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Rush - Clockwork Angels CD (album) cover




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3.94 | 1198 ratings

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2 stars On paper, Clockwork Angels could be one of the strongest entries of the Rush cannon. For one, it is a concept album, the first the band in quite some time. I am sure I am among plentiful company when I admit that I was overtaken by thoughts of 2112 and other giants of the back catalogue. Rush also seemed to be hitting their stride, Snakes and Arrows, while inconsistent, was something of a comeback album with some real gems and classic grandeur. Adding to that, last year I was tantalized by Caravan/BU2B, the excellent first single on the album. Finally, Rush put on a huge display of their talent and timelessness with the Time Machine Tour. The stage was set for something really special from the band. Sadly what has materialized is pretty far from those lofty expectations.

For one, the concept is already quite well trodden by the band, especially of late. It is a story about the travels of a young man from a mechanistic city run by a dictatorial watch maker and his eponymous clockwork angels. The young man is forced to deal with the difference between world he was "brought up to believe" in and what he actually observes. Over its course the young man suffers an irreversible loss of faith, but finds the will to continue thanks to the strength of his own ideals. To anybody who has listened to Snakes and Arrows, this will sound awfully familiar. It is admirable that the band chooses not to shy away from such pertinent and challenging subject matter as this, but it is beginning to wear. I feel that the more direct approach of Snakes and Arrows served their purposes much more compellingly that the heavily allegorical pulp on Clockwork Angels.

Aesthetically, I am not pleased with window dressing Rush have chosen for their existentialist fable. I have never been a fan of steam punk. I think it is faddish, needlessly decadent and revisionist. I don't judge people who enjoy the genre. To each their own. I have my own preferences.

Musically, Rush remain as technically proficient as ever. This album is unfortunately neither their most creative nor their most ambitious however. Many of the tracks sound similar far too similar one another or to tracks on Snakes and Arrows. The band never seems willing to let their instruments do the talking as they have done so wonderfully so many times in even the recent past. There are no instrumentals or even any solos of note on Clockwork Angels. At best, there are a few short, but intriguing song intros which quickly give way to relative schlock. Beyond the single tracks, there are not too many other tracks worth noting. The Wreckers is an earnest alt-rocker with a solid chorus and the deeper lyrical context we've come to expect from Rush. It is somewhat reminiscent of the core tracks from Snakes and Arrows like Armour and Sword and Spindrift, but less foreboding. It's a pleasurable oasis is what is mostly a dry and dreary album. The closer, the Garden is also pretty good. It is the bittersweet but ultimately uplifting final ballad to a largely dark album about the journey through life and the loss of faith.

In the end, listening to Clockwork Angles is a bit of a chore. I was considering giving the album three stars, but I just cannot. Part way through the review I cut out to listen to 2112 instead. They're a great band with a vast and entertaining catalogue, but they cannot all be hits. I hope that the band keeps making music, but hopefully they bring back some of their musical ingenuity, ebullient daring and joie de vivre on any future releases. Two stars out of five.

R-A-N-M-A | 2/5 |


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