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I'm listening to the new Rush album, Snakes and Arrows.  Virtually every song on this excellent disc is in reference to the sweeping wave of religious fervor that has overtaken our modern world.  Rush have consistently been of an intellectual bent for the 35 years of their history and this album is a pinnacle of insightful commentary on a very current topic.

On Vapor Trails we heard a little snippet of this train of thought in "Peacable Kingdom," but on SNA the band has chosen to take the entire span of their current release to discuss the topic of religion in modern life, and how it affects our world today.  It's a cry for secularism in a world awash in religious hysteria.

"Far Cry" is a song for anyone who grew up in the 1950's, '60's or '70's and experienced the optimism for the future that those eras of American history exuded.  We believed we would be inheriting a world of peace and prosperity, a world where we would confidently know our place and forge ahead to a better society.  "Far Cry" laments that it has not turned out so, but adjures us to "get back on" the wheel when it rolls over us.  The riff of this song absolutely rocks, and the chorus is highly compelling.

"Armor and Sword" discusses how beliefs that are meant to protect someone from the "snakes and arrows" of life often turn into weapons against others.

"Workin' Them Angels" discusses a perspective I often have -- that I have been extremely fortunate in life.  Attributing the protagonists' fortune to "workin' them angels"  while winking at the notion that the "angels" had anything to do with it.

"The Larger Bowl," one of the most oddly-titled songs I've ever encountered, discusses the dramatic separation of fortunes and fates between the rich and poor in our world, describing it as "badly arranged" which is a turn of phrase Rush has referred to before.  Wikipedia describe this song as a reference back to "Circumstances" from 1978's Hemispheres.  The song overall goes back and forth on the gap between rich and poor, and how there is such pain caused by this gap.

"Spindrift" is one of the most intense Rush songs in years.  I keep thinking this song could have fit in easily on the playlist of Caress of Steel.  But the topic of the song is 30 years more mature than anything the youngsters who came up with COS could have written.  The "waves" and "spindrift" are the froth and hysteria of religion.  The song asks "what am I supposed to say  . . . when you talk that way?"  To me this sounds like a blunt challenge to the religious shlockmiesters and hucksters like Pat Robertson who sell nothing but their vitriol and hatred in the name of their Jesus.  Who cares what a fool believes? the song asks.  I agree.

"The Way the Wind Blows" picks up the storm from "Spindrift" and explicitly compares the armies of the "Middle East" to the "Middle West."    Now it's come to this / It's like we're back in the Dark Ages / From the Middle East to the Middle West . . .  This song has what I like to call a "sticky" chorus.  It's hard to get out of my head.

"Faithless" is Neal Peart's modern reprise of "Freewill."  The very first line of the song asserts that "I've got my own moral compass to steer by" and goes on to confidently state that "you can call me faithless / but I still cling to hope."  It's the answer of every atheist to the ridiculous assertions that we have no morality or hope in the world.  It's a call to reason in a storm of insanity.

"Bravest Face" takes on our propensity to make good songs and stories but ignore the ugly things that happen in the real world that often inspire them.

"Good News First" is a lyrical segue from the same theme and talks about how the best news is often just a preface to the bad news.

"We Hold On" is like many Rush album closers stylistically separated from the rest of the album.  Oftentimes the last song on a Rush album really sounds like it belongs on the next one.  This song sounds like Rush is riffing on Tool.  Thematically it's a summation of the entire album.

There are three instrumentals I haven't discussed because I don't have lyrics to mention.  However, it's notable that there are more instrumentals on this CD than Rush fans usually get in a decade.  They are called, in order, "The Main Monkey Business," "Hope," and "Malignant Narcissism."  They are as good as any Rush instrumentals since the 1970's.

I have to reiterate here that I'm loving the hell out of this album and that I think it's extremely topical in a way that a lot of Rush albums aren't.  I'm proud a' the boys.  They've outdone themselves this year, and I'm enjoying the feeling of being "in the know" on a cultural phenom like Rush.  They're an old band these days but they're still one of the best bands around, and slogging it out with style and grace like very few old bands can manage.

Originally posted to slippytoad on Fri May 11, 2007 at 09:36 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  hey, I went to a couple of Rush concerts... (4+ / 0-)

    ... back in the early 90s.

    I'll go check out the album on iTunes.  Haven't gotten into them for a long time, but I'll have a listen.

  •  He sounds much different on the radio. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    boofdah

    New pithy saying nominees being considered. . .

    by BenGoshi on Fri May 11, 2007 at 09:35:26 PM PDT

  •  Love that band (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    madhaus, boofdah, SheriffBart

    I wasn't aware that they even had a new album out. I've been in a "Rush mood" the last few weeks, playing their CDs to and from work--so the fact that they have new stuff out is "music to my ears."

  •  They need to change their name (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    canyonrat, boofdah, blueoasis

    I'm sorry, but the name Rush sucks!

    I follow Kos like jungle-animals follow Tarzan. He just needs to yell in that special way!

    by steelman on Fri May 11, 2007 at 09:38:59 PM PDT

  •  I don't think I've heard of them before (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    canyonrat, turning blue, blueoasis

    Their new album sounds very interesting, though. I might have to check it out.

    Thanks for posting this.

    •  If you like rock (5+ / 0-)

      and songs that go far beyond "I love you," you might like them.  They have been described as a "metaphysical band."  They are all great musicians and their lyrics are really good.  Their drummer, however, is in a class of his own: he is awesome.

    •  I almost envy you for not having heard Rush (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      madhaus, tgray, SheriffBart, WayneNight

      before.  Three guys that are so musically and lyrically talented that it's amazing.  I love progressive rock, and my favorite is Dream Theater.  But it takes 5 people in that band to do what it takes 3 to do with Rush.

      Check out their discography and start from the Fly By Night CD.  A lot of the old stuff is certainly dated, but the musicianship is soooooo tight.

      Enjoy!  You can't help yourself.

      Now, back to work! -6.00, -6.21

      by funluvn1 on Sat May 12, 2007 at 01:02:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Every Rush tribute band has at least 5 people too (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BlackGriffen, funluvn1, WayneNight

        Their musicianship is awesome, the different effects they achieve, I don't even know where to advise someone to start.

        And I snuck in some Rush, Between the Wheels, into my kid's fifth grade play last for the intro since it was a post-nuclear war setting.

        Chaos, fear, dread. My work here is done.

        The Music Room - Every weekend. Music & Musicians discussion.

        by madhaus on Sat May 12, 2007 at 02:17:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  They've been around (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlackGriffen, tgray, WayneNight

      since the early 1970s and still chugging along.  Canadian band.  They had a decent run of popularity among my generation in the late 70s and early 80s.  I never really kept up with them since.  Moving Pictures (1981) and Signals (1982) were old favorites though.  Excellent progressive rock with some sci-fi themes.  Worth checking out.

      Their 1970s albums have a caveat though in that Neal Peart was into Ayn Rand's "Objectivism" philosophy for a while and some of their early albums - Fly By Night and 2112 - are pretty heavily into Rand references.  They got over it, thankfully.

      Bush + Dick = the spread of STDs (stupidity, terror, and destruction.) Pull out now!

      by canyonrat on Sat May 12, 2007 at 04:37:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  GOOD!! The kids can hear (6+ / 0-)

    REAL MUSIC instead of the crap that is on the radio now.

    The only good band I have heard in a few years is Blue October, they have a definite Peter Gabriel vibe about them and are very complex.

    Rush is so amazing and their songs are always pertinent and hard hitting.

    We must have goals to change the world. Who has the most goals? Edwards 2008 Come see my myspace page, check the profile!!

    by Chaoslillith on Fri May 11, 2007 at 09:46:04 PM PDT

  •  Instrumentally, I think Rush is fantastic... (0+ / 0-)

    ...but Geddy Lee's voice is absolutely unlistenable to my ears. No offense, but there is only ONE Robert Plant in the world, and all of the Plant wannabes just suck IMO.

    •  Geddy calmed down after the 70s (8+ / 0-)

      I agree...his shrieking in the early years is pretty deadly on the ears.  But he finally got the testicles loose from the vice grip and was far more pleasant to hear 1980 or so.  

    •  Geddy lost the helium in his voice a while back (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      canyonrat

      and sings maybe one register lower, which should not freak out those who were earlier freaked by it. Think of their 'hit' New World Man-- he's more under control there and it's definitely at a lower pitch, that's more like what he's been singing like in recent years.

      Ever listen to Pavlov's Dog? Interesting band, late '70's, intelligent and talented more acoustic based prog rock, their singer was like Geddy Lee on a double dose of helium. That would've really freaked you out.

      "Children in the U.S. are not only detained, but often... in facilities that routinely fail ... international and domestic standards." --Amnesty International

      by doinaheckuvanutjob on Sat May 12, 2007 at 03:21:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, I sing this stuff too (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        doinaheckuvanutjob

        And he has not lost much off the top of his voice at all.  When they performed 2112 in its entirety back about 10 years ago the only concession to time they made was they lowered the pitch of their instruments by a whole step.  That's not a lot.

        What he's changed is where he puts his voice.  He used to place all of his sound right up in his nose and make it really thin and piercing.  Now he puts a little more chest voice in and uses some more support.  He used to support from his throat to get that really raw sound.

        •  He actually does do some amazing things with his (0+ / 0-)

          voice.

          The vocals on Vapor Trails are particularly rich, layered and harmonic.

          "Children in the U.S. are not only detained, but often... in facilities that routinely fail ... international and domestic standards." --Amnesty International

          by doinaheckuvanutjob on Sun May 13, 2007 at 04:42:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  The difference is, Plant is singing falsetto (0+ / 0-)

      And Geddy is not.  He comes by that voice far more honestly than Plant does.

  •  They just wish they were NOmeansno. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Event Horizon, blueoasis

    Nomeansno, Canada's BEST power trio, already tackled religious fervor on All Roads Lead to Ausfahrt.

    Nothing means everything, everything's permitted
    Nothing is forbidden, so anything goes

    Let's take turns molesting children
    I'm so bored with my life
    Yes, we'll take turns molesting children
    Then I'll go home to my wife

    I was born to be an attorney
    I was born to peddle cars
    I'll make hay while the sun shines
    Then I'll end behind bars

    Nothing means everything, everything's permitted
    Nothing is forbidden, so anything goes

    Let's go home and bury the children
    In the cellar with my wife
    They were all insured for millions
    Now we'll do just what we like

    I was born to live on credit
    You know my Visa's solid gold
    Master card is my religion
    I've got a mortage on my soul

    Nothing means everything, everything's permitted
    Nothing is forbidden, so anything goes

    Let's go down to Guam and fuck a baby
    I saw a tour on the internet
    They say that hell awaits all sinners
    But haven't got us yet

    Something is wrong in the heartland
    There's an evil that creeps across this land
    But they say God accepts all sinners
    So why should we give a damn

    I were born out of love eternal
    But know I do the devil's work
    If there's a God up there in heaven
    He must be one big fucking jerk

    I pity those who miss the point behind this song.  One online reviewer sadly thought the band was advocating incest and child abuse.  

    Rush (who I loved back in the day) just can't touch this :D

  •  While I love Rush, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackGriffen, Event Horizon

    every time anyone mentions it anymore, I don't think of the great music, but rather:

    Words without actions are the assassins of idealism.
    --- Herbert Hoover

    09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0.

    by ew73 on Fri May 11, 2007 at 11:22:55 PM PDT

  •  didya notice (4+ / 0-)

    "The Way the Wind Blows"

    It seems to leave them partly blind
    And they leave no child behind

    "We Hold On"

    How many times
    Do we tire of all the little battles
    Threaten to call it quits
    Tempted to cut and run

    Funny how catchphrases from today sneak in

  •  Time Stand Still... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    madhaus

    I still hear this song echoing in my head. Yeah it's no Limelight or Spirit of Radio, but it somehow captures the neuronal fascination. Maybe it's the extra vocals blended in. I'll check this out on iTunes.

    Time lost is always a disadvantage that is bound in some way to weaken him who loses it. -Clausewitz

    by Malachite on Fri May 11, 2007 at 11:49:09 PM PDT

  •  Downloaded It Today (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    madhaus

    "The Way the Wind Blows" is probably my favorite on the album. Thanks for letting me know it was out.

  •  Nice review. I'll have to get this. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    madhaus

    FREE TRADE ISN'T FREE!

    by Intercaust on Sat May 12, 2007 at 01:20:24 AM PDT

  •  Vapor Trails was infrackacredible (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    funluvn1

    I thought it their best, it rocked, glistened, glowed, shattered, stomped and prettied up all over the place. The lyrics were, like spiritually inspiring.

    I can't wait to hear this new one.

    "Children in the U.S. are not only detained, but often... in facilities that routinely fail ... international and domestic standards." --Amnesty International

    by doinaheckuvanutjob on Sat May 12, 2007 at 03:27:08 AM PDT

  •  I was going to Rush Concerts... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    canyonrat, BlackGriffen

    in the early 1970s...which I think gives me seniority on this thread.  Anyway, my favorite live Rush moment...

    Circa 1978 during the concert tour to promote their then new album "Hemispheres" (my fave) there was a time during the concert when Geddy Lee was playing the keyboard with his right hand, plucking the strings on his bass with his left hand, hitting bass pedals beneath the keyboard with this right foot...while singing!  The only appendage that was not involved in music making was his left foot, which of course he had to stand on to keep from falling down.  Too bad he couldn't float, he would have been able to then make even more wonderful music :-).

    "Don't take life too seriously...you'll never get out of it alive." B. Bunny

    by The Angry Democrat on Sat May 12, 2007 at 04:33:11 AM PDT

  •  Another great secular song.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlackGriffen

    Thanks so much for the head's up.  I'm a Rush fan from way back.

    Just wanted to share one of my favorite secular songs from one of my favorite new artists, John Mayer:

    Belief
    (John Mayer - Continuum)

    Is there anyone who
    Ever remembers changing their mind from
    The paint on a sign?
    Is there anyone who really recalls
    Ever breaking rank at all
    For something someone yelled real loud one time

    Everyone believes
    In how they think it ought to be
    Everyone believes
    And they’re not going easily

    Belief is a beautiful armor
    But makes for the heaviest sword
    Like punching under water
    You never can hit who you’re trying for

    Some need the exhibition
    And some have to know they’ve tried
    It’s the chemical weapon
    For the war that’s raging on inside

    Everyone believes
    From emptiness to everything
    Everyone believes
    And they’re not going easily

    We’re never gonna win the world
    We’re never gonna stop the war
    We’re never gonna beat this
    If belief is what we’re fighting for

    What puts a hundred thousand children in the sand?
    Belief can
    Belief can
    What puts the flat inside his mother’s hand?
    Belief can
    Belief can

  •  CENSORSHIP is the final result (0+ / 0-)

    Folks that feel they have the non-proved, non-objective power of GOD behind them are unreasonable. There is no dealing with them, and when you give in to them, you get censorship to all views inconsistenet with their religion.  Personally I think such censorship will bring this country down eventually if not stopped.

    This morning the headlines in my local paper were  about one of the "more progressive" school districts in my conservative area agreeing with the local vocal fundies to banned books!  This angers and scares me because these fundies are unrelenting in their drive to screw up reality for everyone.  We must stop such movements if we are to ever progress beyond what we already know and have seen happen on this earth!

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