“Why the hell should I like… ?” is an experiment of sorts between Popblerd and The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. What we’re going to attempt to do is to pick 10 songs from our favorite artists — one for which the other has professed dislike or disinterest — and show them why they’re wrong.
Alright my man, thanks for letting me go first. I get that Rush is not everybody’s cup of tea. Over the last 20+ years of my fandom, I’ve heard all manner of excuses for not liking them or not wanting to give them a chance. The three I hear most often are that Geddy Lee’s voice is too much to take, their lyrics are too pretentious, and they spend too much time showing off with their instruments.
There’s not a whole lot I can do to change your mind about Geddy’s rather, um, distinctive voice, other than to point out that most of their work from about the mid-’80s on has a lot less of that shrillness. Secondly, I’ve always found the contention over Neil Peart’s lyrics to be more of a reflection on the person hating on them than on the man himself. Sure he sometimes gets too preachy even for me, but I’ll take Neil’s brainy pretensions over Jon Anderson’s mush-headed mysticism any day.
And finally, if you could play an instrument as well as Rush, you would show off too.
And with that out of the way, here’s my pick of the 10 songs that should have you heading out to your local tattoo parlor for a Starman tat post haste. I’ve tried to represent most of their major stylistic changes, so you should be able to find something to latch onto.
- “Cygnus X-1” — This is Rush at their most metal, and most pure. One of the great things about them is that their long songs never feel long (that’s what she said). The buildup on this one takes several minutes but is totally worth it, and never feels padded. But what makes this track really great is the last part, starting with the really ominous, atmospheric guitar part at around the 7:20 mark. You know something big and bad is coming, but it’s still a thrill when it hits you. When they start ripping into it at about 8:10, I lose my shit every time. The rest of the song is one giant orgasmic release.
- “Red Barchetta” — You could pick any song from Moving Pictures and hear a stone-cold classic, but this is my favorite. This is perfect air drumming material, and the crunch of Alex’s guitar in the pre-chorus is a joy to listen to. I also need to give props to Geddy’s vocal melody here, which I’ve adopted as a lullaby for my son. It’s that good. Also worth pointing out is Terry Brown’s production on this track, which is the unsung hero.
- “Freewill” — This is from Permanent Waves, the first album where Rush made a move away from ’70s style prog rock and tried to incorporate more slick, modern sounds. It works beautifully here. I love Neil’s lyrics about self-reliance here, but of course the music is the star here. The bridge section is absolutely sick. Listen to the breakdown that starts around the 3-minute mark. They are all off doing their own thing seemingly, but it still blends perfectly. I still get chills listening to it.
- “The Pass” — Alright, let’s mellow out a bit. This is Rush in AOR mode, from the Presto album. This whole record is a tour de force for Neil’s lyrics, but this one may be the best. Rush connects to the social misfits of the world in a truly important way, and it’s one of the reasons they inspire such devotion in their fans.
- “One Little Victory” — This is the first song from the first album (Vapor Trails) the band put out after Neil’s wife and daughter died in the late ’90s. The band nearly called it quits, but instead took time to regroup and roared out of the gate with this track. Talk about triumphant. And talk about that opening drum part kicking you right in the ass.
- “Beneath, Between & Behind” – I may take some crap from hardcore fans for not going with “Anthem,” but for my money this is a more interesting song. Love that Alex Lifeson pre-verse riff.
- “Tears” — Rush very rarely dabbles in the ballad trade, but I’m glad they did on this track. I’m also a sucker for Mellotron, so you can’t go wrong here.
- “The Weapon” — My absolute favorite song from Signals, and it’s got some pretty fierce competition. The slow buildup with those tasty drum fills is such a great way to start the track, and Peart turned in one of his best set of lyrics ever. “He’s not afraid of your judgment / He knows of horrors worse than your hell / He’s a little bit afraid of dying / but he’s a lot more afraid of your lying.”
- “Afterimage” — This was a tribute to Robbie Whelan, an assistant engineer who became a good friend of the band’s. I love the juxtaposition of the mournful lyrics and the aggressive, hard-charging music. Needless to say, Rush was heavy into synths at this point in their career, which turned off many older fans. Their loss.
- “Cut to the Chase” — After drifting farther away from hard rock over the course of several albums, Rush decided it was time to burn again. So they released a back-to-basics rock album, Counterparts, in 1993. This is just one of the several excellent cuts from that record. What I love about this song is that hard-driving yet bouncy rhythm laid down by Neil and Geddy.
So there you have it. 10 tracks to make the case for why the hell you should like Rush. Go forth and listen! And then report back to me and let me know when you want to get together to catch your first Rush show.
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