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Monday, December 6, 2010

Another Chance to Score

Neil Peart hasn't exactly had it easy. He lost his daughter to a car accident and then less than a year later, lost his wife to cancer. After that he basically told Geddy and Alex he was finished with Rush and went on a 55,000 mile motorcycle trip. Lucky for fans everywhere, Peart couldn't stay away and upon clearing his head and recovering somewhat, he told the guys he wanted to return to the studio. After not having played for quite some time, it took Peart a while to get his chops back, but holy hell did he ever and boom, 2002's "Vapor Trails." The opening track, "One Little Victory," is an amazing comeback for the band, with a blistering drum intro that just gets you pumped as hell for what's to come. The band's first studio album in 6 years, "Vapor Trails," rocks like nothing the band has done before.

Peart's writing is definitely dark and deals with some very dark subject matter, but it is a huge stepping stone in the band's career and what a way to open it. Metal fans should enjoy "One Little Victory," and Rush fans and Peart fans should be drooling. Call "Vapor Trails," one big-ass victory.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Send Your Impulse 'Round the World

"Net boy, net girl, send your signals 'round the world. Let your fingers walk and talk and set you free."

Now, "Test for Echo," was released in 1996, and these lyrics about the advent of the internet and its rising popularity. Neil Peart is a big time conceptual artist and his fascination with the world and trends never ceases to amaze me. Thus, "Virtuality's" lyrics may be kind of lame for now, but in 1996 they were (and still are to me, so mleh) new age and modern and kind of foreboding. Mr. Peart saw the power of the internet and its potential... Obviously as many people did, but he saw the power and failure behind it. "Put your message in a modem, and toss it in the cyber sea." The cyber sea... ok so one can send their message anywhere, but cannot forgot that once its out there, it's lost at sea. Pretty damn fascinating. Not to mention that this is a great tune, with a really catchy chorus. "Test for Echo," itself is an unreal album with some really interesting stuff. Check it all out. Pye Dubois collaborated with the band and produced some great tunes.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The future seems bleak. Have no fear, Rush will save us all!

2112. Great googly moogly, 2112. From the album of the same name, this song epitomizes Rush. It's a shame this has to be a short post, because I could go on for days, but really the music speaks for itself. I can't put it into words, just pure appreciation. If you have never heard 2112, do so immediately. Drop what you're doing and youtube it or whatever you have to do.

2112 is a tune that blends musical precision, amazing playing (AMAZING), fantasy, and a rockin' adventure. Long story short, it's about a future where music is outlawed and one day a guy finds a guitar and tunes it up and figures out how to play it and leads a revolt against the powers that be. I'm talking move material here.

It's broken into sections because it's 20:33. Sit down, turn it up, and absorb it. You will not be disappointed. The best part is near the middle, it's called "Presentation." So rockin' I can't even put it into words. Pure Geddy Lee right there and if you're not into his voice, live with it, because the man friggin' belts it out. Neil Peart is god, allah, buddha, and all that rolled into one because he hath created a tune and concept like no other. Sit back, turn up, and absorb. You have no idea what you're in for.

Creative Writing Assignment: Short Story Review

"Nutty," by Paul Rudnick is a short story from the New Yorker, which will apparently be published in the November 29 edition. It's an absolutely hilarious "tell all" about how Mr. Peanut of Planters peanuts is gay and is "coming out of his shell." In the story Mr. Peanut tells of his encouragement from stories like those of Portia de Rossi and Ricky Martin to come out and be who he is as a gay peanut. This story comes after Planters rebranded in a way and gave Mr. Peanut a grey blazer, the voice of Robert Downey Jr. and a little sidekick named Benson. I Rudnick's short story, Benson and Mr. Peanut are in love and Mr. Peanut is sick of hiding it.

This story is absolutely brilliantly written, at least for my taste it is. It's filled with clever double entendre's and puns that make it very readable and I honestly haven't laughed out loud at a story in a long time. Mr. Peanut goes on a sex binge in the story, screwing everyone from Mr. Clean to Tony the Tiger and at one point shares naughty bits with the Rice Krispies guys saying "they don't get soggy in milk." His description of his torrid affair with Mr. Clean, whose first name is apparently Eugene, is hilarious and oh so shrewd.

This is the first story that I've read out of the New Yorker that I've actually enjoyed. It may be because I get all of the references, but it's also because the subject matter is risque, but in a fantastical way. Apparently Mrs. Butterworth is a lesbian. Who knew? I also like how it is autobiographical in nature, but such for a fictitious, anthropomorphic peanut. I also like the blend of clever humour and of toilet humour (the nut jokes are awesome). The title of Mr. Peanut's autobiography just says it all- "Right in the Nuts."

A great laugh and a quick read, check it out:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Because We're Here

Rush's first foray into rap. Believe it or not. But actually believe it, because it happened. What an odd thing for Neil Peart to write. I mean, rap? Really? Yet... I love "Roll the Bones," from the 1991 album of the same name. It's a philosophical tune about simply giving things a shot. "Roll the Bones," being a euphemism for rolling the dice. While very catchy musically, the lyrics are what bring this tune home, for me anyway.

"Roll the Bones," is all about just giving things a go and seeing where it all falls because you never know until you try. It's one of those somewhat cliche lessons, but Peart executes it in such a way to give it nuance. I think his writing is brilliant and people may have slagged him for the rap bit, but they were just coming out of the 80s, rap was rising in popularity, and I guess he thought "what the hell, let's give it a go." It's kind of lame, but I love it none the less, and when you hear it, you won't be able to help but laugh and love it too. During live performances, the rap is a pre-recorded voice track and a skeleton with a mohawk appears on the big screen and goes 8-Mile on the audience's behind. (I'm so glad Rush can kind of laugh at the fact that they actually included a rap section in one of their tunes).

The song is not all rap, in fact the rap section isn't very long at all. The chorus is fantastic; the lyrics are existentialism in it's simplest form: "Why are we here? Because we're here. Roll the bones."

I love how blunt that statement is; we're here because we're here now roll the dice and give it your best shot. "We go out in the world and take our chances. Fate is just the weight of circumstances. That's the way that lady luck dances. Roll the bones." This is one of Peart's less linguistic tunes, dumbing things down a bit I suppose for the early '90s generation, but he gets his point across well and it's still a profound tune to go down in history with all of Rush's profundity.

The song starts off with the groovy funk-based hook that continues throughout, with an awesome synth note on 2 that just punches every little pre-verse. The synth throughout the song (which Lee plays with his foot pedals during live performances) is toned down quite a bit from "Presto," and even more so than "Hold Your Fire." In this tune's live version, the synth just accents and accompanies, rather than being a main component of the mix. Check out a live version if you're not into synth. It's subtly is what gives the track it's funk-appeal, and Lifeson's guitar work is minimalistic for him, but still very tone-setting in that it accents and punches where it needs to without being overt.

The bass-riff in "Roll the Bones," is sick. A somewhat syncopated funk rhythm, Lee carries it out beautifully during live performances while singing. That man amazes me with what he can play while he sings over it. This is by no means the most complicated bass riff he plays, but all the notes on the ands while singing on the beat would give me a headache any day.

Check out the music video and watch for the skeleton, you will not be disappointed:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hey, Baby, it's a Quarter to Eight

Another quick post this week about the wonders of old Rush. While the band's first album featured John Rutsey on drums and not my personal Jesus, Mr. Neil Peart, the album has some unreal tracks with some fantastic playing, nonetheless. Lee showcases his bass chops, Lifeson plays some very classic sounding riffs, and Rutsey is more than competent behind the kit.

This debut was simply a mix of their influences, which include The Who, Zeppelin, and other classic groups. It really comes out in Lifeson's fuzzbox distortion and perhaps Lee's straightest playing ever. The band pulled off a great success when this record was played in Ohio where a bunch of blue collar workers related to an eponymous track known as "Working Man."

A less appreciated, but still widely played track, the last track on the album is known as "In the Mood," perhaps an ode to Glen Miller, but who knows. Rush isn't necessarily known for their lovey dovey, let's get laid lyrics, but "In the Mood," is definitely a tune of that calibre. It's a great track with an awesome lead riff that gets stuck in your head.

This album isn't for the occasional Rush fans, however, as I can see Lee's ultra-high vocals getting to some people. However, for the longest time, this was my favourite album (odd, seeing as how Peart was my hero immediately after I took interest in the band) because it sounded the closest to classic rock out of most of their material. So, if you like the classics, i.e. a little bit of Zepp, some Who, some Yardbirds, some Cream, then check this tune out. "In the Mood," may just get you in the mood for more Rush. Yup, that's as cheesy as it gets right now.

Laugh along with the rest of the world at Rush in the '70s. Amazing musicians, but not exactly boy band material. and I'll leave it at that just in case they take offense and never ever want to meet me.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Show Me Don't Tell Me

From 1989's "Presto," "Show Don't Tell," is a very fine piece of music. Rush is not necessarily known for their excellent late '80s to early '90s output, but this is a tune that just does it for me. Post- Geddy's keyboard phase, or at least getting there, Presto saw the band move closer to their power trio roots before really returning to those roots on '93's "Counterparts." "Presto," had the band moving back to that guitar-oriented sound and had them playing around with funk rhythms. "Show Don't Tell," is almost danceable at times and I'm sure you'll have the main riff stuck in your head for quite some time. Check it out:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

If Only We Could

Finally, a damn blog about what I intended to blog about! I know I could blog more during the week, but let's face it, I'm just not that gung-ho.

The year was 1987. Geddy Lee was in his "I love keyboards" phase and Neil Peart was in his electronic drum phase and Alex Lifeson was playing with A LOT of flanger. Some don't like the post "Moving Pictures" '80s Rush, but "Hold Your Fire" is a great album. It produced some unreal, thought-provoking tunes like "Force Ten," "Mission,"(unreal song, just unreal), and perhaps the only hit, "Time Stand Still."

"Freeze this moment a little bit longer. Make each sensation a little bit stronger." Oh, Neil. If only we could. What a great song about savouring the moment. This tune marked Rush's first collaboration with another singer, featuring Aimee Mann on vocals during the chorus... or prechorus... Who knows what the actual chorus of this tune is? I mean a rather lengthy part is repeated quite a bit... But for that part, I'll call it a prechorus.

Anywho, what a good tune! It's got this bouncy chorus with the above mentioned lyrics and Peart plays this off-beat hi-hat pattern with a bouncy quarter note bass that just gives it a real drive, and then there's this awesome guitar breakdown with synth in the background where Peart plays straight eighths on the bass and it's phenomenal. "Not looking back, but I want to look around me now. See more of the people and the places that surround me now." Beautiful lyrically and musically, check this tune out. Thanks to Jeff Brown at 92, you can hear this song quite a bit more on rock radio. Check out "Hold Your Fire" as an album, it's a great departure for the band and show their versatility.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Next time you think about joining Facebook, find a wall and give yourself a Facemash

The Facebook movie. Good sweet Mike. What can I honestly say? A movie about the conception of a website and the subsequent lawsuits that dogged its creator. Great idea for a flick... Not. While the acting and dialogue were tremendous, I just found myself not caring.

You really want to like Eisenberg's character, Mark Zuckerberg, but he comes off as such a pompous, self-centred prick that you can't, and that really alienates you from the picture. His buddy gets totally screwed over, so there's less of a likability for Garfield's character and more pity than anything.

It's really hard to say whether or not the film portrayed Zuckerberg in a negative light because it seemed like they were trying to make him this internet hero, but they still wanted to let us know he did some bad stuff. Bad stuff like stealing an idea for a now billion-dollar website, absolutely screwing his best friend, and being an overall emotionless dick. So, we've seen him do all of this, and we see him being sued and I was like "good, he deserves it." He basically stole an idea and then elaborated. However, through the cunning use of sexy Rashida Jones and her brief heart-to-hearts with Eisenberg's character, I almost found myself feeling sorry for the guy. But now that I think about it, I don't know why. Maybe it's because he's completely inept in a social setting and yet he pioneered the world's number one social networking site. Thus, I really can't say the film portrayed Zuckerberg in a negative light, but I can't say it shone the positive light on him either.

I think this film will have two very opposite effects on Facebook's popularity. For one, I think people are going to get a craving for Facebook and rush home to use their accounts and tempt their friends into joining because it's "so awesome." It may also attract people who want to see it now that they know where it came from. It'll attract those curious folks who want to see if they can see this history in it, i.e. maybe they'll be able to tell how it came from its Facemash roots or something like that. For another, however, I think the film will turn people off from Facebook because of all the corruption and lies and back-stabbing that went on (I'm assuming it all went on so dramatically in real life because movies never lie, they show everything exactly how it happened, because two nerds could really pull off that kind of drama in real life... couldn't they?). People may also be turned off by the fact that after screwing over his pals and getting sued for probably over a hundred million dollars, Mark Zuckerberg is still the world's youngest billionaire. That's disgusting. That's the lesson you leanr from this film. Steal an idea, back-stab your way to the top, get sued for unfathomable amounts of money and still be richer than all hell. Brilliant and insightful.

The real Mark Zuckerberg seems to deny the dramatic elements of the film, citing it as fiction. Underneath all of his diplomatic, political responses, I can simply tell that he didn't like the way he was portrayed. And that's completely understandable. He's portrayed as a socially inept nerd who can't keep a girlfriend or best friend to save his life. Even after his best friend spots him tens of thousands of dollars... So he's an ingrate too. I can see how the real Zuckerberg would take issue with this, but the way he responded just seemed dishonest. It seemed like the big guys behind the scenes had their hands up his puppet butt, much like Cheney usually had his hand up Bush's rear. Zuckerberg seemed to be doing what he was told to save the company face. I like the fact that he denied being the same as the character in the film, but to try and show that through a hefty donation to a school was asinine. Oh, the timing was a coincidence, I just so happened to donate a hundred million dollars on the same day the film opened. Bo-Ha. Bull honky. Don't insult me. You knew full well what you were doing Mr. Zuckerberg and you left a nasty taste in people's mouths.

I would have waited until a couple weeks after the film's release and then I would have made a donation, especially one of such magnitude. It would have been in better taste, and it would have been more believable as a gesture of goodwill because people would look at it and go "oh, the film did well, Facebook must be doing well, Mark Zuckerberg is doing well, Zuckerberg is giving back." To me, that would have been a far better scenario for Zuckerberg and the Facebook camp. With Zuckerbergs actual timing, I think people are going to look at it as a saving face emergency measure. They won't see it as a donation of good will, but as a donation to say "look guys, I'm actually a decent dude and not actually a douchebag." Either way, I think he looks like an ass, but I think if he had made the donation at a later date, he might be just one cheek or something.

I mentioned Zuckerberg's response to the film- you can check out some points here:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Buyer Beware Blog

For our Buyer Beware project, we compared WestJet and Air Canada based on price, accommodation, comfort, food quality, and other amenities that go along with airline. My part of the project was to look at cancellation, flight-change, and bereavement fares.  We found that WestJet came out on tape based on customer satisfaction as well as their commitment to it.

I've learnt to really look at what I'm buying before I get into anything, especially with airlines, because there's a lot of fine print and smoke and mirrors that may mislead the customer. Granted... these smoke and mirrors are easily seen through if you just know where to look. WestJet seems like they want to let the customer in to find whatever they want; their legal section featuring tariffs and whatnot is presented clearly and is easily accessible, both on the web and based on readability.

Air Canada's online tariff descriptions and legal stuff are very difficult to read and go through. It's presented in a block format with all of the type, including titles, in the same type size and font. One must basically read through the entire 91 page to find exactly what they're looking for. It essentially made me mad and I just got sick of looking at Air Canada.

Getting back to looking deeper, this project has taught me to analyze a larger purchase (like an airline ticket) from all angles before I finalize because there are many ways that one can screw oneself (with respect to purchases and airlines).

The only part of the project I don't care for is the paper itself. While I think it's necessary to have something to hand in, I do believe a presentation should suffice. Perhaps a shorter, more succinct paper would suffice, featuring findings and method and whatnot, kind of a like a scientific method write-up.

All in all, however, I found the project to be somewhat eye-opening and I think it would have been interesting to explore other topics because I haven't been on a plane in 12 years. Other topics I'd like to explore would be brand-name clothing, video games, computer products, and workout products like protein powders.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Rock and a Hard Place

Today, against our will, the CreComm class was forced to go to a political forum featuring Winnipeg's two major mayoral candidates, Judy Wasylycia-Leis and Sam Katz. Opening questions were asked very forcefully and in a rather ballsy manner by the moderator, CJOB's Richard Cloutier. The replies were very animated and campaign-like, but after a little while, both Katz and Wasylycia-Leis resorted to almost catty banter. It soon became more like a pissing contest than a political forum hosted by informed, professional candidates.

Now I ask all of you, how do you vote now? I feel like I'm in an episode of South Park now in which I'm forced to either vote for a turd sandwich or a giant douche (I'll let you figure out who's who for yourself). What now? After seeing this "forum," I feel like my own vote is hopeless. Each candidate danced around the questions being asked and really didn't answer anything. How am I supposed to make an informed decision when I really dislike them both as people now? I suppose I could choose the lesser of two evils, but why not just choose not to vote?

I did find it a little odd that Cloutier seemed to be cutting Wasylycia-Leis off a lot and letting Katz speak freely. And boy did Katz speak freely. Yeesh.

I'm having a crisis of conscience now though, because I really don't know for whom I should vote, or for that matter, if I should vote at all? What's the point? After seeing the way the leading candidates handled themselves today, I'd be more inclined to vote for the next best 12 year old than one of these 2 potential ruinations of Winnipeg. I've honestly lost all faith in our civic government as of today and don't really care who wins now because, by the sounds of things, the city's going to hell. I may be being a bit dramatic, but I thought we were supposed to be able to look to the apparent leaders of the city for guidance and professionalism and leadership. Now I'll just go to one or the other if I want tips on how to deal with a child during an argument.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Companion Unobtrusive

 I know I say it for every song I do, but what can honestly be said about "The Spirit of Radio?" Honestly, what can I put in to words to sum up how I feel about this tune. It is this relentless, driving, feel good, well-written, political, style-defying journey that embodies the epitome of good music. I said feel good, but I just mean it makes me feel good on a personal level because the tune just picks me up and takes to my happy place. It's actually quite a sad song when you really tune into the lyrics (no pun intended).

"One likes to believe in the freedom of music, but glittering prizes and endless compromises shatter the illusion of integrity."

The words "just effing brilliant," come to mind, but I hold back a little. How unprofessional. But come on! This amazing piece of music from 1979's "Permanent Waves" is a poignant poke at the way commercial radio was and is heading. It was sort of the anti-establishment anthem that so many of today's garbage emo bands could only dream of penning.

As for style defying, what a roller coaster ride! Hard rock, stadium rock, prog rock, reggae?! Reggae! And they execute so well and so subtly that the average listening audience would just be bumping its head along without a care, while many musicians would be drooling over the style change and the magic that is Rush's mastery over music. I cannot gush enough over this tune. Every time it's on, I can't help but drum along with the opening  while I sing along with the guitar riff. It truly is a beautiful piece of music that has this influence over me that I can't quite describe. It can take me out of the worst moods and every time I listen I can't help but smile at least once throughout its 4:59 duration.

To say this is my favourite Rush tune is difficult because there are so many amazing songs that cannot be discounted, but I do have to say it is one of my two favourites, along with "Driven" from "Test For Echo." "The Spirit of Radio," alone, has had enormous influence on the way I play the drums and on the way I play guitar, as well as the way I view my world. Some would be disappointed if I said this song has made me more cynical, but it's true, and I think it's for the better. The lyrics mentioned above are applicable over so many areas of life, not just radio.

Being a drummer, I have to gush over the absolutely phenomenal drum work of Mr. Peart. This song showcases Peart's "signature" cymbal lick that he uses in many songs with some variation. All in all I suppose this is mostly a gush fest rather than a review, but how can I not go on and on? It's really hard to express how I feel about this song in words because, as strange and cheesy as it sounds, it just makes me feel. For the non-Rush fan (who are you and what's wrong with you?) "The Spirit of Radio" is definitely a good foray into the world of the band. It blends their sounds from their genesis to now and really showcases each player's abundant talent. So, go out and pick up "Permanent Waves," where you'll hear other hits like "Freewill," and "Entre Nous." Basically, with Rush, if you like a song, you'll like the album, so you really can't go wrong.

If you've never had the ultimate pleasure of listening to "The Spirit of Radio," here's a link:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Creative Writing Assignment: Piece of short fiction

Passersby, faceless in their stride
No names, only numbers
Makes accountability a non-issue
Put a name to a face
It's all you want, but you can't
Potential friends remain enigmas

Trying to exist is mere survival by definition
Shamelessly and namelessly we court disaster
Our chaotic mistress, we do not atone for her sins
We shall ever be Nobody Special

Your face in a photograph, on a billboard, a mural
A place waiting for you, but no one to claim it
A shapeless ghost, you can't hope for identity or recognition
Invisible, intangible, we all remain enigmas

Trying to exist is mere survival by definition
Shamelessly and namelessly we court disaster
Our chaotic mistress, we do not atone for her sins
We shall ever be Nobody Special

Layers of life flood the Earth, make it dense
Keep the riff-raff out, build up your fences
Don't let anyone in, for fear they claim you all-access pass
To what we are and shall remain- Enigmas  

Teen Angst!!! Rush's Ode to Guyliner and Wrist-slitting

What can really be said about Rush's "Subdivisions?" It's an unreal tune from 1982's
"Signals," their follow up to "Moving Pictures." Unreal. It starts off with this kick-ass 7 intro involving a bom bom bom, bom bom bom synth riff, then into a great synth melody backed by bass drum and hi-hat. It brings you right into the song and then there's the pre-verse build with some amazing drum work, courtesy of Mr. Peart (perhaps my favourite drum part to play along to).

The lyrics, once again courtesy of Mr. Peart, are a profound representation of high school life that i challenge any crappy emo band to match. You think growing up is tough and your AFIs and your Silversteins know what it's all about and you think Rush is just a group of old fogies who don't know squat? Wrong. Geddy Lee grew up an awkward looking Jewish boy in a town where Jews and other immigrants were looked down upon. His parents were both Holocaust survivors. Alex Lifeson's parents were both Polish immigrants. Neil Peart took their experiences and his own (being a very awkward and somewhat nerdy, thus ridiculed, teenager)and turned them into poetry.

"Subdivisions in the high school halls. Subdivisions in the shopping malls. Conform or be cast out. Subdivisions in the backs of cars. Subdivisions in the basement bars. Be cool or be cast out." I think it's just a brilliant stroke of reaching out to all of their fans who feel the same. Nerds and outcasts finally had a band that got them. Thus, Rush has built up this oddly mixed fan base of nerds and science fictiony types, as well as the average joe who appreciates a well-written tune, and then every type of person in between. There is definitely a cult following of the nerdy types though. And I say nerds with the most loving intentions; I don't mean that they're geeks or what have you, I just mean the nose in the books, introverted types. Or nerds like me who nerd out about things like Rush. Why would I make fun of my own kind?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tweeter and the Monkey Men

So... This is what it's finally come to. The day I was forced to obtain a Twitter account. Now that I read that back, it sounds like an FML post. Once again, that's "forced," as in against my will.

Granted, Twitter is a way to find out what famous people are doing day to day, but I'm still having trouble finding the true use in Twitter. So far, I've gather that I have to do it in order to find out what readings need to be don for my PR class, but other than that, I can't see much use in it. Perhaps one day, when I'm famous and have all the time in the world, I'll twitter about my musings and whatnot, but for right now, it's just another device destroying human communication.

I'm constantly told that these devices are helping us to communicate for convenience's sake, but where is the humanity in them? It's my firm belief that Facebook and Twitter are destroying the organic side of communication, both literally and figuratively. Sure, people have pictures on their accounts, but they don't change. You can't see their facial expression with each sentence that passes by. As well, there's no room for interruption. Every dialogue is somewhat one-sided because you can say all that you want to say without someone talking back until it is "their turn."

So, to make a long story short, I'll do it. I won't like it, but I'll do it... Because I have to. The worst part is, I find myself intrigued by what certain celebrities have to say, and I find myself checking to see if anyone "tweeted" at me. It would seem, not matter how hard I've tried to resist and prolong it, I've become just another Follower.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Modern Day Warrior

          I figure since this is my first "real" post as to the official topic of discussion, I'll start off with a classic, two words that seem to be synonymous with Rush before Mark Twain. Yes, of course, I'm talking about "Tom Sawyer."
         In today's and age, if you ask someone if they've heard of Rush, the response is either "oh yeah, I love them," or "the guys who sing 'Tom Sawyer?'" Quite possibly their biggest and most widely recognized tune, "Tom Sawyer" comes from Rush's 8th studio album, "Moving Pictures." Of course, when you ask a Rush fan about the band, "Moving Pictures," will always come up in conversation. Many fans and critics recognize this album as the record that made Rush "Rush." That is to say, this is pretty much the album that made the band's career, as mentioned in my previous post.

        What can one say about "Tom Sawyer?" For one, it's absolutely friggin' brilliant. There are few songs like in the rock genre and few songs like it in general. It is a one-of-a-kind rock gem. Opening with a big crash cymbal and immediately starting into a sixteenth-note hi-hat pattern backed drum beat, backed by a bass/synth drone, it turns on the rock early, and finishes the same way, but bigger (as if you thought that was possible from the get go). I mention the drumbeat specifically because it really is one of the most recognized drum tracks in rock. Within the first 3 seconds of the tune, you know it's Rush, and you know the master is at work behind the kit. Geddy Lee sings "Modern day warrior, mean, mean stride. Today's Tom Sawyer, mean, mean pride," and then boom, the familiar, "DUNDUN DUN DUNNNNNNN." What a hook!

      Neil Peart wrote the lyrics about a modern day Tom Sawyer who is tired of oppressive government and society going down the tubes in a futuristic dystopia. In other words, it's a brilliantly written song in a long line of absolutely brilliantly written songs about a dystopian future and the perils of a "Big Brother," run society.

      An interesting fact to note about "Tom Sawyer," is that, while much of the song is in 4/4, or, "common time," there are sections where it is in 7 time (meaning seven eighth notes per bar). The reason why many people can't listen to Rush is because some time signatures are difficult to listen to if you're not used to them. This particular track, however, made it huge. Many people know that Pink Floyd's "Money," is in 7 time, for the most part, but it has such groove that it's easier on the "non-musician's" ears. To my knowledge, very few songs in 7 have been very popular in rock history. That's right folks, Rush makes weird time signatures cool.

      All in all, in simplest terms, "Tom Sawyer," is just an awesome tune, from it's ultra technical drum part, to the stunning guitar work of Alex Lifeson, to the fantastic synth riffs by Geddy Lee. It's an 80s staple and a rock staple that will definitely stand the test of time. It's familiar and influential and just a great song.

      Just to show you how widespread "Tom Sawyer's" popularity is, check this out:

That's right. Trey Parker and Matt Stone are Rush fans.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Brief History of Rush

         For those of you who don't know who Rush is, get out from under your rock and live a little. One has not lived until they've experienced all that Rush has to offer. For one, Rush is the most successful Canadian band of all time, garnering high praise worldwide. So if you have not heard of them, at least tune into 92 Citi FM and have a listen. The more mainstream songs are forays into the legacy that is Rush. I was told once by the man who got me into Rush, that if you like a song, buy the album because chances are you'll like the whole thing. I have yet to be let down.

       Rush was formed in a garage in Sunnyvale Ontario, a small suburb, North of Toronto, by guitarist Alex Lifeson (then known by his real name, Alex Zivijinovich), drummer John Rutsey, and bassist/frontman Jeff Jones. Alex was friends and schoolmates with Gary Lee Weinrib, the man who would become Geddy Lee, one of the greatest bass players in rock history. After jamming and hanging out, Geddy soon replaced Jeff as bassist/frontman. Thus, Rush was born.

       They released their first, self-titled album in 1974, which found its way to a radio station in Ohio. "In the Mood," attracted some attention and requests poured in from listeners. Then, another song was played; the song that would attract a cult following of blue collar workers who felt that the band really knew what it was like to be blue collar: "Working Man."

        The band's success took off from their and they were asked to go on tour, opening for many big names, like Kiss. Before their first tour, however, John Rutsey left the band due to health reasons. ENTER GOD HIMSELF.

       Geddy and Alex searched for a new drummer for quite a while and were ready to call it quits, when a quirky, skinny, weirdo of a teenager auditioned. Geddy and Alex were immediately impressed by the skill of this shy, awkward fellow, and Neil Peart became Rush's man behind the skins. Thus, the real Rush was born.

       Two weeks before going on their first tour with Kiss, Peart learnt all of Rush's songs and they set off for stardom. Upon returning from touring, the band set together to make their second album, this time with Peart at the helm of lyrics. His interest and study in mythology started what would be Rush's calling card: lyrics about out of this world happenings and places and times. Every fantasy fan and nerd's dream! In 1975, "Fly By Night" was released and became an instant hit with fans. With a few speed bumps along the way, Rush road a wave of good fortune into the '80s.

       1981. What a year for music, the band, and fans alike. "Moving Pictures" was released on February 12, 1981. The year, as most fans and critics will say, Rush became Rush. This seven song album produced some of the biggest hits of the band's career. Hits like "Tom Sawyer", "Limelight", "Red Barchetta", and "YYZ". From this point on, the band would take prog rock in a direction all their own, and would be highly regarded by critics and fans the world over.

        Rush's most recent album is entitled "Snakes and Arrows," for those who wonder what they're doing now, and they are, in fact, releasing their 20th studio album next year, entitled "Clockwork Angels."

       I hope this gives any potential fans, or fans who didn't know this much, a decent insight into the conception of the supergroup that put Canada on the map for good music. If anyone is skeptical, give a listen and see, there's something for everyone. For those who like their hard rock and metal, check out 2002's "Vapor Trails." For those who like their classic rock, check out "Rush" and "Fly By Night." And, for those who like everything in between, check out anything throughout their prolific career. Once again, you will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Introductions and Formalities

My name is Mike and this is my first time blogging. This blog will set out to explore the world of the Canadian superband and power trio, Rush (one of the greatest bands of all time). Each post will take a particular Rush song, varying from mainstream "radio-played" songs, to obscure superfan tunes, and break it down in a review. Reviews may be as simple as stating whether or not a particular song is "good" and why, or they may be as nerdy as diving into time signatures, playing styles, lyrics, etc. WARNING: some reviews may be rich in nerdiness.