I tell you that so you understand my next statement isn’t easily written.
Clockwork Angels is Rush’s best album since their breakthrough 1980 masterpiece Moving Pictures.
It’s that good.
Anyone who’s known me for any length of time knows I’m a hard core Rush fan. Yet every album always seemed to have at least one track that seemed weaker than average for the band. Yes, I set the bar high but the band sets a high bar themselves. I would listen to the album and when the song was done have a feeling of “eh, it’s ok.”
That didn’t happen with Clockwork Angels.
I think the song flow and connection came from Neil Peart’s desire to tell a story through the album. (He’s co-written a book called Clockwork Angels.) That linear motion through the album provides a focus that can sometimes fade when it’s an album of unconnected songs. Lyrically, Peart provides us with a higher level of thought than on Snakes & Arrows and Vapor Trails.
Musically, there is a serious return to the feel of earlier Rush work. A lot of this can be attributed to producer Nick Raskulinecz. A die-hard Rush fan, he knew the way the band’s hard core fans expected Geddy, Alex and Neil to push themselves but keep a familiar sound. Raskulinecz could be the band’s new Terry Brown…a producer who can bring the band to a new level. Raskulinecz’s insistence the band do what they wanted to do and not focus on making each song 3 1/2 minutes led to a fusion of classic Rush tracks of the 70s with the best musicianship to date.
There’s also a feeling to the record that seemed missing on all the work since the band’s hiatus in the 90s…a joy to the music. There seems to be almost a peace you can feel running through the band’s work. This record is the heart of Geddy, Alex and Neil coming out in ways we haven’t heard in decades.
And while I don’t want to see them call it quits any time soon…if Clockwork Angels is going to be their swan song…I don’t think they could go out any better. If there’s a 21st studio album coming from these guys, they set the bar impossibly high.