The Tuk Ten, Day 8: Rush – Clockwork Angels (2012)
Not all bands age well. This is true when the band’s career is less than ten years. Tastes change, people’s sensibilities change, fads die and new ones are born. Young rockers become old rockers, and the bloom falls off the rose. No one wants to see their dad rage along with power chords and lyrics about fighting the man.
Consider for a moment how the times had changed throughout Rush’s forty year career: the band begins in the 1970s, and moves through the classic rock heyday, then transitions into the new wave 1980s, through the 1990s grunge period, has a five year interruption, and triumphantly returns in the late 1990s to recapture their rock and roll glory with a run through the 2000s and 2010s — and does so with the same lineup for 99% of that run. Their fans are brand loyal and all along for the ride in strong numbers throughout that entire time.
Needless to say, it is quite extraordinary that the band was fertile throughout those decades and turned out some very good records during the end of their recording career. While it is indisputable that the band’s masterpiece is Moving Pictures, released in 1981, a very good argument could be made that another album could also be considered to be at the top of their catalogue.
With the longevity and productivity that Rush enjoyed over a forty year career, it is notable that one of their absolute best studio efforts was in fact their last studio album. That album, Clockwork Angels, released in 2012 had all the hallmarks of the Canadian power trio from many different points along their career. Clockwork Angels is indeed the culmination of all of the band’s decades of experience as songwriters, arrangers, and performers.
Yes, it is a concept album. That’s a good thing. While brevity is favored these days, there is something to be said for long-form musical pieces that are thematically unified and polished to the highest shine possible.
The narrative threads running through Clockwork Angels have been well documented elsewhere. There is a novelization of the story also. While concept albums to some have a distinctly 1970s feel to them, Clockwork Angels feels modern, powerful, and relevant.
The band teamed up with the same producer — Terry Brown — for their early work, including all of the following: Fly By Night (1975), Caress of Steel (1975), 2112 (1976), A Farewell to Kings (1977), Hemispheres (1978), Permanent Waves (1980), Moving Pictures (1981), Exit…Stage Left (1981) and Signals (1982). Those albums all had a familiar feel to them, and that is to Terry Brown’s credit. But, the band moved on after Signals to work with a variety of producers with mixed results.
That brings us to one of the most fortuitous collaborations in the band’s history. Enter Nick Raskulinecz. Raskulinecz was and is a Rush superfan who produced, among other rock bands, The Foo Fighters. Raskulinecz and the band hit it off, and Raskulinecz produced the band’s 2006 effort, Snakes and Arrows. The tracks on that record sound fresh. All the classic Rush elements are there: odd time signatures, thick guitar orchestrations, bass pedals, and many of their hallmark devices.
After Snakes and Arrows, Raskulinecz returned to produce Clockwork Angels. It is his involvement in the recording process that brings the Rush classic sound forward in time to the present. Both Snakes and Arrows and Clockwork Angels sound like Foo Fighters records. That’s the secret.
Rush has a built in audience after all this time. The record, despite receiving no radio support, peaked at Number 2 on the Billboard 200.
This album is intended to be experienced front to back, but the individual tracks stand on their own. Clockwork Angels absolutely stands as one of the very best records Rush ever made. The strength of the material — combined with the vitality of the performances and the incredible production value — make this record, if not Rush’s masterpiece, a very close second behind one of the most iconic rock albums of all time.
Seven Cities of Gold
Wish Them Well
Bryan Tuk is a author, attorney and musician. His recent book: risk, create, change: a survival guide for startups and creators, is available on Amazon. You can find out more about Bryan’s writings and music at http://riskcreatechange.com
His law practice represents clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey and focuses on arts & entertainment law matters, copyrights, trademarks, nonprofit organizations, startups and entrepreneurs. You can learn about Bryan’s law practice at http://tuklaw.com.