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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

Anonymity
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.