Add It To The Collection: Canada’s greatest exports since hockey are back with their 20th studio album, Clockwork Angels, which sees the 38-year-old band delivering a new twist on the sound that can only be described as Rush. The 12 tracks on Clockwork Angels form a narrative that tells the story of a young man travelling through a dark fictional world. The album has a very big, cinematic feel to it, but even if a sci-fi/prog-rock concept album isn’t your thing, there’s enough melody and great riffing on Clockwork Angels to make this album as listenable as anything the band has ever done.
All the elements of a great Rush record are present on Clockwork – Neil Peart plays the drums like no other human being and he even has a few new tricks up his sleeves in terms of rhythm patterns and accents. Alex Lifeson delivers some major riffage and very tasteful rhythm guitar playing throughout the album. It’s almost as if the guitar is the main backbone for most of these tracks allowing Peart and bassist Geddy Lee to shred over Lifeson’s precise and lush guitar lines. Speaking of Lee, his bass playing can only be described as ferocious on this record. His hammering bass lines are the driving force behind most of the album’s heavier tracks and his vocals are also quite solid.
While any Rush album requires multiple listens to properly hear and digest everything going on, Clockwork Angels is filled with enough straightforward melodies and powerful riffs that most of the tracks stand tall on their own. From the opening one-two-punch of “Caravan” and “BU2B” through the epic title track and the album’s two closing melodic flourishes – “Wish Them Well” and “The Garden” – Rush have delivered another milestone album that fans will be happily air-drumming for quite a while. Must Have Track: At seven-plus minutes, “Headlong Flight” is the definition of Rush.
Skip It: It pains me to write this, but Blow Your Pants Off by Jimmy Fallon is an ill-conceived idea. The album features the audio from some of Fallon’s incredible live musical performances on Late Night. The problem is the tracks don’t really work without the visual of Jimmy as Neil Young, Jim Morrison or Tebowie. Without the visual cues, very few of the tracks work as straight recordings. You need to see Springsteen alongside Fallon’s spot-on Young performing “Whip My Hair”. And even when Jimmy is just being Jimmy, the album doesn’t capture the energy of his performance of “History of Rap” featuring Justin Timberlake and you can’t see the sparkle in his eyes as he performs alongside Eddie Vedder or Paul McCartney. This project would have worked much better as a ‘Best of’ DVD but I guess with YouTube and Late Night’s excellent website with full video archives, what’s the point. Must Have Track: It’s nearly impossible not to sing along to Fallon and Vedder on the protest ballad ‘Balls In Your Mouth’.