Sunday, December 16, 2012

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Geddy Lee: A Rush Playlist

There are some things I dislike, and you can never change my mind.  I don't care for Fox News, cheese, Taylor Swift, Michael Bay movies, or SUVs, and I never will.  That being said, I have learned to cherish one thing that I used to completely disdain: the music of Canadian rockers Rush.  Back in my youth, I loved punk rock and hated anything that smacked of musical showing off or sounded like prog rock.  I found Rush to be ridiculous and overwrought, from Geddy Lee's screeching vocals to Neal Peart's daft lyrics inspired by sic-fi and Ayn Rand.  The fact that third member of the band called himself Alex Lifeson made me chuckle.  I knew people who liked Rush, including a close friend or two, but they really seemed like a musician's band to me, appealing only to fellow virtuosos.

For some reason, about four years ago, something about Rush just clicked with me.  I got past the lyrics (which I still find to be silly) and Geddy Lee's vocal excesses (which thankfully aren't present on many of Rush's songs) and keyed into the amazing musicianship.  As my tastes have become more sophisticated, the three chords and a cloud of dust approach taken by most punk rock bands seems pretty limited.  There are a lot of bands out there that sound like the Ramones and Nirvana, there's really only one Rush.  Here's a playlist of my favorite Rush tracks.

"Tom Sawyer"
This is probably the band's signature tune, and for years the only one by them that I liked.  Unlike a lot of other hard rock bands from the 1970s, Rush actually adapted their sound to integrate electronics and non-rock rhythms in ways that sound natural, not forced.  (Moving Pictures and Signals have multiple reggae-influenced songs.)  The dark synths and almost folk rock guitar churning at the base of the song set a fantastic tone for the whole enterprise.  Peart's drums never sounded more exact or glorious.  Even the biggest Rush haters can't help but to like this song.

I have lived in small towns, college towns, small cities and big cities in my life, but never the suburbs, and for good reason.  This song evokes the deadening conformity of life on the crabgrass frontier like no other.

"Passage to Bangkok"
Unlike most Rush songs, this one's got a catchy chorus.  It's also one of the hardest rocking songs about the pleasures of smoking up a bowl of weed ever written.

So many rock bands write ten minute songs, so few of them can create something that deserves that kind of length.  "Xanadu" more than justifies its playing time, providing us a jaw dropping introduction that gives the listener a long, gourgeous slide into the song.  The rest of it ain't too bad either.

This album side-length song is really a kind of orchestral suite about a future world where music is banned, all is ruled by an authoritarian priesthood, a young man discovers a guitar and is put to death for using it, not before he incites a revolution.  The story doesn't quite hold up, but man, the music is amazing, and it keys right into my inner frustrated teenager.  Back in my old job, on days where the back stabbing by colleagues and assholery of superiors was too much to handle, I would close my office door and just blast this.  I don't think I could give a song any higher endorsement.  It also showcases some absolutely blistering leads by Alex Lifeson, by far the most underrated member of the band.


Debbie said...

Apologies, but I believe you forgot "Spirit of Radio", eh. --Debbie

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

You know what? I actually said that to myself after I finished the list!