life and handed it off to us too. It really helped me get over the loss of my father. I lost a friend a couple of years ago to cancer and that was a very tough moment for me. Witnessing what [Rush drummer] Neil Peart has gone through with the death of his wife and his daughter was another difficult time. But somehow or another I feel like my mother prepped me for all of this...
Your father died so long ago. He never saw you succeed, or raise a family. I wonder, does the ache ever really go away?
Not really, no. I think about that. I think about how great it would be to have him around to see my kids. More than my success, that's what I wish he was here to enjoy - my children and my wife and all that. But what can you do? Life throws you curve balls and you got to do your best to handle them.
You and the band are about to tour for your new album. Do you still get a kick out of playing older hits - or do you want to move on to the latest material?
One of the reasons we tour without an opening act is so we can have 2 1/2 to three hours to indulge everything - play the old stuff and play a good amount of new stuff. But for me to walk out on stage and after, what, 33 years of touring, see people who still want to hear something I've written 25 years ago... Well, I'm very happy to play that for them.
Some people say that when rock musicians get older, they lose their creativity. Do you still feel creative?
Absolutely. We've been through a lot in the last couple of years on the personal side, but now I feel like we're acting like a band again. We're still having fun with it, so the spirit of rock and roll is back with us.
Is that the caption for Geddy Lee right now?
Maybe. It could well be.
Evan Solomon is a writer and journalist. He is also the host of CBC News: Sunday and Sunday Night. How They See It will appear monthly in the Focus section.
Originally published in the The Globe And Mail, Toronto, ON on 05.26.07.
About.com Review: Snakes & Arrows
By Alun Williams
*** 1/2 out of 5
Rush is Back with New CD and Tour
Canadian rock trio Rush, what can you say? Almost 40 years in existence, formed in 1968, although they didn't release their first album until 1974. Since then, they have more than 20 gold albums and over a dozen platinum albums to their credit. That's some track record. How do they do it, and what makes them so unique?
Is it Geddy Lee's piercing vocals, pitched so many octaves higher than any other male vocalist (perhaps only with the exception of, say, Jon Anderson of Yes and another Canadian power trio Triumph)?
Neil Peart is the true drummer's drummer who has won award after award for his amazing skills, specifically his signature timing. He puts fills where you'd least expect them, cymbal crashes likewise, and, to boot, writes ALL their lyrics, but sings none!
These guys certainly seem to have the longevity thing nailed. Perhaps that's because they record an album, release it, tour, and then disappear. In recent years have taken anywhere from three to six years between albums. Their last full release - not including the covers EP Feedback in 2004 - was Vapor Trials in 2002.
Although hinting that they are somewhat reclusive, both Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee have released solo albums: Lifeson in 1996 with Victor and Geddy Lee with My Favorite Headache in 2000.
The band has not been without tragedy, with Neil Peart losing his daughter in a car accident in 1997, and his wife to cancer the following year. 'That would be enough to get most folks to quit, I'm sure, but not Neil Peart!
So power to these guys as they release Snakes and Arrows, which debuted on the Billboard Top 200 at #3! Fans have obviously been greatly awaiting this release!
The album opens with the first single, "Far Cry" which has really got its hooks in me and is pure Rush, no question!
We then have "Armor and Sword," which has hints of Def Leppard's Hysteria in places, but the structure and phrasing is typical Rush, seriously progressive rock stuff. There's also an acoustic section that brings back memories of their track "Trees" from the Hemispheres album. This track is also excellent Rush fare!
"Working Them Angels" has a kind of dark feel as it builds, but then has folk / prog element with Alex Lifeson playing some mandolin. The song has a great feel. It has grown on me over this past week of listening.
Strange but Good
"The Larger Bowl" -- strange title but great stuff. The intro kind of sounds like a 60s song and it actually grows into a very straightforward easy going melodic rock track, beautiful stuff.
Next up, "Spindrift" starts with an eerie edge and remains fairly dark as it continues and maybe a little repetitive after a while.
"The Main Monkey Business" intro sounds a little like the intro to the old Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy TV shows, but then becomes something more intriguing, with many elements. A very powerful instrumental track, the first of three on the album.
"The Way The Wind Blows" kind of reminds me of Cream in places, but hardly surprising as I know Rush have quoted the 60s trio as influences and even covered them on the Feedback EP. The track is much more in-depth though than you might think from that statement, but the solo reeks of Cream-era Clapton.
"Hope" is the second instrumental track. It is an acoustic piece with just Alex Lifeson.
"Faithless" is a track with interesting timing changes throughout, but that's Rush for you. It reminds me of Signals-era Rush and the lyrics make you wonder if Neil Peart is trying to make a point here about his beliefs. Another track that's a grower after a few listens.
Good Return for Rush
"Bravest Face" is next: laid back Rush building in the choruses and towards the end, although in general it starts to feel a little repetitive.
"Good News First" kind of reminds me a little of "The Main Monkey Business" in areas, but then gets very detailed with lots going on, behind a great melodic vocal. Good song.
"Malignant Narcissism" is the third and final instrumental, a haunting piece, with Geddy Lee and Neil Peart playing bass and drums parts off each other.
The closer is "We Hold On," which will leave a smile on the faces of long time Rush fans as it ends with true Rush elements as a grand finale.
I'm not the biggest Rush fan, but I do have about 10 of their albums in my collection so, yes, I like the band. This album was good to hear, but for me the stronger tracks were in the opening half of the album. They tended to lose a little for me towards the end.
This album is a good return for Rush and for their fans.
Originally published on About.com on 05.23.07.
Chicago Sun-Times Review: Snakes & Arrows
By Jim DeRogatis
As longtime fans well know, the long-running Canadian progressive-metal trio Rush nearly came to an end in the late '90s, when Neil Peart suffered the losses of his wife to cancer and his 19-year-old daughter to a car crash. The lyricist and virtuosic drummer found himself by writing several cathartic books, including two chronicling his Beat-odyssey travels across North America by motorcycle, and the band rebounded with "Vapor Trails" in 2002, which rocked harder than most late-era Rush but was still a far cry from the band's best. The group's 18th studio album therefore comes as a pleasant surprise, finding Rush recapturing a measure of the power it had in its prime, and debuting last week at No. 3.
To say that Peart, bassist-vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson have reconnected with a more old-school sound means different things to different fans: There is none of the dense conceptual and musical intricacy of the band at its most progressive, circa my personal favorites "2112" (1976) and "Hemispheres" (1978). But as the more streamlined and melodic Rush goes, "Snakes & Arrows" is easily the equal of FM-radio favorites "Permanent Waves" (1980) or "Moving Pictures" (1981).
Lee has found a strong mid-ground between the early days' Donald Duck-on-helium yelp and the later, throatier baritone; he and Lifeson are playing with considerable fire and invention, especially on the three stunning instrumentals ("The Main Monkey Business," "Malignant Narcissism" and the lovely acoustic tune "Hope"); Peart remains a force of nature as a drummer, and in place of the academic, philosophical and sometimes inscrutable lyrics of the '90s, there's a plainspoken humanism that is more heartfelt and direct.
Driven by some of the group's strongest melodies, lyrics such as "One day I feel like I'm ahead of the wheel / And the next it's rolling over me" (from the single "Far Cry," which, like the equally effective "The Way the Wind Blows," contemplates a world turned upside-down by terrorists) and "Our better natures seek elevation / A refuge from the coming night / No one gets to their heaven without a fight" (from "Armor and Sword," which, like the equally strong "Faithless," espouses self-reliance over blind faith) combines to create some of the smartest and best music the band has ever given us.
Originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago, IL on 05.20.07.
San Francisco Chronicle Review: Snakes & Arrows
By Jaan Uhelszki
Rush was one of the progenitors of North American prog rock, defining the world with the help of Ayn Rand's rather self-involved philosophies during most of the uncertain '70s and the bloated '80s. Three decades later, their music can hardly be called progressive, but they're still struggling to explain their place in the universe, although with less harsh tools than Rand. Perhaps tempered by age, and surely by the tragedies drummer and main lyricist Neil Peart has endured -- the death of both his daughter and wife a decade ago -- there's more of an acceptance of one's limitations and far less intellectual swagger than this power trio exhibited in their earlier canon. On their first album since 2002, Peart has gotten his emotional equilibrium back, not by answering the question why bad things happen to good people, but by realizing, like REM before him, that "Everybody Hurts." That is one of the underlying themes of this album, along with his attempt to unravel the question of faith -- something the drummer grappled with while on yearlong motorcycle sojourn. At the end of his travels, he found a harsh symmetry between evangelical Christianity and fundamentalism, and tried to reconcile his own beliefs in that continuum, penning these 13 songs as if they were his own personal investigative logbook. The musicianship is at a uniformly high level, and they've included three instrumentals -- something they haven't done in quite some time. Peart's off-rhythm drumming continue to thrill, while Alex Lifesong plays feverish guitar, taking sonic risks that he didn't even attempt during the first half of his career. Most profoundly, Geddy Lee has lost much of his shrill high register and has become a more tuneful and convincing singer on par with Robert Plant during his heyday.
Originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco, CA on 05.20.07.
Touring Summer Preview: Shed Tours To Watch
By Ray Waddell
Agent: Adam Kornfeld
Prognosis: Rush at outdoor venues is destined to be one of the top 25 tours of 2007. Produced by Live Nation through its TNA division, the band has been a consistent draw every time it hits the road, without relying on a multi-act package to move tickets.
"Rush has been together over 33 years, and their fan base is not only not eroding, but it seems that it may be growing," the band's agent Adam Kornfeld says. "Rush is another testament to what happens when great songwriting and musicianship come together. People recognize it."
Rush toured quite successfully in 2002 and 2004, but its box-office muscle in 2007 could very well eclipse those efforts. With new album "Snakes & Arrows" released May 1, Rush may be the sleeper tour of the year.
Live Nation North American music president Jason Garner says Rush "came roaring out of the box" on initial on-sales.
"Having Rush back after some off time is very exciting for us," Garner says. "We think it will be one of the blockbuster tours of the summer."
Originally published on Billboard.biz on 05.19.07.
Leader-Post Review: Snakes & Arrows
By Andrew Matte
Three 1/2 (out of five)
Canada's favourite nerdy prog-rockers have another milestone with Snakes and Arrows, only because it's their first CD since 2001's Vapor Trails.
These 50-somethings haven't reinvented themselves -- guitarist Alex Lifeson has produced some splendidly unique and heavy riffs, master drummer Neil Peart's careful fury is predictably awesome and Geddy Lee's nasal, controlled wailing is there in all its glory.
With soulful rockers reminiscent of early '80s Rush contrasted with contemporary sounds, Snakes and Arrows, like most of Rush's post-Moving Pictures work, is a bit of a hit-and-miss effort. The single, "Far Cry" isn't the CD's best, but songs like "The Main Monkey Business" and "Workin' Them Angels" make this CD worth recommending. And three instrumentals might not be a good idea for most bands, but they work here.
For those who never liked the band, Snakes and Arrows won't change your mind. But for fans, it comes recommended, even though it doesn't rate among the band's best work.
Originally published in the Leader-Post, Regina, SK on 05.19.07.
Music Review: Rush - Snakes & Arrows
By Fumo Verde
As an avid surfer, I always have a tune in my head to keep me in rhythm, and Rush?s Snakes & Arrows has a collection of songs that will keep me charging all the way through summer. The album drops in like a heavy wave at the Wedge with power not only in the music but in the lyrics as well, tapping into the Rush of old by combining the storytelling of the past with the ideas and passions of the present. Charging guitar solos, ripping bass lines, and the hard working drive of one of the world?s greatest drummers creates the fetch for the new swell of Rush rock while questions about the very ideals we believe we should stand are examined.
Whisking one away to the past or opening one?s eyes to world events are ideas that fill this album. "Far Cry" and "Armor and Sword" differ in their musical aspect; the latter has the tone of elder songs such as "Red Sector A" or "Witch Hunt," but both question our humanism and ask us to look in the mirror carefully. In the song "Armor and Sword" the lyrics are "Sometimes the damage is too great/ Or the will is too weak/ What should have been our armor/ Becomes a sharp and burning sword./ A refuge for the coming night./ A future of eternal light./ No one gets to their heaven without a fight." These words ask us the reasons we as humans are so quick to get into a conflict with each other. Similar ideas are expressed in "Far Cry," the opening track that bursts in like Vikings on a rampage. The trio crash down like a pipeline in late December and hold that beat throughout the song as the lyrics remind you, "It?s a far cry from the world we thought we?d inherit./ It's a far cry from the way we thought we'd share it."
Complex lyrics blended with the intricate and ever-changing instrumental structures have always been the mark of a good Rush album, and S&A has them. "The Larger Bowl" is a pantoum, a rare form of poetry where the second and fourth lines of each stanza are repeated as the first and third lines of the next and the first line of the poem is the last. Again, Neil Peart shows us his intellect as Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson show theirs by fitting chords and beats, making this song one of my favorites on this CD. With few words Rush can open such big doors where giant questions lay. "The golden one or scarred from birth/ some things can never be changed/ such a lot of pain on this earth / it's somehow so badly arranged." Yet not all the songs on this CD are socially energized. Tracks such as "Spindrift" and "Workin' Them Angels" open a window into the life of wordsmith Peart. One can hear his pain and his joy as he puts it all out there with no regrets, and for those reasons alone I admire this man.
Writing profound lyrics with amazing melodies isn't anything new for Rush, yet S&A has a harder edge, as "The Main Monkey Business" will prove. One of three instrumentals, it keeps Rush at that fine edge their fans have come to adore. "Hope" is guitar only and was composed and performed by Lerxst Lifeson (that's what it said in the liner notes). My hats off to Lerxst for this composition is beautiful and brings my mind back to trips into the Arizona desert, as Lerxst's guitar leads the way.
This CD has brought me back into the Rush fold, and even if the band moves into another direction with the next album, this one is a testament to a band that isn't afraid of making rock music with a point. "Faithless" is a song that holds true to that statement. "I don't have faith in faith/ I don't believe in belief./ You can call me faithless/ But I still cling to hope/ And I believe in love/ And that's faith enough for me." These men will stand behind what they believe in and aren't scared of some old crone who challenges others while skirting around the faults of those she supports.
I have to say that Counterparts, Test for Echo, and Vapor Trails left me wondering if Rush was still the same band I was looking for. I know bands change over time, that's a given, they have to if they want to succeed. Snakes & Arrows will go down as another change in the direction of Rush and one that will bring them a legacy of standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. The music is pure Rush while the words cut and sting like the lip smack of a cold winter wave. The melodies will keep you moving as the lyrics make you think, and thinking leads to change, and change is what these modern day Tom Sawyers are all about. If you get a chance to see Rush this summer, make it so. Look me up on the lawn at Irvine.
Originally published on Blog Critics on May 15, 2007.
Cool comeback, part 2
By Steven Greenlee
Snakes & Arrows
Essential: "Far Cry"
Let's be honest with ourselves, fellow Rush fans: The Canadian rock trio hasn't made a good studio album since 1993's "Counterparts," and it hasn't made a great one in about 20 years. That said, "Snakes & Arrows" is several steps ahead of more recent efforts. The album manages to harken back to the band's prog-rock roots while addressing contemporary issues and laying down some zesty riffs. The opener, "Far Cry," is as muscular a leadoff track as they've done, no less satisfying than the "Force Ten" from "Hold Your Fire" or "Big Money" from "Power Windows." Geddy Lee's high, nasally vocals are vibrant and strong, Alex Lifeson's guitar work is driving and fierce, and Neil Peart -- well, he's still the best drummer in rock. Peart still writes all the lyrics, too, and he's turned his attention to current events, taking a few whacks at war ("No one gets to heaven without a fight") and the Bush administration ("Now it's come to this/ Hollow speeches of mass deception"). On the whole, though, the disc gets bogged down in songs built on predictable chord changes and rock-by-numbers melodies. If only the guys had held off going into the studio until they had a few more good songs written, then we'd finally have another great Rush record.
Originally published in the Boston Globe, Boston, MA on 05.15.07.
Manchester Evening News Review: Snakes & Arrows
By Glenn Meads
2 stars (out of five)
This is Rush's first new collection of new material in five years. Like so much music nowadays, it has to hit the jugular via the first few tracks, pleasing the old fans and inviting a few newbies.
The sound is fairly formulaic but with Nick Raskulineccz (Foo Fighters, Velvet Underground) on production duties, you would expect it to have a more contemporary feel.
The first single 'Far Cry' does everything a rock anthem should do and this sets the course for the rest of the album. Guitar solos, slow burning anthems, Guns N' Roses style vocals and head banging choruses fill each track, pleasing rockers everywhere.
But what the album lacks is a sense of danger; everything sounds so safe and cliched. 'Working Them Angels' almost sounds 'Spinal Tap' - with lyrics that would suit the heavy metal spoof band. "Taking high roads, working angels over time" - you gotta laugh. Then comes some wailing and several more humdingers.
I doubt if this is going to turn off any of the die hard fans. But with so many new bands experimenting with sounds and lyrics, you wonder where Rush fit in anymore. Many of their ballads sound like Extreme's cast offs from long ago.
Rock, paper, scissors; but blunt and lacking rough edges, ideal for Eurovision, then!
Originally published in the Manchester Evening News, Manchester, UK on 05.14.07.
Better Canadian: Geddy Lee or Bryan Adams?
By Sean Daly
Tom Sawyer vs. Cuts Like a Knife?
Prog-rock yelping vs. soft-pop overemoting?
Geddy Lee vs. Bryan Adams!!!!
While contemplating your crucial vote, please enjoy the following review of the new Rush album, irrelevant to some, raison d'etre to most of Tampa Bay.
By the way, Rush plays Ford Amphitheatre in Tampa on June 16. That sucker's gonna sell out -- 20,000 dudes air drumming their asses off!!!
Album: Snakes & Arrows (Atlantic)
In stores: Now
Why we care: Five years after its last album - and 30 years after its artistic height - Rush sees its new disc debut at No. 3 on the Billboard charts. Crazy, huh? Of all the '70s prog-rockers, Rush was the most accessible, three dudes with high-concept dreams and school-bus hooks. Neil Peart is a folk legend, like Paul Bunyan with drumsticks.
Why we like it: Peart, the band's lyricist, has gone through hell, losing a wife and a child. As a result, the songs, both political and personal, are angry and self-indulgent, complex and brutally simple. The playing remains over-the-top as always: singer Geddy Lee's vocal is still elastic, Alex Lifeson's guitar is still prickly, Peart's pounding is still spellbinding.
Reminds us of: Air drumming to Tom Sawyer in 6th grade
Download these: Far Cry and The Larger Bowl
Originally published in the St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, FL on 05.14.07.
Lexington Herald-Leader Review: Snakes & Arrows
By Walter Tunis
If you think Rush is mellowing in its fourth decade, then grab the Excedrin as the trio bludgeons its way through the anthemic tales of war and inner apocalypse that make up Snakes & Arrows. While the music is a bit more metal-driven than usual (think early Black Sabbath with a Nine Inch Nails makeover), there is still a drum boom large enough to rattle the rafters in another state as well as the pensive whine of Geddy Lee's singing. Keyboards are again downplayed save for Lee's occasional orchestral dabs of mellotron. In its place is an even greater reliance on Neil Peart's monstrous drum attack, which sounds amazingly busy given the contained, riff-ridden tempo of Spindrift and Bravest Face. As usual, guitarist Alex Lifeson steals the show. Sure, he concocts enough riffs here to keep air guitarists blissed out for the five years it takes for another Rush album to surface. But bouzouki propelling the charge of Far Cry? A mandolin breakdown during Workin' Them Angels? Seems Rush still has a surprise or two up its sleeve.
Originally published in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Lexington, KY on 05.11.07.
By Brett Milano
Snakes & Arrows
Atlantic | Grade: A-
As deep and complex as Rush albums go, this one is especially deep and complex. The music is densely textured and nearly all midtempo, with ominous minor-key riffs and few obvious hooks. Acoustic guitars are more prominent than before, and Geddy Lee's layered vocal harmonies are a long way from the screechy leads of old. The lyrics are pro-faith and anti-religious, with drummer/lyricist Neil Peart getting both personal and topical. It's heavy going, but stay with it: The melodies start grabbing hold the second or third time around. And if you need cheap thrills, the instrumental "The Main Monkey Business" offers a good six minutes' worth. Download: "The Way the Wind Blows."
Originally published in the Boston Herald, Boston, MA on 05.11.07.
NOW Magazine Review: Snakes & Arrows
By Jason Keller
Five years after Vapor Trails, Toronto's most consistent stadium-fillers return with another epic journey of technical rock prowess. Neil Peart, as usual, delivers high-concept lyrics via Geddy Lee; this time spirituality, war and faith are the prevailing metaphors. By prog standards the songs are reined in (most clock in at five minutes), but in typical Rush fashion the compositions tend to feel coldly scientific or laboriously calculated. What with Peart's metronomic perfection, Alex Lifeson's restless guitar proficiency and Lee's shape-shifting vocal structures, you might find yourself wondering what just a minuscule amount of pop carelessness would do to this time-tested prog recipe. Nevertheless, it's a solid record on the hour-long whole, and definitely in keeping with the trio's inhuman standard of rock excellence.
Originally published in NOW Magazine, Toronto, ON on 05.10.07.
Rush (The Band) Takes On The Religious Right
By Bob Cesca
Within its first 60 seconds, the new Rush album, Snakes & Arrows, throws down against the Christian right:
Pariah dogs and wandering madmen
Barking at strangers and speaking in tongues
The ebb and flow of tidal fortune
Electrical changes are charging up the young
-Excerpt from Far Cry
Snakes & Arrows is, musically and lyrically, one of the best recordings of Rush's 35 year history and probably the most important as it tackles themes we're facing with respect to everything from the "barking strangers speaking in tongues" in the movies Jesus Camp and Alexandra Pelosi's Friends of God, to the crusades of the Bush administration and radical Islam, while appropriately and ominously describing this era in history as if "we're back in the Dark Ages."
Rush's drummer and lyricist, Neil Peart, has always been an intelligent and outspoken proponent of secularism. In the song Faithless, Peart describes himself as not having "faith in faith." But it was his series of cross-continental motorcycle journeys -- first, his Ghost Rider exile following the deaths of his wife and daughter; then his road trips during the Rush 30th anniversary tour, documented in his book Roadshow: Landscape With Drums -- which motivated the construction of an album around the themes of religious fundamentalism and its symptomatic penchant for misguided warfare. Peart defiantly stands for his cause and even though he, also in Faithless, says that he's "quietly resisting," he and the band are far from quiet about the way the winds are blowing.
Peart describes this album as his "lover's quarrel with the world," and as such, it offers both dire and insightful observations, as well as reasons for hope. It's not necessarily a protest album, but more of a sympathetic mouthpiece for those of us who are seeking some fashion of light in this dark place: "a refuge from the coming night," as Geddy Lee sings in the album's second track, Armor And Sword.
What should have been our armor
Becomes a sharp and angry sword
We hold beliefs as a consolation
A way to take us out of ourselves
Meditation, or medication
A comfort, or a promised reward
-Exerpts from Armor And Sword
Backed with a nasty and heavy Alex Lifeson chord progression, these words offer a metaphor for both the religious and elemental motivation of our present wars, but also the nature of America's military power. First, isn't faith and religion supposed to be a means of protection and salvation rather than attack? Yeah, except when its been bastardized -- like now -- for the selfish "promised reward" of salvation. Second, isn't our military supposed to be used for defense rather than preemptive war? Yep. But more than either of these themes, America has, more often than not, tempered its unprecedented strength with reason (reason and balance is another longtime Peart theme). Cooler heads tend to win the day. Not so much recently, though.
Cooler heads, as described by Rush and Peart, have been almost drowned by the "dry rasp of the devil winds."
In the allegorical song Spindrift, Peart describes himself as frustrated, separated and disillusioned -- almost stymied -- by the devil winds from the east: the television pundits and radical religious "fools" who rip across the waves of modern reality.
The spray that's torn away
Is an image of the way I feel
As the sun goes down
On the western shore
It makes me feel uneasy
In the hot dry rasp of the devil winds
Who cares what a fool believes?
What am I supposed to say?
Where are the words to answer you
When you talk that way?
Words that fly against the wind and waves
Where are the words that will make you see
What I believe is true?
-Exerpts from Spindrift
I actually missed the climatological allegory here for the first couple of listens. The album concept of religious zealotry applies, in this case, to the mouthpieces in cable news who promote the radical Christian right's agenda. They know who they are. (It's worth elaborating on the allegory: Peart has lived in Los Angeles -- "the western shore" -- where he's observed firsthand the mystical phenomenon of the Devil Winds for the better part of this decade.)
But the most striking and moving song to play within this theme is the track The Way The Wind Blows:
Now it's comes to this
Wide-eyed armies of the faithful
From the Middle East to the Middle West
Pray, and pass the ammunition
So many people think that way
You gotta watch what you say
To them and them, and others too
Who don't seem to see the things the way you do
Now it's come to this
Hollow speeches of mass deception
From the Middle East to the Middle West
Like crusaders in unholy alliance
Now it's come to this
Like we're back in the Dark Ages
From the Middle East to the Middle West
It's a plague that resists all science
-Exerpts from The Way The Wind Blows
"Pray and pass the ammunition" is one of Peart's most precise and simultaneously big lyrical passages. In five words, Peart nails down the hypocrisy and madness of the American religious right movement. Genuflect to the Prince of Peace while dropping white phosphorous on civilian populations. But more subversive here is how Peart conflates radical Islam and radical Christianity. One fuels the other and the Dark Ages return as each side requires a Them to exist and flourish. Science and reason are demonized as the enemy and dismissed as sacrilegious myth while myth is promoted as science.
Pray and pass the ammunition -- until the end of days.
I don't like most album reviews, so I intentionally didn't spend a lot of time on the songs as a whole. Record reviews, and especially Rush reviews, have become almost ridiculously and cynically dismissive or riddled with clichés like "a return to form!" or "sounds like their previous album X!" or "it's an anthem!" or "it's powerful and majestic!" or the pejorative "old prog dinosaur suck rocks!" You name it. Rush isn't prog rock. Or, I've never seen them in that light. They've evolved into their own genre. Progressive, alternative, heavy rock. I have no idea and I don't care. But I've always liked Rush for their ability to reinvent their sound. So suffice to say, this album is very different from their previous release, Vapor Trails. No disrespect intended to Vapor Trails, but this is simply a better album in terms of production values and songwriting, and, thematically, Snakes & Arrows is a vastly more important album.
And fortunately for the cause of reason, it hasn't fallen upon deaf ears. It premiered this week at #3 on the Billboard Top 200, beating out Avril Lavigne, ex-Idol doofus rocker Chris Daughtry, and ex-Idol cupcake Carrie Underwood. Here's to hoping (there's a warm Alex Lifeson acoustic instrumental on the album called Hope) that everyone who bought a copy of the record this week will pay attention to what Peart and Rush have to say this time around. The stakes are high and the current's flowing...
It's a far cry from the world we thought we'd inherit
It's a far cry from the way we thought we'd share it
You can almost feel the current flowing
You can almost see the circuits blowing
PS. Watch Mark Crispin Miller's latest video about the theocratic movement here. While I disagree and believe that satire is always a valuable tool against extremists like the religious right, he makes about a million other brilliant points -- as only MCM can do.
Originally published on The Huffington Post on 05.10.07.
Montreal Mirror Review: Snakes & Arrows
By Johnson Cummins
First, let me come out of the closet and say that I'm a big vintage Rush fan. Unfortunately, what I love about Rush is when they're wanking up a storm, as Lee, Peart and Lifeson are all obviously masters of their instruments. Over the past 25 years or so, though, Rush have actually tried writing choruses while nipping at the heels of whatever the contemporary music of the day is-and Snakes and Arrows is sadly no wank. Rush obviously have the skills to show young bucks like the Mars Volta how it's done, but this just sounds like an I Mother Earth reunion. 5/10
Originally published in the Montreal Mirror, Montreal, QC on 05.10.07.
Pop Matters Review: Snakes & Arrows
By Adrien Begrand
The back-to-basics album has been done so often by veteran rock bands that by now it's become painfully predictable, as aging rockers attempt to rediscover the magic of their band's nascent days by either simplifying the sound, recording live off the floor, digging out the acoustic guitars, recording covers, or doing all of the above. What's even more remarkable, though, is how often such tactics actually work. Coming on the heels of the aggressive, yet impenetrable 2002 album Vapor Trails, Rush's 2004 EP Feedback, which featured an assortment of ebulliently performed classic '60s rock tunes, was just what the doctor ordered for the Canadian legends. Beset in previous years by drummer Neil Peart's personal tragedies and guitarist Alex Lifeson's legal hassles, it was good to hear the guys having fun on record again, and the positive vibes carried over onto the band's successful 30th anniversary tour that same year. The only thing left to do was hammer out the big comeback album, and true to form, Rush has delivered what is arguably their best work since 1990's Presto.
Rush's studio output over the last decade or so (which basically includes two albums, Vapor Trails and 1996's Test For Echo) has not been without its share of memorable moments, including such tracks as "Resist", "One Little Victory", and "Secret Touch", but the band's move away from the synthesizer-enhanced music of the 1980s in favor of a more robust power trio set-up seemed to come at the expense of the band's normally reliable sense of melody, in particular in the guitar work of Lifeson. His riffs started to sound too grungy, too thick, and in the case of Vapor Trails, actual solos were nonexistent. Snakes & Arrows, on the other hand, has Lifeson taking a completely different approach, and the band and its music sounds re-energized in the process.
Lifeson's variation on the new album is like suddenly switching to Technicolor after a decade of monochrome. His guitar work is rich, melodic, and diverse, and fans will be thrilled to know that it doesn't come at the expense of the band's overall heaviness. In fact, lead-off track (and first single) "Far Cry" lets us know immediately that the fire still burns. Unlike "One Little Victory", which relied perhaps too much on blunt force, "Far Cry" sounds far less stifling, the 2112-style intro underscored by fiercely strummed acoustic guitar, coming off as a cross between A Farewell to Kings and the Who, before the trio launches into a midtempo groove, slinky filtered guitar melodies interweaving with Geddy Lee's authoritative basslines. Lee's lead vocals hold up exceptionally well here; age has lessened his ability to emit those high-pitched screams of old, but the man is well aware of his vocal range, and he sounds comfortable, not only on the entire record, but "Far Cry" especially. It's one of Rush's best vocal hooks in many years, made all the better by Peart's lyrics, which continue to reflect his own personal spiritual journey: "One day I feel I'm ahead of the wheel / And the next it's rolling over me / I can get back on."
There's a spaciousness to Lifeson's chords and accents during "Armor and Sword" that we haven't heard since the days of Power Windows and Hold Your Fire, as he provides layer upon layer of clean chords, chiming picked notes, acoustic guitar, and tastefully-mixed distortion, highlighted by the wonky intro riff that hints at late '70s Zeppelin, and his screaming, discordant solo. Acoustic guitar dominates "Workin' Them Angels", but it's Peart's lonesome traveler lyrics (continuing where "Ghost Rider" left off on the last album) that lead the way, sung by Lee in a superb vocal turn. "The Larger Bowl" sounds downright relaxed, a masterful display of dynamics and discipline, restrained enough to keep those heavy chords from overwhelming the song, yet not above letting Lifeson shred away on one of his finest solos on the record. Lee, meanwhile, dominates the ominous "Spindrift", thanks to his most assertive singing on the album, while providing a murky bassline that makes Lifeson's mellifluous notes sound all the more foreboding. Meanwhile, Lifeson channels Stevie Ray Vaughan on the politically charged "The Way the Wind Blows", and then gets all jazzy on us during his solos on "Bravest Face".
Of the three instrumentals, two are especially noteworthy (not to discount Lifeson's acoustic interlude "Hope"), showcasing the trio's renowned chemistry. "Malignant Narcissism" cranks up the funk, anchored by Lee's muscular bassline, while "The Main Monkey Business" is old school Rush mixed with a Middle Eastern element, Lee contributing both mellotron and subtle vocal harmonies, Lifeson balancing acoustic and electric guitar. For all the attention his massive drumkit gets, Peart has become even more restrained as the years have gone on, often exhibiting his usual technical flair, but at the same time laying down one of the most consistently air-tight backbeats you'll ever here. Here, though, he's clearly enjoying tossing different elements into the mix, from elaborate tom fills, African-inspired polyrhythms, jazz-influenced breaks, and even a very cool flange effect on hi-hat.
"Hold On" brings Snakes & Arrows to a conclusion that wavers between rousing and philosophical, the band's propulsive performance grounded by Peart's expressions of optimism in the face of adversity ("We could be down and gone / But we hold on"). Lifeson's the star of this album, though, so it's fitting that he leads the way as the album closes, unleashing serpentine guitar squeals over the taut rhythm section, climaxing with his most manic solo on what is, in the end, an immensely satisfying return for all three musicians. It's enough of a marvel that Rush has managed to remain intact for 33 years now, but the fact that they've done so while retaining their musical vitality and integrity is an even mightier achievement.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Originally published on PopMatters.com on 05.09.07.
Rush's CD complex but languid
By Robert Johnson
After coming back from the dead with "Vapor Trails" in 2002, Rush earned the right to bask in the limelight for a bit.
And bask they did. The next few years found the Canadian trio taking multiple bows, including a greatest-hits compilation and a live CD and DVD (all in 2003); an album of covers ("Feedback") in 2004; and a 30th anniversary tour that produced "R30," a double CD/DVD set, in 2005. As a result, Rush, which used to produce new studio albums every year or two, waited five years to put out "Snakes & Arrows" (Atlantic).
The band's 18th studio album is a densely layered, painstakingly crafted work that sounds like it took the whole five years to assemble. The 13 cuts, which include three instrumentals, are piled high with Alex Lifeson's guitars - so high, bassist/singer Geddy Lee at times can barely be heard.
The complex arrangements caress and underscore another set of drummer Neil Peart's mystical/spiritual/apocalyptic lyrics. But the artistry doesn't translate into much excitement; the songs are too much alike and run together. An occasional jagged riff threatens to break through the smooth surfaces, but it quickly fades away. Is it too much to ask a rock 'n' roll band to play with some energy?
Originally published in the San Antonio Express-News, San Antonio, TX on 05.08.07.
LiveDaily.com Review: Snakes & Arrows
by John Voket
Nurturing and constant prodding from youngish producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver), an admitted life-long Rush (music) fan, apparently inspired a breakthrough project for this progressive rock outfit which, has seen its share of tragedies--and even a near breakup--in recent years.
While the period since drummer/lyricist Neil Peart lost his wife to cancer and 19-year-old daughter to a car wreck yielded two stellar live projects, "R30" and the CD/DVD "Rush in Rio," as well as a successful tour, it was justifiably a period void of top-form songwriting.
But those days are over. Peart has since remarried, and produced four cathartic books, two chronicling his travels and travails across North America by motorcycle. And together with fellow 50-somethings Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, he has delivered one of the most exciting new musical projects from Rush since the band's "A Farewell to Kings" and "Hemispheres" days.
"Snakes & Arrows" combines some of Peart's most introspective, honest takes on spirituality and the ironies of organized faith, weaves them together with Lifeson's arsenal of power-guitar crunch, stinging leads and tasty bits of acoustic peppering, and leaves it up to Lee to articulate the visions vocally, all while holding it down with a hearty bottom end.
Even casual listeners may want to have lyrics in hand when they settle in to check out "Snakes & Arrows"--maybe even dragging out headphones for the pleasurable chore of enjoying the mix of words and music without distraction. The effort will certainly supply Rush fans with a holistic experience that has been too long in coming.
The CD is punctuated by three exceptional instrumental tracks: "The Main Monkey Business," "Malignant Narcissism" and the short but very sweet solo-acoustic tune, "Hope." Lyrically, the debut single, "Far Cry," alternates between leaps and lapses of faith, with a hammering beat and instrumental punch to help carry the number through to the last jangling chord.
"Good News First," conjures up shades of more recent Rush material, with an industrial drum line and the wash of acoustic-backed choruses begging the eternal question: "What happened to your old Benevolent universe?"
"Workin them Angels," is another catchy, straight-ahead rock number offering something of an apology for taking eternal good luck for granted. The hard-hitting "The Way the Wind Blows" offers harsh observations of world religion with Peart's flailing but tightly controlled drumming giving way to sentiments like: "From the Middle East to the Middle West, Pray and pass the ammunition."
If long-time fans have fallen from the fold as a result of lackluster output during the past decade, it's time to get religion again. "Snakes & Arrows" has all the musical ingredients that Rush devotees have been craving, and a lyrical bite signaling a new direction--a renaissance, if you will--for this tried and triumphant power trio from the Great White North.
Originally published on LiveDaily.com on 05.08.07.
Denver Post Review: Snakes & Arrows
By Keith Morse
Prerelease word on Rush's new CD was that it would be a "throwback." Some expected - or feared - a return to the sci-fi of "2112" or the philosophizing of "Permanent Waves."
"Snakes and Arrows" harkens back not to the ambition - or pretension - of those 1970s efforts but to 1989's and 1991's "Presto" and "Roll the Bones." Acoustic guitars provide the texture instead of keyboards. Neal Peart's lyrics are literate and probing, but the melodies often sound forced. Geddy Lee's voice stays in the lower register.
"Far Cry," the opening track and one of the strongest, serves notice that this is a guitar-driven album. Acoustic guitars dominate "The Larger Bowl," which would have sounded at home on "Presto" or "Bones."
Three instrumentals - "The Main Monkey Business," "Hope," and "Malignant Narcissism" - break up Peart's bleak lyrical landscape. "Hope," guitarist Alex Lifeson's acoustic showcase, is the album's most pleasant surprise.
Originally published in the Denver Post, Denver, CO on 05.07.07.
Austin American-Statesman Review: Snakes & Arrows
By Rob Palladino
'Snakes & Arrows'
With co-producer Foo's/Stone Sour wunderkind Nick Raskulinescz, the Canadian trio has seemingly thrown in all the finest moments from its lengthy career into "Snakes & Arrows." The result could be the band's finest moment.
From thunderous opener "Far Cry," to lush, masterly rocker "Armor & Sword," and from the haunting guitar-play of "Bravest Face" to insane instrumental "The Main Monkey Business," "Snakes & Arrows" is a rare combination of well-written songs and warm, clear production.
As with any Rush album, drummer/lyricist Neil Peart has more than a passing influence on proceedings. Past albums have had lyrical themes and "Snakes & Arrows" is no exception, as Peart writes of his distaste for organized religion.
In the blues/folk tinged "The Way the Wind Blows" he observes: "From the Middle East to the Middle West/Pray and pass the ammunition." While on '70s Mellotron prog-fest "Faithless" he admits: "I've got my own moral compass to steer by" concluding "I don't have faith in faith/I don't believe in belief/You can call me faithless." It all comes across as a tad over-emotive lyrically, and feels like Peart is overreaching in an effort to make a point.
Despite this, "Snakes & Arrows" is an album of enormous musical muscle and song-writing creativity with a shimmering intimate subtlety.
Recommended tracks: 'Armor & Sword' and 'Bravest Face'
Originally published in The Austin American-Statesman, Austin, TX on 05.07.07.
Modern Guitars Review: Snakes & Arrows
By Brian D. Holland
Snakes & Arrows is the latest release from Canadian power trio Rush. Though it's their first studio release since 2002s Vapor Trails, the band hasn't been dormant by any means, especially in the DVD department. They released a covers EP-CD entitled Feedback in 2004, showing their ability to simply rock out in songs like Stephen Stills' "For What It's Worth", Jim McCarty's "Shapes Of Things", and others. Also, The Spirit Of Radio: Greatest Hits 1974 - 1987 was released on CD (with bonus DVD) in 2003. Rush In Rio, released on both CD and DVD format in 2003, was the definitive concert experience from the perspective of the band's extremely devoted South American fans. R30, their 30th Anniversary Tour DVD, was released shortly thereafter. Already an onslaught of Rush music for fans to grasp, the 4-disc Replay X 3 was released in 2006. With no shortage of recent live footage to go around, it's the perfect segue into a new album and another tour for 2007.
Snakes & Arrows is a marvelous indication of just how tight and together the band is currently. The music is fresh and exciting, and the sound is massively full. It overflows with strong melody and sonic punch. There's a lot of what fans expect, of course: the archetypal vocal sound, keyboard aptitude, and incredible bass lines of Geddy Lee; and Neil Peart's massive percussive clamor, along with that incredible knack for imaginative lyric composition. Billboard magazine noted that Peart's reflections on personal faith while journeying throughout North America via motorcycle inspired the lyrical content.
But the icing on the cake is Alex Lifeson's massive guitar sound, layered with potent crunch and amazing diversity in tone, lots of quality acoustic work as well. "The Larger Bowl" is exemplary, with its layered rhythm tracks, arpeggio acoustic arrangement, intense chops, and amazing soloing. You can listen to many of the tracks endlessly and still pick out fresh segments and sounds missed early on. The chosen single, "Far Cry", rocks out solidly and forcefully, as does most of the album. There are three instrumental tracks on the album as well, which is unusual for Rush. The band, as a whole, has definitely evolved over the years, and they're not to be taken lightly. Though the album sits easily on a level with the most intricate works of King Crimson, Yes, and Dream Theater, it's incredible that three people can sound so massive.
Snakes & Arrows is a colossal journey and an epic saga, leaving no doubt that the live Rush shows of 2007 will be nothing less than amazing.
Originally published by Modern Guitars Magazine on 05.07.07.
Spirit of Rush reborn
Fresh, back-to-basics approach breathes new life into band
By Jane Stevenson
Veteran Toronto prog-rock band Rush is going through a major renaissance right now.
Together for 33 years, singer-bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer-lyricist Neil Peart are enjoying their most successful single in a decade, Far Cry, from the band's just-released studio album, Snakes & Arrows.
Meanwhile, ticket sales for the accompanying tour, which kicks off June 13 in Atlanta and hits Canada for a slew of dates in July and September, are up 35% from the last time Rush hit the road in 2004.
Lee said there were two key ingredients in making Rush sound fresh again: Recording the 2004 EP of '60s covers, Feedback, and recruiting Grammy-winning co-producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Velvet Underground) for Snakes & Arrows, which was recorded in the Catskills and mixed in L.A., where Peart has lived for the past six years.
"It felt fresh," said Lee, relaxing in a back room recently at Rush's management offices in Toronto.
"A couple of things happened. The way we recorded Feedback was so basic and so back to roots, you know the three of us just in a studio playing together, that made us realize how much more exciting recording should be, rather than computerizing the whole thing and belabouring it. And also, playing those songs from that period was a great way of reminding us about certain truths that existed about writing rock songs back then, that shouldn't have changed. But in our own way we got very dense about our songwriting, and that was a way of bringing us out of ourselves a little bit more and reminding us about some of the fundamentals that go into writing a great rock song."
Secondly, as you might imagine, when the trio, which has sold 35 million albums worldwide, sets out to make a studio album -- the most-recent being Vapor Trails in 2002 -- there are many willing participants. Lee said finding the right one is key.
"We were talking to a number of producers and they were all very accomplished but we remained unsure. And then (Nick's) name was put forth, so we asked for a reel to be sent to us, and his reel was really good. It was well recorded. All the songs were well-written songs and really well-arranged songs, which is a rarity. You'd be surprised how many producer's reels have bad songs on them and let me tell ya, if you hear a bad song on a producer's reel, it's not a good sign."
Raskulinecz was then summoned to Lee's house in Toronto for a first meeting.
"Alex and I were working at my house at that time and we just sat down with him and within an hour we were totally enamoured with him," said Lee. "And we played him a couple of songs and he really responded and made some insightful comments right off the bat and we just had a feeling that this was a good thing to be around."
Raskulinecz then went to meet Peart in L.A., and the drummer, whose lyrical explorations of religion and war on Snakes & Arrows was partially inspired by his motorcycle trips across America's Bible Belt, came away with the same good feeling.
It was only when they got Raskulinecz into Allaire Studios that they realized what a big Rush fan he really was.
"He was a very stealth fan, I didn't really know he was that big a fan when we met him," said Lee. "He kept it quiet. He was very professional. And slowly as we got working together, it started to seep out. And the engineer we worked with Canadian Rich Chickie, also knew a lot more about our music than he initially led me to believe. So throughout the making of the record there was this little relationship they were having, little obscurities, like certain lyrics would be quoted out of the blue, and they'd be riffing on our songs from the past that I couldn't even remember. And I'm going, 'What's that from?' And they'd go, 'That's from one your songs, dude!' You couldn't help but smile because they very sweet."
As for Peart, who lost his wife to cancer and 19-year-old daughter in a car accident in a 10-month period in the late '90s, Lee said it was good to see him laugh again in the recording studio.
"He's doing great," said Lee of Peart. "I mean, what he's gone through in his personal life, I don't think it's something that ever really heals, but you move on. I think having the environment we had in this studio session and working with Nick and Rich, just created the most pleasurable recording experience in many, many, many years. And I think that showed us all, and particularly (Neil), how much fun it is to make a record. To be in a rock band. There are many, many aspects of what we do that are work, job-like, and there's a lot of pressure involved in it.
"(But) the appeal that rock music had to us as kids, it made us want to do this. And it's important to remember that because your music needs it to really be 'rock.' There's got to be fun in it. There's got to be that spirit. It was great to see everybody in that headspace again."
Originally published in the Toronto Sun, Toronto, ON on 05.06.07.
Practice makes perfect
By Jane Stevenson
When Rush launches its first tour since 2004 on June 13 in Atlanta, the band will be ready.
The veteran prog-rock trio from Toronto is as meticulous about gearing up for the road as it is about making albums -- in this case the just-released Snakes & Arrows.
"This time we're rehearsing in Toronto," Rush singer-bassist Geddy Lee told Sun Media recently.
"Rehearsal kind of takes three different stages. We do a couple of weeks of rehearsing on our own so that we can know all our notes and get them all in right order. Then we do four weeks of rehearsal as a band in a small hall. That's where we fine-tune the music. Then we spend two weeks in an arena with the full production while everybody tweaks the audio-visual. At the end of that, the show's ready for public consumption."
Adding to Lee's already hectic work schedule is the June wedding of his 26-year-old son, Julian, a mere four days before Rush hits the road.
"I have to be around," said Lee of why the band eventually will be rehearsing at a Toronto arena. "We're cutting it close."
As for whether Lee will be bringing new appliances on this trek -- for their 30th anniversary road trip he had both clothes dryers and vending machines on stage -- he's definitely mulling over his options.
"That's a hard decision," he said. "Listen, if a guitar player can have a bank of amps that he doesn't really need, I can have a bank of things that I don't really need. It's a comment. People ask and you always have fun with it, 'Well, you know, we want that warm, dry sound.' I don't think I'm bringing dryers on this trip. I have a few ideas I'm working on right now."
Originally published in the Edmonton Sun, Edmonton, AB on 05.06.07.
Round Table Review: Snakes & Arrows
Louis Koot's Review
To come straight to the point: I was initially disappointed with the new Rush album. I was having high expectations partly due to the little appetizer that was on the Rush website for a while. The preview played the little intro part of Rush's new single Far Cry. This sound byte kind of reminded me of the old-school Rush (at times of Hemispheres) with powerful chord staccato and symphonic undertone. But just like in the song Far Cry, the album takes a left turn and ends up being different from what I expected (and hoped for). The single changes after the intro part in a rather simplistic guitar riff making it a modern sounding back to basics approach. The single is a great song though, with some fine guitar sound effects and the neat pattern of the bass beneath it. It's a good choice for a single because of the accessible chorus. Definitely a song you get to appreciate further after hearing it more often.
I had to think of Geddy Lee's solo album My Favourite Headache when I heard this song for the first time. Mainly the way the vocals sound made me link it to that album. I have the feeling Geddy Lee's vocals are somewhat modulated by effects making them sound this way perhaps to create a modern and a bit melancholic sound. But I rather prefer the straight-in-your-face high vocals from the older days. My Favourite Headache is a decent enough album but here I find some tunes that took me a while to convince or left me unaffected altogether (Spindrift for example). My main point of criticism is that some of the songs are in the same pace and don't sparkle enough. At first it sounds all a bit too mellow. I would have welcomed more fire and more instrumental wizardry. I wasn't happy with Vapor Trials with its odd production that left much to be desired. So I have to go back to Counterparts or half of Test For Echo for the Rush that fascinates me the most.
Anyway when I set aside this criticism I find this album slowly unravels a lot of great moments and gets me more enthusiastic. Like when Rush does fire things up the result is overwhelming as shown in the instrumental The Main Monkey Business which is right now the highlight of this album for me. The main guitar theme throughout this song is magnificent and gets repeated in various forms. A perfect symbiosis between the heavy and the melodic! This instrumental will make a killer track in the live setting so I hope it will be included on the set list of the upcoming tour. And what a joy to hear Neil Peart's drum acrobatics thrive spectacularly! Also instrumental Malignant Narcissism spices things up to my delight with frantic bass and full- blown power chords. The guitar effects in this song are very tasteful. Unfortunately the track ends abruptly way too soon. The third instrumental Hope is a short acoustic ditty by Alex Lifeson.
The acoustic guitar has found a prominent place in some of the songs on Snakes & Arrows to my content. Like there is The Larger Bowl. This is a relaxing tune with some very meaningful lyrics. But of course we are accustomed to some significant lyrical meandering from Neil Peart. The same goes for the well-built Bravest Face. The lyrical contradictions that are used here remind me of Rush's song Resist. Intriguing substance! And there is a groovy little bluesy guitar solo in this song. Luckily there are some enthralling guitar solos here and there on this album that show Alex Lifeson was having fun. This fun is shown through by the other musicians as well but mostly in the before mentioned instrumental tracks. This lifts up the spirit of this album and would have been a good thing for more of the songs. More blues we find at the start of The Way The Wind Blows. Outstanding stuff! The rough guitar riffs in the verses contrasts nicely with the laidback chorus. We won't be surprised anymore at Rush experimenting with different musical styles so a little bit of blues is welcome as well. As the album proceeds I think the songs get stronger with more appealing and heavy instrumental parts. Good News First has a neat clean guitar lick alternating with heavy chords and the same mellow chorus we find in most of the songs. We Hold One concludes the album with some very sleazy guitar work. More of this please!
I always liked the smart way in which Rush interacted the guitar with the keyboards. So I might be inclined to miss something on this album. Well I don't. Even though the synths are missing, the organic and bold approach on Snakes & Arrows finds it's way rightly. Especially the exploratory mixture in Alex Lifeson's playing and the use of different guitar sounds gives enough variety and dynamics. And the album shows its strength as a grower. In conclusion I can say Snakes & Arrows ends up being a great album despite the initial disappointment I had.
Martien Koolen's Review
I became a Rush fan back in 1975 after the release of Fly By Night and especially Caress Of Steel and now 32 years later the best Canadian art rock trio ever bring out their 18th studio album called Snakes & Arrows. And for those of you who would like to read an objective review of this new masterpiece I would advise you to read other reviews as well, because Snakes & Arrows is already my best album of the year 2007. After five very long years without a new Rush album, this year finally I could look forward to a new album of my all time favourite band.
Snakes & Arrows is a concept album dealing with religion and the lyrics of Neal Peart on this CD probably belong to the best he has ever written, just check out the lyrics in a song like Armor And Sword and you will see and hear why. The album features three instrumentals of which The Main Monkey Business is one of the best and most original instrumentals I have ever heard. It is even better than La Villa Strangiato and I would be so bold as to name this song the modern thrilling version of Yyz, featuring lots of Porcupine Tree and Tool influences, however still keeping those magical Rush characteristics. The second instrumental is called Hope and it is an acoustic one where Alex really shines as a Spanish guitar picker, although I must say that I am not really fond of acoustic songs and therefore I would call this song the least impressive one. Malignant Narcissism is the last instrumental and this one really rocks and although it is a rather short song there is even some time for a couple of drum and bass breaks.
The album kicks off with the already familiar Far Cry (being the new single), a song that most of you will already have heard. It is a great opening song, melodic, catchy and the chorus is truly addictive. It has been a tradition of Rush to start with really great songs, like on Moving Pictures, Hemispheres, A Farewell To Kings, Permanent Waves and mainly all the rest of the other albums too. Even Vapor Trails features a great opening track - One Little Victory - although still many people do not like that particular album. Armor And Sword is a bit less accessible than the opening song as it is a mid tempo rather dark track with great lyrics and a sheer killer melodic chorus! Listening to this album at least twice a day - I know I am hooked - I have to come to the conclusion that Snakes & Arrows is a really powerful album with contemporary art rock from the 21st century mixed with experiences from the nineties, amazing atmospheres from the eighties and even experimental elements from the seventies. I could go on like this forever but you really have to listen to the album yourself over and over again to truly appreciate it!
Mister Syme's art work is truly beautiful as ever and the production of Nick Raskulinecz (Velvet Revolver and Foo Fighters) together with Rush is sheer magic. The album sounds amazing due to the fact that every instrument sounds so natural, especially the drums sound so great. And Geddy's voice (love or hate it?) is still in outstanding shape especially in some of the quieter moments. There is NO bad song on this CD although it might take you a little longer to digest some of the songs.
Listening tips: The Way The Wind Blows and The Main Monkey Business; get this album right now. And by the way did I tell you already that I am not objective about Rush?
Really looking forward to their Snakes & Arrows tour as I will be visiting at least 4 of their shows. If a man is tired of Rush, he is tired of life!
Dave Baird's Review
Following a six year period after Test For Echo there was some speculation that Rush had quietly retired. Despite no official word, the well publicised tragedies that Neal went through really cast doubt on the bands future. Then in 2002 the rather patchy Vapor Trails was released - not a bad collection of songs on the whole but not perhaps as Rush-like as we would have liked perhaps mainly due to the heavy, grungy, processed guitar which was a bit over the top. The lack of any trade-mark Lifeson solos and the album being over-saturated at mix time led to a rather bizzare affair, plenty of energy but nevertheless rather a lifeless and forgetful CD; I found myself listening to it because it was Rush rather than because I liked it. This release did however lead to a new round of touring taking in many parts of the world and led to the release of two wonderful DVD's: Rush In Rio and R30, and also Feedback, a selection of cover versions of songs that influenced the band early on. Now five years later Rush are back at their very best with the release of the superb Snakes & Arrows. This album is everything that Vapor Trails was not, good songs, great lyrics, wonderful playing, three instrumentals, some typical Lifeson solos and thankfully state of the art production, not since Counterparts have Rush sounded so potent and alive.
Far Cry was pre-released some weeks ago as a single and sets the general tone of the whole CD rather well although I think it's one of the less good tracks on the album. That's not to say it's bad, far from it, I think it's better than every track on Vapor Trails, but the rest are just even better. That being said several are not dissimilar from what we hear on Vapor Trails but they just sound so much better here - I wonder if that's the new lease of life the band have acquired, the better production or the diversity of the songs that was missing on Vapor Trails?
Some of the feeling and style from Feedback also creeps in now and again, perhaps most obviously in Way The Wind Blows with its bluesy riff, but overall the closest point of reference for the style and would be Counterparts and with it a welcome return of the grandiose, symphionic, melodic and catchy choruses that have long been a signature of the band. Bravest Face, Good News First, Workin' Them Angels and Spindrift are great examples of this and will surely be regarded as classic Rush in the years to come. Armor & Sword takes this one notch higher again interspercing complex picked acoustic, chunky heavy chord riffing and Lifeson's typical arena style playing with harmonics that we fist heard on Power Windows and some hint of the U2 sound they adpoted on Bravado from Roll The Bones. On top of all this there are two great band instrumentals, Main Monkey Business and Malignant Narcissism which are much better than the poor effort Limbo on T4E and a solo Lerxst acoustic piece, Hope which is a pleasant interlude although some might find it annoying.
What will really please the vast majority of the fans is that all the Rush elements are back in place - most of the songs, although very catchy are also quite technical. Geddy's bass playing is superb and he's more prominently mixed with a darker tone than previous albums that brings more depth and warmth to an already rich mix. His singing is of course more mellow than it used to be but it sounds great, that being said I'm not a fan of the way they overdub his voice and when he singing 'woa, whoa, woooh' I think it sounds a bit crap. Keyboards are back on the agenda but still in a lesser role than the mid-80's - even Mellotron is listed on the cover but I couldn't tell you exactly where it's used. Peart's drumming is magnificent and his lyrics are once again closer and more personal as they were on Vapor Trails. Perhaps most excitingly, Lifeson is back - we have all the arpeggios, solos and harmonics that have defined his style over the years that were sadly missing last time out.
Really a superb return to form for the band and with such vitality I couldn't imagine them stopping anytime soon. Brought to you by the letter "Sssss", I love it!
Louis Koot : 8 out of 10
Martien Koolen : 10 out of 10
Dave Baird : 9.5 out of 10
Originally published on the Dutch Progressive Rock Page on 05.06.07.
Buffalo News Review: Snakes & Arrows
By Jeff Miers
Fans of Canadian progressive trio Rush are happy that Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart are simply still together, still touring and still making new music. In fact, the Rush cognoscenti would probably be satisfied if the band took the low road and merely settled back into a sort of "preaching to the choir" ethic, trotting the music from its revered, "classic" period around the globe every few years and staying out of the way of the next generation of music-makers. "Snakes & Arrows" scoffs at such a notion. It's a wholly ambitious and fully actualized record from a group of musicians still passionately seeking new ground even as they mark some 35 years together.
Right off the bat, one notices the taut, visceral, crystalline nature of the album's production, which represents the first collaboration between Rush and Nick Raskulinecz, who has worked with the Foo Fighters and Stone Temple Pilots, among many others. Clearly, Raskulinecz understands Rush and wisely concentrated on creating ample sonic space for the band's broad, grandiloquent sound. There are pretty much none of the keyboards that have helped to flesh out the trio's sound for several decades now; by keeping it sonically simple, the band and Raskulinecz have created more room for the music to resound within.
These songs have been constructed from the rhythm section up, and when your rhythm section is bassist Lee and drummer Peart, that's a serious foundation to lay. Above all of this, guitarist Lifeson does what he was put on this earth to do: construct intricate, detailed guitar arrangements blending creative arpeggios, robust power chords and solos that split the difference between the searing and the esoteric. "Snakes & Arrows" is also notable for the strength of Lee's singing, marking his apotheosis from the full-frontal shriek of the band's '70s epics into a singer of remarkable subtlety and invention. "Snakes & Arrows" finds Lee painting his masterpiece as a singer.
There's far too much to discuss, too much meat to simply nail down in a few paragraphs. Suffice it to say that "Snakes & Arrows" finds Rush rounding yet another new corner. It's a remarkable piece of work.
Originally published in the Buffalo News, Buffalo, NY on 05.04.07.
New Haven Register Review: Snakes & Arrows
For a time in the '90s, it seemed that legendary progressive trio Rush might finally call it a day, after almost 30 years of activity. Drummer Neil Peart had suffered the loss of his wife and daughter, and even the rest of the band - bassist/singer Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson - had let on that they questioned Rush's future. But then 2002 brought "Vapor Trails", a back-to-basics rock record that showed a band back in the groove.
"Snakes & Arrows", Rush's 18th studio disc, is an even more definitive statement; it's the trio's best effort since 1989's "Presto". Some moments hark back to the band's prog days, some are straight-ahead rock, some even recall a robust jam period. Peart's lyrics are in fine shape, with the drumming leg-end tackling hope and faith while referencing Buddism (the album's title comes from an old Buddist game), T.S. Eliot, Matthew Arnold, Robert Frost and more.
And while the lyrics on "Snakes & Arrows," with their metophorical and literal spiritual bent, are classic Peart, it's the music that shines brightest. Lifeson's guitar work is more excited and varied than anything he's done from the last three decades. On the instrumental "Hope", his 12-string-guitar work marvels, and on "Armor and Sword," Lifeson exhibits a freedom and looseness on the King Crimson-like track. Lee's acerbic bass playing manages to be kinetic without disrupting the flow. With age, the bass player's voice has become less shrill, but no less powerful.
The progressive folk of "Way the Wind Blows" is the majestic centerpiece of "Snakes & Arrows," a more than 6 minute track that's full of urgency and energy. It's the kind of tune Rush used to throw out regularly in the '70s and '80s, but have moved away from recently, preferring instead to stick with more traditional rock. Why the band has gone back to its roots is unknown, but the surprisingly nimble and eclectic "Snakes & Arrows" is clearly, so far, one of the best records of the year.
Originally published in the New Haven Register, New Haven, CT on 05.04.07.
Rush roars back with 'Snakes & Arrows'
By Ben Wener
Thirty-three years after their debut comes this unexpected late-career winner from the Canadian prog-rock masters, though my surprise at its power and immediacy may stem from prolonged lack of interest. It's been five years since the power trio issued a new work, "Vapor Trails," but it's been four times as long as that since a Rush album has caught me off-guard and kept me engaged as much as this one. Can't remember having much desire to replay anything by them, actually, since I was heavily into "Signals." I usually just check in with new titles, then shelve 'em away.
I put both my renewed attention and the band's strength on this disc down to what sounds like a shared sense of urgent purpose among Messrs. Peart, Lifeson and Lee. Mind you, the playing on everything since "Signals" (that was 1982, if you've forgotten or weren't born) has been impeccable as always. Rush is nothing if not three insanely skilled instrumentalists, and they prove it here thrice - on "The Main Monkey Business" and "Malignant Narcissism," two of their most striking and complex wordless jams, and "Hope," a superb Lifeson solo on 12-string acoustic that's as pretty as it is gritty.
But the difference between Rush then and Rush now lays in those titles. This is a Rush clearly fired up by recent world events, chiefly the Iraq War. Peart's pseudo-metaphysical thoughts on such matters may not be bearable by all - I'm forgiving when his "New World Man"-commentary turns purple or overreaching because he means well, but even my favorite songs have stiff clinkers that make me grimace. Yet the gist of his message resonates deeply this time. What matters to me is that he's responding at all to social malaise, as he and Lee and Lifeson did so entrancingly in the late '70s and early '80s, when they were at their greatest.
It's always been less important just how piercingly Peart responds to what ails his soul, because where words may fail him, his chops, and those of his mates', never do. On this aptly titled return, they sound truly inspired. Much of it is among their very best work.
Originally published in the The Orange County Register, Santa Ana, CA on 05.04.07.
CSMonitor.com Review: Snakes & Arrows
By Stephen Humphries
Given that it's taken five years to release an album of new material, the Canadian power trio may want to rethink its name. In the meantime, the band has clocked up more miles on the road than a U-Haul fleet, significantly shaping lyricist Neil Peart's global perspective on current events. "Wide-eyed armies of the faithful/ from the Middle East to the Middle West/ pray, and pass the ammunition," he laments in "The Way the Wind Blows." A few songs on this otherwise strong set aren't as hummable as one would wish, but Peart, a drummer you can set a metronome to, has never sounded more vibrant going toe to toe with dextrous bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee and inventive guitarist Alex Lifeson on the ominous uncoiling spirals of "Spindrift." Also superb: "The Main Monkey Business," an instrumental that hurtles into fifth gear. Perhaps the band's name is an apt one after all. Grade: B
Originally published in the Christian Science Monitor 05.04.07.
SputnikMusic Review: Snakes & Arrows
By John Cruz
Summary: Neil Peart and Rush make a welcome return from having one foot in the grave and sound like a band with a new lease on life and music. Oh Canada, I sing your praises....
Perhaps the best thing to come out of Canada besides maple syrup, Neil Young, and assorted hockey teams with names like The Canucks and, well, The Maple Leafs, Rush returns with their first album of original material in five years with the release of Snakes And Arrows. In tentative mode for the last ten years due to tragic events surrounding drummer and songwriter Neil Peart's personal life and his subsequent "healing journey", Snakes And Arrows marks a return to prime Rush after the somewhat average for this group Vapor Trails album of a half decade earlier.
Spurred on and inspired by his new life and memories of his old, Peart and bandmates Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson indeed sound reborn (or at least rejuvenated) on Snakes And Arrows, using the hope and pain of life and turning it into musical and lyrical art. Far Cry kicks things off in familiar Rush territory, all crashing power chords, galloping, hard hitting drums from Peart, and of course Lee's clean, pulsating bass and unique high alto vocals. Lyrically the song touches on themes that run throughout the album of being up against odds of pain and struggle and somehow finding hope, reason, and purpose to carry on. Nothing new for Rush, but with one of the principle songwriters going through devastating life changing events in recent years, rather then sounding like the same old band touching on familiar themes Rush sound like an old band with a new purpose. And thats good news for any crotchy old band, much less these bunch of hosers.
The music on Snakes And Arrows is also 100% familiar. Alex Lifeson's guitar is sonic, sweeping, and rings out as it always has, Peart's drums powerful and thunderous, Lee's bass precise and exacting. The band explores giant, spaced out prog rock blues riffs on the layered and diverse The Way The Wind Blows, which sounds like retro Rush of sorts, Lifeson turns in some fine acoustic work on the solo instrumental track Hope, and those 'ol familiar Rush keyboards ring out on the straight ahead rock track Good News First. Or do they? Actually they don't, as not nary a keyboard is to be found on this album. Which isn't to say you don't hear a guitar or bass that doesn't sound like something resembling a keyboard, but it is to say the album has a certain warmth and organic sound that can sometimes be absent from this bands music in the name of studio wizardry or covering up some sub par songwriting. However on Snakes And Arrows the songwriting is solid throughout, the performances generous and busy, the band as tight and focused as it's ever been. And it's been almost forty years for Lifeson and Lee, with Peart just several years behind in band membership. So that's a good deal of focus.
The more things change the more they stay the same. A wise old adage that applies squarely to Rush just as it does most things. Nothing is new here, yet everything is new. A rebirth, if you will. Not that Rush ever went away. But in a career of a band with many peaks and valleys as is to be expected from such a long recording history, Snakes And Arrows definitely represents not just a peak, but coming after the shaky ground this band has stood on the last ten odd years, a peak that is an unexpected and welcome surprise. Meet the new Rush, same as the old Rush....and as it turns out after all these years that's a pretty good thing.
Originally published on SputnikMusic.com 05.03.07.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Review: Snakes & Arrows
By Scott Mervis
Most bands of Rush's era are lucky if they can slap together some kind of half-baked mess with a handful of nobodies filling the missing parts.
But here comes the Canadian trio of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart for the first time in five years -- still proudly intact and sounding not only like they're still in their prime, but boldly contemporary.
Having been at this for nearly 40 years now, Rush remains an instrumental powerhouse capable of sending fans into frantic fits of air guitar and air drum acrobatics.
"Snakes & Arrows" is an immaculately produced, smartly written record (by Peart) themed to times where faith and religion have driven people to war. On the opening track, "Far Cry," Lee, who's laying off the helium these days, sings, "It's a far cry from the world we thought we'd inherit" while Lifeson lunges into a solo that has you wondering if a guitar can do that. "Such a lot of pain on this earth," Lee sings on "The Larger Bowl," a sweeping song that scoffs at the concept of equality.
"Snakes & Arrows" begins slowly and builds more tension and force as it goes. It takes the power up a notch around track 6 with "The Main Monkey Business," a proggy instrumental that is absolutely breathtaking. Lifeson, who picks up steam with every song, drives "The Way the Wind Blows" with a pummeling blues riff, assisted by Peart's full palette, as Lee laments, "Now it's come to this/like we're back in the Dark Ages." Here, and on other tracks like "Good News First," Lifeson's blending of acoustic and electric guitars is pure headphone heaven.
On "Snakes & Arrows," Rush manages to sound like a bunch of old pros -- without sounding like a bunch of geezers. In fact, this sounds every bit like a record many young alternative bands are desperately trying to make.
Records are rated on a scale of one (awful) to five (classic) stars
Originally published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh, PA on 05.03.07.
Rush Delivers Bleak View of World in Snakes and Arrows
Canadian Trio Returns with First Original CD in 5 Years
By Douglas Maher
2 1/2 Stars (**1/2)
Rush returns this week with their 19th studio record and 27th record (including greatest hits and live records) overall under the banner of "Snakes & Arrows", a record that takes Rush fans to a new destination musically never visited before in the band's 33-year history. Sure, there are hundreds of thousands of fans who are eagerly anticipating the May 1st release of the next chapter in Rush world, firmly cementing their belief's that whatever the band gives them is "gospel" and not to be criticized in any way, shape, or form.
However, Rush is a band that is not immune to criticism by those with an objective ear or even those who slandered the band's best work nearly 20 years ago.
No Band/Artist Is.
Rush has a history of being one of the underdogs of rock and roll. The Rodney Dangerfields of Canada. The missing link between abstract and annoying. The fine line between love and hate. Rush's career has been one large book of cliches, as drummer Neil Peart has borrowed just about every single one over the years from the 1 or 2 thousand authors he has referenced over his career, as chief lyricist for the band as well as author of a number of travel books over the last 15 years whether they are on 12-speed bicycles, BMW motorcycles, or BMW sports cars. Peart never has had trouble expressing his love for the road and a journey across the globe on tires.
The problem with Peart these days is he has become a whining snob. On Snakes & Arrows, Peart decides to tell the listener how awful life is and how much he really despises faith and a belief in God. There is a point in making a point. Peart used to know the rules of songwriting very well by not having to repeat a chorus over and over again, especially when it is nothing but one negative opinion after another. Bassist/Vocalist/Keyboardist Geddy Lee used to sing Peart's lyrics with tremendous conviction and passion that you felt as if you were part of the song...part of the journey. Now, Lee tries his best to harmonize with ooohs and ahhhs to make up for the lack of coherent and singable lyrics, a problem which began on the band's 2002 "Vapor Trails" which was panned by fans as missing trademark solos and keyboards as Lee decided to use his voice as the back up music window dressing instead.
Rush went with the track "Far Cry" as the first single to go to radio back in March and has since been climbing the radio charts across the U.S. but has yet to be played on commercial radio in the U.K. for some odd reason. The track is textbook Rush featuring familiar riffs and chorus patterns lifted from earlier Rush tunes like "Jacobs Ladder", "A Farewell To Kings", and "Neurotica". It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see why Atlantic Records went with the track as the first one out of the box...it is easily the most accessible song for rock radio.
But it doesn't necessarily mean that is a good thing either.
Recycled riffs and feedback distorting guitar sounds a song does not make. But as most Rush fans will agree...it is better than half of the sonic litter that fills the airwaves on a daily basis so Rush gets a pass at offering something listenable on a resource that is hardly listenable itself : radio.
The album goes soft from there. Real soft. We are talking Crosby, Stills, and Nash soft with some Stevie Ray Vaughn thrown in for good measure (see The Way The Wind Blows) and while we are at it why not some jug band singing bears from a Disney flick? To be fair the music has its great moments on Snakes & Arrows. Armor and Sword bangs open like a drummer trying out a new drum set at the local Guitar Center as Peart smashes a china boy cymbal as if it just told him that he has not been impressive on the drums since "Power Windows" (is the cymbal lying?), and the riff takes us into the remaining dark theme of religion, war, politics, and spirits that seem to engulf us all. Guitarist Alex Lifeson wrote the entire record with Lee on their acoustic guitars and it shows...it seems to appear in just about every song and as stated above "it doesn't necessarily mean that is a good thing either".
The track Workin Them Angels is a track that sounds as if Geddy Lee had forgotten about it on his Pro-Tools during the recording of his 2000 solo effort "My Favorite Headache" as it resembles a number of tracks off the release. It also might hold distinction as being one of the worst recorded Rush songs if not the most boring Rush song to ever grace a recording. The song struggles to get out of its own way and this unfortunately is a problem for most of the material on Snakes. With lyrics such as "Get carried away on the songs and stories of vanished times/Memory drumming at the heart of an English winter/Memories beating at the heart of an African village", of course that just rolls right off the tongue and screams of catchy right there.
"The Larger Bowl" gives us more "woah woah woah ohhhhhhhhh's" than Fonzi being handed bad news on an episode of Happy Days. Lifeson provides a dreamy acoustic melody and by now you have forgotten that you are listening to the same album that has "Far Cry" on it. Peart does not miss the chance to remind us of how bad things are with Lee whining the lyrics "Some are blessed and some are cursed/The golden one or scarred from birth/While others only see the worst/Such a lot of pain on the earth." As the positivity oozes out of the song, Lifeson and Lee give what could be regarded as a Nashville bass intro to a Rascal Flatts guitar solo showing the world that they can crossover just as good as Bon Jovi can when it comes to sing along country rock.
"Spindrift" is a musical thriller that gives us one of the most unique riffs and vocal arrangements in Rush history. A haunting and disturbing song that certainly had metal/hard rock producer Nick Raskulinecz's (Stone Sour, Shadows Fall, Velvet Revolver) hand in it. The song almost echoes the eerie feeling one might have had listening to Witch Hunt for the first time. Oddly enough the sentiment I felt listening to the record was stated crystal clear in "Spindrift" as Peart asks repeatedly "What am I supposed to say?/Where are the words to answer you/When you talk that way?"
Great question to ask Peart yourself when listening to the record.
"The Main Monkey Business" is an instrumental break in the midst of all of this war and religion madness. Think the 1996 track "Limbo" meets a Joe Satriani jam. If one was to look at the title of the track they would expect some kind of off-the-wall musical explosion of insanity to be taking place. Sorry...that is reserved for another instrumental on the record "Malignant Narcissism" which takes this Monkey to the shed and spanks it.
Prediction: Grammy nod goes to one of those two tracks for Best Rock Instrumental.
"The Way The Wind Blows" has visions of The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and a scene from the Patrick Swayze classic B-film "Road House" thrown into the mix just to make sure you are paying attention. It is the ultimate ADHD song for musicians who love having no clue what the hell is going on in a song. One minute the listener is in the 1996 song "Driven" then they find themselves in "Turn, Turn, Turn" from The Byrds sprinkling in some outrageous Jeff Healy Band jam that "Cooler" Dalton is beating some ass at the "Double Deuce" in for good measure.
"Hope" is a mini-acoustic piece played exclusively by Lifeson. The track holds the distinction as being the only song ever to appear on a Rush studio record that does not feature anyone else in the band. 1981's "Broon's Bane" was never featured on a studio record only on the live offering "Exit Stage Left...". You can't fault Lifeson for being the sleeper in Rush. The man is regarded as one of the most underrated guitarists of all time, but when he wants to strike a chill up your spine...he can still do it.
Speaking of sleepers...."Faithless" turns out to be one of the tracks that is indeed a "sleeper". Now unlike some of the previously mentioned tracks "Faithless" falls under the category of "sleeper hit", a song that is beautifully orchestrated and sung with the power of classic Rush behind it full force. The only issue to take up with the song is the failure to continue to ride the "high" when the song gets going and is cut too short in favor of more talk singing. It isn't any wonder as to why the song works as well as it does as the key elements of vintage Rush are all present and accounted for...powerful drumming, a beautiful guitar solo, velvet bass lines, and keyboard orchestration that takes your breath away although the message is again of Peart reminding the listener that he has no use for faith and like a whining child tells us over and over that "I don't have faith in faith/I don't believe in belief/You can call me faithless/I still cling to hope/And I believe in love/And that's faith enough for me."
Faithless could easily wind up a crossover hit for the band if marketed correctly.
"Bravest Face" winds up the winner of the "silliest lyric" award. The lyrics sound as if a man out of his mind on dope is blabbering about his afternoon at home watching a "Law and Order" marathon on TNT while flipping back and forth to CNN and clicking on MoveOn.org's web site for the latest and greatest view of the world. Mr. Sunshine hands the listener these words of wisdom while trying to keep a straight face "I like that show where they solve all the murders/An heroic point of view/It's got justice and vengeance too/At least so the story goes/I like that story, makes a satisfying case.", and continues with, "In the sweetest child there's a vicious streak/In the strongest man there's a child so weak/In the whole wide world there's no magic place/So you might as well rise put on your bravest face."
I guess Peart has never been to Disney World before.
"Good News First" is an up-tempo song about the recognition of love and how beautiful it is to say it to someone. Truly one of the high points of the record as it musically doesn't leave the listener in the dumps although Peart tries his best to put you back there with the lyrics "The worst thing about it all is that you've never been right/And now still not really sure what started that fight/But I still get this feeling there's more trouble ahead", makes you feel the love...doesn't it?
"We Hold On" closes out this soap box/coffee house opus with more of the same recycled drumming with hints of "Test For Echo" and "One Little Victory" tossed in to sound complex, but the track is utter filler and too late to pretend the band just recorded what was to be the album that rivaled the band's greatest commercial success "Moving Pictures".
At the end of the day we have Geddy, Alex, and Neil producing a mediocre folk/rock record that will divide fans into their respective camps. The one's who desire and prefer the 1970's records with the long concept songs, the one's who long for the return of the textured and thought out arrangements of the 1980s, the ones who prefer the grunge and confused 1990s period, and then the "others"- the camp that believes "everything" the band does is perfect.
This is what happens when anything lasts 30+ years. One can compare the good ole days of baseball pre-steroids, multi-million dollar contracts, and mega video game endorsements to those of today. Putting the 1940s Yankees against the 1990s Braves. All forms of technology and ways of life can always be compared to by the next generation. The next generation will embrace Rush for what they were without question. A band that set the standard early on in their career, released a boat load of records, sold a ton of those records, and played because they wanted to keep playing regardless of whether they were producing popular music or not.
Rush has reached the point in their career where they have done it all. They have matured as a band and as men and become settled in their ways. Nobody in their right mind should expect another "2112", "Signals", "Grace Under Pressure", or "Permanent Waves"...but there is no harm in wanting or asking for one. Does "Snakes and Arrows" risk turning off some fans? Absolutely. Does it appear to be a record that will gain a new wave of fans? The same can't be said. There simply is no inspiration on the album to be found other than to recognize the negatives in life more often and appreciate the little we do have to work with.
It might come off to the reader of this review that there is a bone I am picking personally with Peart. I am not. I am however stunned at how a man who is as popular, respected, loved, and regarded around the world with so much personal wealth and intelligence can be such a sour puss and lose the role as musician and become "Preacher In Chief".
Peart is nowhere near the top of his game on "Snakes & Arrows" whether it be on drums or at the keyboard writing depressing and preachy lyrics. But the man is to never be disrespected for what he has given us over the years. Nobody can take away the years of joy he has given to tens of millions playing live and on record.
But the man needs to learn how to smile.
Bottom Line: Snakes & Arrows is a great Tom Petty record.
Originally published by Associated Content on 05.02.07.
411mania.com Review: Snakes & Arrows
By Dan Marsicano
Rush returns with their eighteenth release in thirty-three years. Will this album make you rush to the record store?
Geddy Lee-Bass, Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Alex Lifeson-Electric and Acoustic Guitars, Backing Vocals
Rush. Ask any progressive or classic rock fan who Rush are and the reactions range from sheer joy to astonishment that a person does not know who Rush is in this day and age. Since the early 1970's, Rush has been releasing quality album after quality album. A few examples include 2112 and A Farewell to Kings Their most famous album is Moving Picture, released in 1981, with classic songs such as "Tom Sawyer" and "YYZ." Rush is back with their eighteenth release, Snakes and Arrows. Rush decided to write the major melodies of every song on the acoustic guitar instead of using mainly electric guitars, like in the past. Does this unique way of songwriting translate to another classic in a long line of classics?
The album starts off with the current single, "Far Cry." The track really shows off the catchiness and acoustic guitars that are present in every track. The acoustic guitar leads the track off and stays in the background. Geddy's bass is up in the mix perfectly, Lifeson's playing, while not flashy, keeps the song moving, and Peart's drumming is top-notch.
"Armor and Swords" is up next and is the longest track on the album at almost seven minutes. The track starts off slow, with some great acoustic guitar driving the melody, held by Lee's steady bass playing and Peart's constraint playing. The track does pick the pace up, but stays mid-tempo for the rest of the track. A special mention has to be made to Peart's lyrics. "The battle flags are flown, at the feet of a god unknown, no one gets to their heaven without a fight" is just one of the many lyrics in the show that seem to speak about America's situation in war. The song's main highlight is a melodic solo from Lifeson that leads into the heaviest part of the entire song.
"Workin' Them Angels" is another catchy song in the vein of "Far Cry." The two things that help make this track stand out from "Far Cry" is the excellent addition of Lifeson's backing vocals on the chorus and a tastefully done acoustic solo.
"The Larger Bowl" is a mostly acoustic song that questions how people treat each other. "Some of us live in a cloud of fear, some live behind iron gates," Lee sings as an acoustic guitar is plucked in the background. The electric guitar is brought into the mix for a superb solo. "Spindrift" is a decent track that brings the heaviness on, but does not seem to go anywhere in five minutes.
The album gets back on track with "The Main Monkey Business." This track is special for two reasons. The first reason is that it is the first instrumental on a Rush studio album in over ten years and the second reason is that it is one of three instrumentals on the album. Starting with acoustic guitars and a driving bass line, the instrumental then puts the acoustic guitar in the background and lets the electric take over. The instrumental is the most progressive song of the entire album and reminds the listener of Rush in the 1970's and early 1980's. Peart is able to put in some drum fills that fit the song nicely. Halfway through, the track picks up speed and Lifeson pulls out his best solo so far on the album. The track ends where it started, with acoustic guitars and a driving bass line. The instrumental is arguably their best since YYZ.
"The Way the Wind Blows" starts with a military-like drum before leading into a bluesy Lifeson solo that just scream Eric Clapton. An anti-war song, Rush is able to make the song dramatic without being cheesy in any way. Lifeson brings the bluesy solo back from the beginning, but adding some notes on it, and then continues on for another thirty seconds.
"Hope" is the second instrument and Lifeson's acoustic guitars skills are showed off. While the acoustic guitar is being worn out a bit by Rush at this point, Lifeson really shows off his technique and makes the instrumental a short, but enjoyable, listen. "Hope" leads into "Faithless," which starts off with electric guitars and a slow bass line. The song is catchy, but unremarkable, save for some nicely-paced violins and another excellent Lifeson solo. The reason for this is the fact that Rush continues to keep the songs at the same mid-tempo pace with acoustic guitars in the background, like the past couple of songs.
"Bravest Face" is another mid-tempo number with more acoustic guitars playing. Unlike the last track, the acoustic guitars are driving the melody, instead of being kept in the background. Of course, the highlight of the track is Peart's drumming, which is not surprising. "Good News First" starts with some guitar effects before the band kicks in. This song sounds like the band has a newfound energy and really helps to jumpstart the album back up after some decent, but unspectacular tracks.
"Malignant Narcissism" is the third and last instrument. The most noticeable thing is the funky bass line that Geddy Lee plays. It sounds like something that came out of Red Hot Chili Peppers. The song ends with a mini-drum solo. "We Hold On" is the last track and it is, disappointingly, a poor way to end the album. The problem is that it is very anti-climatic and sounds like any of the other songs on the album.
The production, done by Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters), is really well done. Everything sounds great and every instrument can be heard perfectly.
Geddy Lee's vocals are low-key without any of the crazy high-pitches of the old days. That's fine though as his vocals in the past were much disputed. His bass playing is also top-notch, with his best performance being in the instrumentals. Not only is it top-notch, but his bass can be heard perfectly, which is a nice change of pace from most bands having the bass in the back of the mix.
Alex Lifeson continues to impress on guitar. Not only is his electric guitar playing phenomenal, with a mix of melodic, bluesy and some fast solos, but his acoustic skills are great as well. He even pulls out a solo or two out of it.
Neil Peart, even after 30 years, still knows how to bang on the drums. His fills are tastefully done without becoming too self-indulgent. His lyrics are interesting, with a lot of emphasis on the current situation in America.
Snakes and Arrows is an interesting album. The new technique of songwriting is both a blessing and a curse. Instrumentally, the band is at the top of their game. The problem is that, while using acoustic guitars on every track is unique, it can get repetitive. The tempo staying in the middle, without getting too much faster or heavier, hurts the band near the end of the album. The album starts off fine, but after the second instrumental, begins to run out of steam. "Good News First" and the third instrumental help to save the last few tracks, but the album still never recover. The new way of songwriting for Rush is an interesting attempt to take and one that is successful, but not without its flaw.
The 411: The album will take more than one listen to really appreciate. Trust me, when I first listened to it, I thought it was nothing special. However, by the third listen, the album just clicked with me. Snakes and Arrows is a strong release from Rush, but is nowhere near a classic. Instrumentally, the band is great. The problem is the acoustic guitars were used too much, in my opinion. After a while, the songs sorta blend together. If you are a hardcore Rush fan or are interested in something a bit lighter that still rocks from time to time, I would recommend this album. By the way, I have something different to close out the review. Actually, I have a trivia question. In the last instrumental, "Malignant Narcissism," there is one line of lyrics that reads, "Usually a case of malignant narcissism brought on during childhood." If anybody can tell me what movie that is from, I will give them props.
Final Score: 7.5 [Good]
Originally published on 411mania.com on 05.02.07.
BW&BK Review: Snakes & Arrows
Reviewed by: Tim Henderson
Rating : 9.0
You know when rock radio in North America is complaining that it's too heavy, it's a good sign. That's how we were introduced about a month ago... it was a 'Far Cry', but it wasn't. It was as close as the sun is on a midsummer's day. Alex had plugged in. Well, not that he was unplugged before. This time he's taken the bull by the horns and emerged with a mantle-piece. Like virtually every other Rush album, Snakes & Arrows deserves a stand-at-attention philosophy. At least for the initial listen, to see what genius the trio of mad scientists have been up to. But after increased sessions, I'd truly stuck to a pair of tracks, each with a distinctive passion. 'Armor And Sword' sees Lifeson a man of iron, waving his steel armament into battles of the past. Although the acoustic motif runs rampant throughout Snakes & Arrows, this track exhibits a new stamina, a certain grace under pressure - one that we haven't heard since said album. The revered guitarist exudes haunting leads and aggressive undertones. 'Workin' Them Angels', cute title and all, may be the finest rung on the ladder, Peart shining a light on ghostly beings he's relied on in the past, whilst frontman Geddy Lee amazingly out-lasts Lifeson's ongoing brilliance. 'All this time I've been workin' these angels overtime' - easily the most inspiring choruses Rush has dreamed up in years. 'The Larger Bowl' is upbeat and palatable, whereas 'Spindrift' is another highlight, a rather mellow intro crashes into Lee's more than serious actions. 'The Main Monkey Business' is the first of three instrumentals. A journey, most likely a certain playground release for Lee/Lifeson/Peart, the track motions like the waves, from surreal passages to heightened escapes. 'The Way The Wind Blows' begins with a Clapton-meets-Vaughan intro, Lifeson acting on his blues abilities, as Lee takes advantage of another moving chorus line. 'Hope' is a shorter instrumental of mainly Lifeson's handiwork, dancing up hills and valleys. 'Faithless' is near Floyd-like, a passion-filled expose, which will appease old and new minded prog visionairies. 'Bravest Face' is an upbeat power-drive, Peart's impassioned lyrics as hard-hitting as his skins whereas Lifeson slides in a jazzy solo to add elegant spice to the mix. 'Good News First' pumps along with vibrancy and motion until it meets up with 'Malignant Narcissism's groove. 'We Hold On' closes off this chapter of Rush in decent style. Overall, Snakes & Arrows is one of countless joyous occasions, a serious musical adventure where the price of admission is exceeded greatly by the footsteps trod. Name another rock act that has the longevity, consistency and prominence of Canada's revered three-piece. I didn't think you could. Another trophy for the shelf.
Originally published on Bravewords.com May 2007.
Snakes & Arrows Is Here!
Go out and pick up your copy of the new RUSH album NOW! To recap, the audio CD only version is out today. Wal-Mart has an exclusive video download with purchase there. Independent music stores are supposed to have a promo poster that will be given away with purchase of Snakes & Arrows. The DVD only version is scheduled for release on June 5. As of now, there is no version planned that will have both the audio CD and the DVD for sale together.
IGN.com Review: Snakes & Arrows
The durable prog power trio tries something new and then some.
by Andy Patrizio
Long-time Rush fans know that we're lucky to still have them and are grateful for it. That said, a five year wait for a new record is a bit much to ask, especially given the bad taste Vapor Trails left in so many mouths. Not so much for the music, although the absence of guitar solos definitely was a letdown, but Vapor Trails became the poster child for poorly mastered CDs. The hideous distortion and clipping was downright painful and really, inexcusable, coming from a band that had set such a bar for musical excellence.
After a big comeback tour in 2002 and a 30th anniversary tour in 2004, Rush took their sweet time on this record and tried a new approach: the band worked with a producer young enough to be their son. They hired Nick Raskulinecz, who produced The Foo Fighters' One By One and In Your Honor and Velvet Revolver's debut album.
Raskulinecz (let's hear it for ctrl-v. No way I'm typing that name over and over) had also worked in Nashville and brought all kinds of different ideas. The result is one of the more musically diverse Rush records effort, as well as one of the most overwhelmingly negative lyrically.
The previous low water mark was Grace Under Pressure, which was written during a time when the band nearly broke up. That was an album full of pessimism that doesn't make for a fun listen, but we do know what caused it. I'm at a loss to explain the tone of this album, especially since lyricist Neil Peart had been so overwhelmingly upbeat in his updates on his personal Website.
I can guess. Peart's agnosticism and disdain for organized religion have been obvious since, oh, the Fly By Night album in 1975. No doubt burying a wife and teenage daughter has done nothing to improve his mood on the subject. For the last seven years, he's lived in Santa Monica with his new wife, putting him in one of the most politicized cities in a country at war with lunatics who post decapitation videos on the Internet, all in the name of religion. This sort of stuff can make you a little crabby, especially when you've lived long enough to expect the world to be a better place.
The first song on the disc and first single reflect the pessimism of the album, a song with lyrics only someone approaching his 55th birthday could write; old enough to know, still young enough to care. "Far Cry" shows his frustration at how things are going in this little blue marble we call home.
It's a far cry from the world we thought we'd inherit
It's a far cry from the way we thought we'd share it
You can almost feel the current flowing
You can almost see the circuits blowing
Musically, it sets up the common themes of this record: heavy use of acoustic guitars (present on every song), atmospheric keyboards (back from exile), and multi layered vocals. Some fans have noted (and complained) that it's also considerably more simplistic than previous Rush material, with fewer time changes and a more direct tempo. Probably Raskulinecz's doing, given his background is more straight-ahead rock. You'll have to decide for yourself if you like that, but I don't mind it.
Despite the heavy use of acoustic guitars, the star of this album is Geddy Lee, and not for his voice. That's more processed than luncheon meat. His bass playing is off the charts here. It seems the guitar hero died with Stevie Ray Vaughn and no one has come along to replace him. Well, it's been even worse for bass gods.
Ged's name still comes up among young bassists, along with the usual suspects of the last two decades (Steve Harris, Les Claypool, Stu Hamm, etc.), but if there was any doubt, he takes ownership of this album and dominates it in a way I haven't heard in a while. Some times he's funky, other times bluesy, and at one point channels Jaco Pastorius by playing a fretless bass.
Track two is, in my opinion, the weakest track, "Armor & Sword." I found it musically repetitive and a real downer, but the third track picks things up a lot. "Working Them Angels" features the debut of a mandolin on a Rush album, which is used in a short instrumental break.
This song deserves a co-credit if the names were known. Anyone who read Peart's book "Travelin' Music" knows the backstory, but here it is for those who don't: while out for a road trip, Peart overheard an elderly black couple, who had just come off the road, and the wife was on her husband's case for driving like a maniac, saying he was "workin' them angels," meaning he was pushing his luck.
If anyone knows a thing or two about pushing his luck and nearly getting his fool ass killed, it's Peart. Every one of his books has at least one incident that makes the hair on your neck stand up (in the case of "The Masked Rider," it's the whole book). And thus was born "Workin' Them Angels."
All my life I've been workin' them angels overtime
Riding and driving and living so close to the edge
Workin' them angels overtime
Neil, your life insurance company is on line two.
"The Larger Bowl" is practically an acoustic track, with minimal electric guitar until the last third of the song. Also a downer, the "whoooaaaoooo" melisma (Google it) from Geddy gets annoying in places. Making up for it is a nifty guitar solo, something Alex Lifeson does far too little these days.
"Spindrift" is just strange, opening with a wailing keyboard that sounds like something out of a vampire horror movie. Geddy opens with a wail like he's trying to bring back the 2112 days (good luck), and the negative tone continues, as does Peart's references to the east and west. He does that more than once on this album.
As the sun goes down on the western shore it makes me feel uneasy
In the hot dry rasp of the devil winds who cares what a fool believes
From there we launch into the first of three instrumentals, and my favorite since "YYZ," called "The Main Monkey Business." Live, this song will be a massive headache for them to pull off. It's the epitome of musical precision and dexterity. And it just kicks the snot out of any instrumental I've heard in years. The acoustic/electric guitar mix, Geddy riffing like mad and Neil seeming to hit everything in reach all make this my favorite track on Snakes & Arrows.
That leads into one of the more musically enjoyable songs and the first middle finger at religion, "The Way The Wind Blows." It opens with a straight 4/4 time blues riff, something we haven't heard since the first record, I think. But this sounds familiar.
Now it's come to this, wide-eyed armies of the faithful
From the Middle East to the Middle West, pray and pass the ammunition.
Even Dubya gets a swipe.
Now it's come to this, hollow speeches of mass deception
From the Middle East to the Middle West, like crusaders in a holy alliance.
Hope is the second instrumental, only two minutes long and mostly acoustic guitarwork. As one friend noted, the only song with a positive title and it had to be an instrumental?
And from there we go into "Faithless." Want to guess what it's about?
I don't have faith in faith, I don't believe in belief
You can call me faithless. You can call me faithless
I still cling to hope and I believe in love, and that's faith enough for me.
As someone on the Rush Usenet group observed, "Faithless" is to the 54-year-old Neil what "Freewill" was to the 23-year-old Neil when he wrote it. Same message, same perspective, just better said. The keyboards add a nice effect, almost sounding like a string section.
"Bravest Face" is more a song of resignation. It's a song that will make sense if you read "Travelin' Music," and Neil's whole chapter that can be summed up with the phrase "You get up and go to work."
Despite the overwhelming negativity of the album, it never descends into Staind-like whining and self-pity. Never once does Peart sound like he's giving up. If he wouldn't give up after losing his wife and kid, I doubt anything else will make him throw in the towel, either.
"Good News First" is the most personal, and one I'm really curious about. I can imagine a movie character holding up a boom box and playing this one loud (what? Someone did that already?).
Some would said they never fear a thing
Well I do, and I'm afraid enough for both of us
For me and you
Time, if nothing else, will do it's worst
So do me that favor and tell me the good news first
Damn, what the hell happened?
Instrumental #3, also clocking in at just over two minutes, is "Malignant Narcissism," complete with a quote from Team America: World Police. You have to listen close but you'll hear "Usually a case of malignant narcissism brought on during childhood." I'm looking forward to hearing the instrumental "Everybody has AIDS! AIDS! AIDS!" on the next album.
Closing things out is a very strong musical track and the most negative, which shouldn't seem possible at this point. "We Hold On" is musically amazing, with a fast tempo that's typical of Rush album closers. But what's bugging Neil?
How many times do we tire of all the little battles?
Threaten to call it quits. Tempted to cut and run.
How many times do we weather out the stormy evenings?
Long to slam the front door drive away into the setting sun.
I'm really at a loss to explain the negativity of the album, because Peart has always been so upbeat on his homepage updates. Granted, his last book was a 400-page bitchfest, but he was touring and he hates touring, we all know that. The dour attitude of the songs really drags down the music. Despite the more direct pace of the songs, there's still a lot going on, a lot of new territory being explored by the band and some interesting layers that need to be peeled back with a few more listens. It's certainly more listenable than Vapor Trails, but then again, the band could hardly do worse.
Snakes & Arrows would be a fine follow up to Test For Echo. The band aren't quite the revolutionary force they were in the late '70s, but unlike a lot of their contemporaries, they remain a vital band with something to say and are still willing to explore new musical boundaries. I don't know if the album will stand up to repeated spins because of its dour tone, but I hope they don't make me wait five years for another one.
1. "Far Cry"
2. "Workin' Them Angels"
3. "The Main Monkey Business"
4. "Malignant Narcissism"
Originally published on IGN.com on 05.01.07.