REVIEW: Rush – Clockwork Angels

RUSH – Clockwork Angels (2012)

When the first single from Clockwork Angels was released in 2010 (!!!) I wasn’t too into the new songs.  “BU2B”/”Caravan” were heavy and stomping but to me, not memorable.

Then the band went on tour and finished the album and that’s why you’re reading this today.

Alex, Tom, Meat, Geddy

Alex, Tom, Meat, Geddy

Like all Rush albums, Clockwork Angels is a grower.  I feel a bit like a jackass for even trying to review it after only listening to it thrice.  However, they were good listens:  Twice at home and once in the car.  Surprisingly, because Rush aren’t always this way, Clockwork Angels sounded best in the car.

To me, this album combines the “classic” 1970’s progressive sound of Rush with the classic-nouveau of 1993’s Counterparts.  At times it sounds like the band are ripping themselves off, but who cares?  This is the Rush album that many fans have been wishing for, before they went to bed each night.

Now, this is a concept album, but I don’t pretend to have penetrated the lyrics yet.  They are striking, and yet on the surface straightforward, the story easy enough to follow.  I am sure I will get more out of it I go deeper.  For example I found a reference in the text portion of the story to Neil’s late drum instructor, so who knows what is in there?

All I can tell you for certainty is that there is a fantastic world of steam powered airships that take our protagonist on a odyssey across a strange and familiar land.  There is some sort of Watchmaker that seems to run the show with clockwork precision.  I know I have heard the word “watchmaker” as a metaphor for God in the past so I wonder if Neil had that analogy in mind.

There are a lot of bright spots to this album and not a lot of lows:  I count “The Anarchist” as having some of the best Rush riffage of all time, for catchiness and simultaneous complexity.  I think “The Wreckers” would make a most excellent third single.  “Headlong Flight” is one of the best songs, and probably the most traditionally Rush sounding, with tempos careening to and fro.  “Halo Effect” has a shimmery guitar part that reminds me of Snakes and Arrows.

Even “Caravan” and “BU2B” sound fresh to me.  I am certain they are freshly mixed, so hang on to your old single, collectors!

Most importantly, you can hear the sheer joy in the playing.  Geddy, Alex and Neil sound like they are playing for nothing more and nothing less than their own enjoyment.  It’s a truly inspiring sound and I think the album will continue to grow on me, as it stays in my car deck all week….

I even rank Hugh Syme’s artwork as among his best.  Each page leaps with messages hidden and obvious, a symbology with multiple meanings.  Although truthfully, I can’t stand the front cover.  I don’t think it captures the many colours and textures within.

As with everything released these days, there are multiple versions:

  1. Stardard digipack CD
  2. Classic Rock Fan Pack (no bonus tracks though, just the magazine)
  3. And, of course…2 LP, 180 gram vinyl.  Sweet.

5/5 stars

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