Something Else! sneak peek: Rush, "Headlong Flight" (2012)

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Building off a hard-charging instrumental, the initial single from Rush’s forthcoming Clockwork Angels finds the trio referencing its storied musical past — in more ways than one.

“Really good. The only thing I don’t care for,” our Tom Johnson says in a new watercooler conversation about “Headlong Flight, “are the blatant homages to past songs, like “Bastille Day” — why? Unless I’m missing something and it somehow ties that song into this album …”

The seven-minute “Headlong Flight,” which was called “Take That Lampshade Off Yo’ Head” before the legendary trio added Neil Peart’s lyrics, is actually the third song to emerge from this long-awaited project — the first Rush studio release since 2007’s Snakes And Arrows. Rush issued two album-teaser singles, “Caravan” and “BU2B,” in advance of 2010’s Time Machine Tour, even as Peart, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson continued work on the project.

Clockwork Angels, the band’s 20th album, was produced by Rush and Nick Raskulinecz, who’s helming his second project for the group. It’s set for release June 12th.

More from around the watercooler at Something Else! Towers …

S. VICTOR AARON: A strong entry. The playing is clean and so is the arrangement. They are their typical virtuosic selves, in that there is a measure of complexity to it that sets Rush apart from most every other rock band — but not so much that it appears that they’re just showing off. Geddy’s vocals have gotten better with age because they got deeper. They started off too high pitched and, after a long descent, have now settled into a sweet spot.

MARK SALESKI: I really like it. Nice to hear Alex doing some riffing, as opposed to his grinding away at chord arpeggios. I suppose that’s why I don’t mind the “Bastille Day” reference.

TOM JOHNSON: I love the riffing too: Great to hear after so long of the layers and layers of effects. I just don’t like the nod to “Bastille Day” (it’s there about 25 seconds in; you can hear a very similar part in BD from about 45-55 seconds in) because it sounds like they’re saying they need to pull in old sounds to make people listen, which is not true.

S. VICTOR AARON: I didn’t pick up on the references to “Bastille Day,” but I did feel it harkened back to that period. Since that’s my favorite period of Rush, they can keep on catering to the old fans like that!

TOM JOHNSON: I just don’t care for older bands doing such obvious things: It looks like they’re trying very hard to get their “old” fans to pay attention.

S. VICTOR AARON: The only quibble I had was not with the song itself but the mix. Not enough bottom end. Then again, I was listening to a stream on a PC, so that probably had a lot to do with it.

TOM JOHNSON: So many older acts rehash their earlier successes to maintain some sense of forward motion, but Rush isn’t a band that needed that. They really haven’t been accused of slacking off by their core fan base who, let’s face it, are really the only ones that are buying the albums and going to the concerts anyway. It’s only the people who tuned in from one period to the next, or for an album or two, that seem to do the complaining about those kinds of things.

MARK SALESKI: Really want to blast this in the car. Can’t wait for that.

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Here’s a look back at our previous thoughts on Rush. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

RUSH – TIME MACHINE 2011: LIVE IN CLEVELAND (2011): Rush used this opportunity to, as they really have been doing each tour lately, rifle through catalog and pull out some dusty old gems (“Time Stand Still,” reggae “Working Man,” “Marathon,” “Subdivisions,” “Stick It Out” and “Leave That Thing Alone”) and even one bonafide “never been played before” fan favorite (“Presto”) but, most importantly, a run-through of their entire classic Moving Pictures album for its 30th anniversary. Some of those tunes have been played a lot (“Tom Sawyer,” “Limelight,” I’m looking at you) but others have disappeared for far, far too long. Welcome back to the stage “The Camera Eye” and “Witch Hunt.” Maybe you’ll stick around for a couple tours?

NEIL PEART – ANATOMY OF A DRUM SOLO (2005): On this two-disc set, we are treated to a complete deconstruction of the solo, recorded during the Rush 30th anniversary tour. Now, maybe this stuff is for drum wonks only, but I found it fascinating. Not just for the crazy amount of technique the man possesses. No, what makes this different is the sheer musicality woven through the solo. Neil is well-versed in the history of music and drops little bits of it into his work. There is plenty of bonus material to go around here, including some extended improvisations, full in-concert Rush tunes presented from the drums-only camera, the “O Baterista” solo from Rush In Rio, and a previously unreleased solo from the Counterparts tour.

SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: RUSH: When most think of Rush, it’s their instrumental virtuosity (especially drummer Neil Peart) that comes to mind first. Or the love or hatred of Geddy Lee’s vocals. Other times it’s Peart’s second role as lyricist for the band that garners attention, and it’s another love or hate area of focus: Ayn Rand, sci-fi, songs about balding, fights between dogs and, well, whatever a Bytor is, these are all common targets for those who want to throw stones. We’re here to present an argument for the defense.

RUSH – ROLL THE BONES (1991; 2011 reissue): Listeners will hear immediately that the sound is indeed lighter and quieter, and the soundstage is thinner than either previous version. But it’s all to better show off the album’s immaculate recording, which does get a bit muffled in the Atlantic pressings. This is where you can revel in the tone of Geddy’s maturing voice, or the textures of Alex Lifeson’s guitar, or the layers of keyboard washes that are now magically so much more discernible from one another. With regard to those keyboard washes, what’s funny is that once you hear them here, you can’t help but notice them in the other versions, too. It just took this delicate audiophile edition to separate them out.

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