Published on December 10th, 2017 | by Brent Chittenden3
52 Albums That Changed My Life, Chapter 50: Clockwork Angels
Earlier, I had mentioned how Counterparts had begun my love of Rush and if I had to be completely honest, I could probably do at least five to ten album reviews on the band alone. I completely identify with the guys in the band in very different ways. Alex and Geddy, in a weird way, remind me a lot of my Dad (all three grew up in the same area of Willowdale and Geddy and my father share some weird life milestones). Neil, in terms of his writing, is kind of a goal post for my own writing. He seems to express what he needs to express so poetically and at the same time, effortlessly. I hope my own style will someday evolve to that kind of place.
I also identify with the band in terms of getting older. As I said, the guys in Rush are my parent’s age and a good chunk older than myself but they never seem to want to rest on their laurels when they come out with new material. Each album seems to have a goal. To be better than the last, to push it to the maximum of what they think it can be. Sometimes this goal falls a little short and other times, they blow the doors off. If you think of the “milestone” albums from Rush like 2112 and Moving Pictures, they are albums that challenge the band members, whether it is to go a little further, push a little harder or do something a little different.
I would argue that Rush’s latest and potentially last album, Clockwork Angels is another one of those milestone albums for the band. In ten years from now, it will be one that fans look back on as one of their best.
It’s a concept album. It’s a heavy album. It’s got a string section. And it’s really, really good.
Peart’s lyrics form a bit of a steampunk tapestry that Geddy and Alex join in with musically. The music just soars and dips and dives and rises just like an airship in the middle of a firefight. It feels like a soundtrack to a kick-ass movie that’s never been made. Like most Rush albums, a great amount of care was taken with the overall presentation. No track is out of place, everything is right where it should be and as such, you can put on Clockwork Angels and allow it to paint the pictures for you. Just sit back and listen to it and allow the mind to become fully engrossed.
In terms of playing, there’s not really much to say on that front. Rush is the heavyweight tag champs of the rock and roll trio. You might be able to make an argument in regards to Cream because, without Cream, there isn’t Rush, but I think Rush is a much tighter unit. Probably because they actually like one another. I love how everyone always gets a moment. Alex gets a solo and the other two guys stand back and let him shine but then Geddy gets a nice spot to noodle around in the song and then Neil just comes in and hammers away.
“Caravan” is a great opening track that helps set the pace but if I had to pick a favorite, it’s either “Clockwork Angels” or “Headlong Flight.” I just love the soaring of “Clockwork Angels” but the sheer boot to the face of “Headlong Flight” is pretty hard to deny.
Clockwork Angels is the album that I really introduced my wife to Rush with and it’s one of the three I always suggest if someone is looking to try the band out. It has a bit of the science-fictiony thing going but it isn’t complete hit you over the head with it. Some tracks are really heavy, there are a few that are a bit light and I think Clockwork Angels does some great things with Geddy’s vocals and harmonies that you don’t get on other Rush albums.
And as I get older, once again, Rush is a bit of an inspiration. When they made Clockwork Angels, the band were entering their early 60s but yet have the energy and the sound that kicks so much ass. When I start dragging my ass creatively, I just look to guys like Rush and say “Well, I’m half their age, I should be able to kick at least half that much ass.”
I just hope they give it one more go.