Yea, in case it wasn’t stupidly apparent to all of you?  I love Rush.

They’re easily my all-time favorite band.  I have every record by them, I’ve heard every song, I’ve seen them in concert numerous times, and have an encyclopedic knowledge of minute Rush facts and trivia.
And I’m far from alone in considering them legends.  Only The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and KISS have them beat for number of consecutive Gold and Platinum records.  They’ve maintained the same line-up for over thirty years, never losing or adding other musicians.  And despite being around for as long as they have, they’re still going strong and still selling out concerts.

…But for whatever reason, a lot of mainstream publications seem to have it in for Rush, particularly Rolling Stone, though they’re far from the only one.  They describe their songs as overly long and overly showy.  They describe Neil Peart’s lyrics as pretentious and his drum solos as boring.  As best, these publications describe Rush as “the ultimate guilty pleasure band“, which I call bullshit on immediately because I don’t know a single Rush fan who feels guilty for liking them at all.

So why do I personally like Rush?  Well, lots of reasons.  For one…

They’re positive
If there’s anything good that Neil took from his early Ayn Rand inspired lyrics, it was the celebration of the individual.  Rush has constantly championed those who try to blaze their own path, which is the essence of rock and roll itself.  Even in Rush’s darker songs and albums, there’s still an under-current of hope and faith in human decency.  The more cynical and ironic cultural and music becomes, I find it refreshing to see a band be endlessly sincere, even if it comes off as a bit goofy and cheesy at times.

Though Rush themselves might not care much about looking goofy because…

They don’t take themselves very seriously
A progressive rock band NOT taking themselves seriously?  Flummery and pshaw!  But it’s true.  On their early records, Rush felt like they were trying too hard to be as cool as their influences.  “2112” onward they embraced the fact that they were goofy music geeks from Canadian and started showing a sense of humor about themselves.  Heck, given some of their song titles (“La Villa Strangiato”‘s subtitle is “An Exercise In Self-Indulgence”) they even seem to enjoy teasing the prog-rock cliches many people seem to associate them with.

You even watch the pre-taped footage for the Time Machine Tour and you see that all three members are actually very gifted comedic actors, and have great timing.  How many other bands can say that?  They even act as effective straight men opposite Paul Rudd and Jason Segel’s characters from “I Love You, Man”.

They’re epic
Some might think I’m referring to their sidelong tracks that go as high as ten or even twenty minutes in length, but length doesn’t automatically denote epicness (though sometimes it doesn’t hurt).  No, Rush has managed to achieve epicness even in their standard length songs, simply through grandiose songwriting, musicianship, and tone.  Sometimes it’s the girth, not the length (ladies).  “Tom Sawyer” manages to be endlessly epic and electrifying in the standard four minute pop song length.  And you only need to see the ballistic reactions of 50,000 hyped up Brazilians to see that.

They’re constantly evolving
Henry Rollins once said that “Over time, bands start to ‘progress’, which is code for ‘they start to suck’.”  I don’t necessarily think that’s true, and Rush is a good example of that.  As much as I love them, I’m the first to admit that Rush’s records before “2112” are rather “eh”, and they definitely didn’t hit their stride as a band until after that.  They would emphasize and de-emphasize different traits and styles over the years (guitars versus synths, rock versus folk, etc) but always be tweaking their sound and the kinds of songs they would write, so their song catalog offers a lot of variety and depth.

They do their own thing
I secretly think this is why Rush has gotten so little praise from mainstream media: they refused to play games with the mainstream media like a lot of other bands of their day were willing to.  Their only live television appearance for years was on “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” in 1974, and not again until appearing on “The Colbert Report” in 2008.  For their touring, promotion, and recording, they’ve mostly done things their way and reported directly to their fan base, NOT the press.  Also, most pop music is interested in the frivolous and the shallow.  Rush were a bunch of average looking guys who wrote sincere songs about individuality and hope, not a bunch of pretty boys writing about girls and partying.  No wonder the mainstream frequently glosses over them and their influence, but it’s also no wonder why their fan base responds to them as passionately as they do.  Even if they don’t play punk rock, they’re at least punk in spirit.

So, as a Rush fan who wants to celebrate the release of their latest record “Clockwork Angels”, I decided to do something special: I’m going to write about every Rush album and every Rush song in chronological order over the next few weeks.  I’m going to do one album a day (including the live records), include info on the songs and recording (because that’s how I roll), and talk about my thoughts or experiences with each song.

This is not going to be an exercise in gushing though, at least not completely.  I’m going to critically weigh the pros and cons of each album and each song, though I should state that I don’t think any Rush album whatsoever is BAD.  There are merely certain Rush albums that are better than other Rush albums, sometimes scores better.  So I will only be comparing these records to each other, not to other artists or bands.

It’s in this spirit that each review will have a “Best Song” and “Weakest Song”, along with a “Best Lyric” or “Weakest Lyric”.  As much as I love Neil as a lyricist, he’s not infallible to me, and there is the occasional line where I can’t help but chuckle and go “…Really?”.  That being said, he’s written far more epic and eloquent lines, so I’ll be high-lighting those as well.

I would also like to stress that these reviews are nothing more than my own opinion, and I don’t pretend they’re anything but.  If you agree or disagree, post a comment.  Just try to be civil.  We’re Rush fans.  We’re all friends here.

Everyone on board?  Great!  Hope you enjoy it!  Let’s stop wasting time and start at the beginning…