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Rush - Snakes & Arrows CD (album) cover




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3.57 | 922 ratings

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3 stars Let's get this straight: I'm a late-blooming Rush listener, not a long-term follower or fanatic. All through the 70s and 80s I resisted the trio's charms, put off by Geddy Lee's squeaky vocals. Still, I could "get" their powerful allure when Lee wasn't singing, and I'd sometimes find my foot tapping along to one of their songs on the radio. Now, in middle age, I seem to have mellowed toward many acts I formerly shunned (see AC/DC), and become more accepting of the higher-pitched "screamy" vocals which I associated with metal -- a genre I largely avoided as "beneath" me. These days I don't take my music so seriously. (As someone once sang, it's only rock and roll -- and I like it.) Perhaps it also helps that by now I've heard some truly horrendous vocals in the throat and ear-shredding screams and grating growls of much 21st-century metal. Good ol' Geddy sounds downright dulcet by comparison.

Thus, a year or so ago I picked up a copy of the priced-to-sell RUSH GOLD, a 2-CD compilation of the band's better-known 70s & 80s material. (See my review.) I quite enjoy most of it. Pleased with my purchase, for a few weeks I eyed a suspiciously bargain-priced newer Rush release, 2007's SNAKES & ARROWS, before finally taking the plunge and laying my measly ten bucks on the counter. This time out, however, I wasn't nearly as satisfied with the sounds I found within.

SNAKES & ARROWS is not a bad album -- in fact, I guess I can call it exactly that: not bad. It's just not particularly memorable. There's nothing on here which will dominate the airwaves, or your brainwaves. Opening track "Far Cry" is pretty solid stuff, as is "Workin' Them Angels," while instrumental workouts "The Main Monkey Business" and "Malignant Narcissism" (a short, sort of latter-day "YYZ") seem to reach all the required Rush receptors -- if not make them fully resonate. "Hope" is a nice enough bit of acoustic strumming from Lifeson, even if it's no modern-day Mood for a Day. Still, even at its best, I get a certain underwhelming "Rush by numbers" feeling from this album, as if Mssrs. Lee, Peart and Lifeson were merely going through the motions in the studio, following a formula that they know only too well. For this sometime fan, there's a generic sameness to most of the material, and many songs overstay their welcome. Listening to it now as I write, I can again hear why it failed to grab me by the ears at first (or 2nd, 3rd or 4th) exposure, and why I rarely play it --and never to completion. To paraphrase Peart's lyrics, it's a far cry from what I'd hoped I'd hear.

Casual fans can safely download "Far Cry" along with "The Main Monkey Business," and be done; committed Rush retainers will already have the album, and long since submitted their four-star reviews. I give SNAKES & ARROWS a fair-to-middling 2.5 stars -- generously (and self-preservingly) rounded up to 3 in deference to the slavering legions of true-blue fans, and out of genuine respect for these long-serving elder statesmen of stadium rock. Here's hoping Rush can rekindle more of their former fire and magic on the next one.

Peter | 3/5 |


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