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Sunday, January 30, 2011

It's time I was king now, not just one more pawn

"Fly by night away from here. Change my life again." For personal reasons, this song is rather apt at the moment and it's a great song about changing one's life and outlook. It's a great song for students who have no idea what's going on and are slowly realizing they need to start their lives. The bridge talks about how one makes the decision to get the ball rolling, but become, as Neil puts it, "apprehensive."

This is definitely a thinkin's person's tune, which is all about the lyrics. It rings true throughout adolescence and into adulthood. This is an interesting tune for the band to put on its sophomore album as well. Peart had just joined the band and had penned an album of lyrical wonders like "By-Tor and the Snowdog." The band was heading off in a new direction, leaving their Zeppelin and The Who influenced roots for a more conceptual, complicated take on music. The band truly became Rush when Peart joined, and "Fly by Night," is a classic tune that rocks like any other.  Essentially, the message is, take control of your life, because "the change isn't coming and I just can't pretend." That is to say, make your own change and live life the way you choose. Take heed, faithful readers (because I know there's so many) "life happens wherever you are, whether you make it or not," so make it yours.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Drinkin' by the lighthouse, smokin' by the pier

Most people, if not everyone has that special place, often outdoors, that they like to escape to over the summer to make those lovely memories that will last and last, warm fuzzies, blah, blah, blah. "Lakeside Park," off of "Caress of Steel," is THE summer tune for just that kind of feeling. While I may have sounded cynical a moment ago, "Lakeside Park," does indeed help to create that warm summer night ambience that is sounding pretty damn good about this time of year.

I do believe this is the only tune I've heard off "Caress of Steel," on the radio, and it is definitely the most listener friendly, but check out the album if you like the tune; it's quite a trip. Definitely at least check out "Lakeside Park." It's a beautiful piece of music that is Rush at about as "easy-listening" as they get.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

There's trouble in them thar woods!

In an arboreal twist, Peart writes an Orwellian tale of oppression and hierarchical apathy, as well as the destruction of society under the guise of equality, that is an ear pleaser as much as it is a brain teaser. Oh snap, take that Eminem, I can rhyme words too. I apologize to Rush for even mentioning Eminem in a blog about them, because of course they're reading.

Anyway, "The Trees," off of "Hemispheres," is a thinkin' man's tune with some beautiful instrumentation and some hard-rockin' goodness that satisfies both my musical appetite and my thirst for thought-provoking music. The song is about the maples, who, believing that "the oaks are just too lofty," and that "they grab up all the light," rebel and "scream oppression." The oaks, however, "can't help their feelings if they like the way they're made, and they wonder why the maples can't be happy in their shade." In other words, Peart is writing about class disputes and how the ones at the bottom want more, more, more (stay out of this Billy Idol) and the ones at the top think that the ones at the bottom have what they need and should be happy.

'Twould seem Mr. Peart sees some apathy in the upper class and a lack of willingness to work with the lower classes, while those damn hippie maples want to overthrow the bourgeois in order to have more light. So really, it's all one big metaphor. The maples wind up forming a union and demanding equal rights, but in the end, man has the say, and in Peart's immortal poetry, "the trees are all kept equal by hatchet, axe, and saw." Once again, a profound lesson is brought force through the medium of music that is as much poetry as the lyrics are.

The musicality of this tune, just like the rest of the album, is unprecedented. The daddies of prog have done their fair share in creating an album such as "Hemispheres," (hemispheres being those of the brain, once again, a real thinkin' man's album). Lifeson's opening guitar work is superb with this lightness that seems to be the beginning of a children's story, while Lee's bass plays a lovely melodic riff underneath (and while he sings, which is astounding to me even still). The distortion kicks in and Peart comes in and the song takes flight with a singability that is rather unique to Rush.

Peart's lyrics are always very full and well-thought-out, and his vocabulary in song is uncommon and profound. Thus, sometimes, Rush is a bit difficult to sing along to unless you know them well enough because it is truly prose. I'll go out on a limb and say that 90% of Rush tunes could stand alone as poems. Granted, they would be done a great injustice to not be accompanied by such gorgeous music. As is often the case, Rush's music speaks along with the lyrics. Hence, all of Rush's instrumentals, such as "La Villa Strangiato," from "Hemispheres, and the grammy-nominated "Leave that Thing Alone," from "Counterparts," still have this underlying poetry that is not vocalized by a singer, but by the complexity and precision that is all three members' mastery of their instruments.

Check out "The Trees," and pay attention to the lyrics. Simply beautiful stuff. This is from their live album, "Exit, Stage Left," and it is simply gorgeous. The fact that Rush can play half the stuff they've made live, with the precision and expertise that they do, is unbelievable and awe-inspiring. At least to me. These guys are true professionals.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

In Touch with Some Reality Beyond the Gilded Cage

To mark the beginning of the 30th anniversary year of "Moving Pictures," I believe it's only fitting to talk about a Rush classic off that album as my first on-topic blog of the year.

"Limelight" is a serious Rush favourite. A concert staple over the last few tours, Rush begins their concert with the famous guitar riff. The stage is pitch black, the arena roars, and then a single spotlight appears on Alex Lifeson who sounds the first phrase of the tune. The crowd goes absolutely insane as Lifeson sustains the a chord and Geddy Lee runs out onto the stage. The songs resumes and concert goers are immediately immersed in the effervescent world of Rush.

Limelight is that tune that combines Rush's hard rock capabilities with its technical prowess and profound lyrics. Peart once again shines with his almost cynical look at fame and what it can do to people. According to the tune, living in the limelight is the universal dream. We all just want to be famous. And as Peart paraphrases the bard, "All the world's indeed a stage, and we are merely players." Over the course of his career, Peart has explored the various ways fame can contribute to a loss of self, like in "The Spirit of Radio," where he speaks on the perils of leaving music up to "the man," and the "coldly charting," record companies. So, in the same vein, "Limelight," postulates on the good and bad of fame.

While this song can be taken apart, I've got  to say it's just a damn rockin' tune. It's fun to play along too (a bloody drum workout) and just an uptempo classic with a catchy, ever-identifiable riff. I do believe I've talked about Tom Sawyer already, but over the course of the next few months, I think I'll go through the entirety of "Moving Pictures." I can't believe it's been 30 years! And I've only been alive for 21 of them. This year's tour will definitely be a goody, so if you're at all interested, make sure you check them out when they roll through town.

Check out Limelight, because if you haven't heard it before, you're missing out.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

PR Assignment: Pseudo-Event- Publicity Stunt Perhaps a Bit of a Reach?

First, all apologies for the terrible pun, but it works, and also, to hell with it.

Halo: Reach, for those of you who don't know, is a video game on the Xbox platform created by Bungie Entertainment. It is technically the fifth installment in the series, but is a prequel to all. The story is based around the alien invasion of a planet known as Reach and a team of six soldiers who are on a mission to obtain an Artificial Intelligence being that just so happens to be the key to the survival of the human race... Or something like that. Don't annihilate me if that's inaccurate, it's simply what I've gleaned. The content of the game is irrelevant to this post, as I would like to speak about an event that Xbox dreamed up in order to promote the game's release.

On September 13, 2010, a day before Reach's release, England's Xbox team put together a pseudo-event that most likely had video game geeks creaming their tighty-whiteys and fogging up their coke-bottle glasses, and regular video game players who don't make a career out of it saying "holy shit." Halo: Reach has introduced jetpacks, among other armour features, to the game's campaign as well as its online components. So, to promote the game and its new inclusion of the futuristic flying machines, men dressed up as Spartans (the soldiers in the game), fake battle rifles and all, and stood guard in London's Trafalgar Square. As if this wasn't cool enough, that is, to see real, live Spartans, Xbox had a guy fly around Trafalgar Square using a bloody jetpack. The man, dressed as a Spartan, took of in the jetpack, circled Nelson's Column, and landed in position between two other men dressed as Spartan characters.

This event was filmed and became a hit on YouTube with over 170 thousand views. While nothing extravagant like this took place Stateside, I think it may be somewhat necessary for Europe to see something like this because I'm not certain Xbox is as popular in Europe as it is in North America. Granted, the population of North America is much larger than Europe, but I think the promotion of the game was needed more over there. I also like London as a setting. Trafalgar Square is gorgeous and, judging by the video, not too many people showed up, so perhaps promotion is needed in Europe, or at least England, more than I thought.

Though the pseudo-event seems like kind of a dud in the video, I'm sure there was news coverage and the works over there, and with the video being on YouTube, viewers in North America had a chance to be wowed by the stunt. It is somewhat lackluster that the guy only flies around for 30 seconds, but you've got to admit, it's still pretty damn cool. And what a hell of a promotion tool for the game. It's great PR for Xbox because it's something new and very out of the ordinary. I mean, I knew jetpacks existed, but I didn't realize they had them in working order, or for that matter, that small and maneuverable. I mean the control this guy has over the thing is unbelievable, and he nearly lands in perfect position. Kind of makes me wonder how long before Canadian Tire is selling the damn things.

Good on Xbox for showing off its cash for one (I'll assume even a 30 second jetpack flight is pretty damn expensive), and for showing off its forward thinking and innovation. Hey, guys, we're putting jetpacks in the new Halo game, how are we going to promote it? Boom, real-live jetpacks and Spartans. Well shit, Gerry, that's a great idea. And there you go, Gerry gets a sweet holiday bonus and a new car. Brilliant.

I personally enjoy stuff like this because, while I somewhat dislike "publicity stunts"(they're kind of like the annoying drama student in high school who needs to be the damn centre of attention all the damn time), I can get into stuff like this because it's not just a publicity stunt, but a cool event, or should I say pseudo-event, in which a video game has had enough impact on people that the company invests that much time and effort into making these costumes in amazing detail and finding a guy who won't piss himself taking a jetpack ride. It wasn't cheesy at all or gimmicky, it was just plain cool and I think that's what makes a pseudo-event worthwhile. When people can come away from it and go, ok, that was a publicity stunt, but it was also pretty damn cool.

 I won't lie, I watched the video and it got me pumped for the game and I'm not even that big of a video game guy. Good on ya Xbox. I don't hate you. Check it out: