Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Oh god...Rush. Why even bother to work up a dudgeon, whether high or low, about such a preposterous cultural relic as the meretricious Canadian Power Trio who have been making exuberantly-musicianed hokum for thirty-five years now? This is kid’s stuff, surely, and I should know because my mother probably still maintains a box of cassettes at home with copies of every record up ‘till Hold Your Fire; and why pick on kids, when anyone who knows anything about Rush realizes that the kind of youth who gravitates towards this pastiche philosophizing is troubled, lonely, introverted and...different. And more than likely abused or marginalized to some extent in whatever Subdivision he’s growing up in. Don’t these kids need their own music? Surely, they do, and I’ll go one better: Rush fills an important need for these lonely boys and one I find to be decidedly positive. When the outcasts and misfits started listening to utter garbage like Slipknot that urged mindless rage instead of, say, Permanent Waves that at least had “intelligent” lyrics and cautioned a kind of principled stoicism in response- well, this culture has been nursing psychopaths for many years now, and, yes, I blame the record industry for Columbine and I could give a fuck who thinks this makes me sound like Dan Quayle.
So why bother, then, to heap scorn and abuse on three talented musicians who unfortunately have chosen to live a permanent adolescence and make music that is the endless equivalent of Catcher in the Rye (because let’s face it, it’s a pretty tiresome book after a while)? The reason is simple, and summed up graphically in the slatternly mien and rebarbative, puerile philosophy of the group’s un-official guru: Ayn Rand. For no one in history has been more insidiously successful in popularizing that wizened cunt’s loathsome solipsistic ravings- and thereby ensuring the continued madness of Libertarianism and the resultant destruction of the world’s economic system- than that Plato of the skins, Mr. Neil Peart. In the history of the world, Peart ranks right up there with Alfred Rosenberg and Andrei Zhdanov for popularizing a disastrous philosophy that swamped the world in its baleful fog and choked out reason from the brains of many an inquisitive young person; Nazism, Stalinist Dialectics and Objectivism are the three pearls of metaphysical pretense to The Curator’s sorrowing mind, and Peart’s poetic grasping of Rand’s insipid Nietzsche-for-dummies rhapsodizing means he’s going to answer for his crimes, at least on my fucking blog he is.
The problem is apparent from the start: who would ever listen to a drummer when it comes to what books to read? For Christ’s sakes, drummers have a well-earned reputation for being dim as dorm-fridge bulbs and about as comfortable with abstract thought as the Bush Twins in a semiotics lab. I’m not sure I’d let the typical drummer clean my pool (those filters can cause a world of hurt) let alone proffer insight on the mysteries of the brain, and the complicated interplay between the Dionysian and Apollonian in the aesthetic struggle raging in the supplicant and seeker’s mind. Which brings us, neatly, to the subject of this review, an album even most Rush enthusiasts would allow is a near-total fiasco due to the overwhelming failed ambition of the title track: Hemispheres.
Behold, the God of Pretense has arrived! A concept album about...The Birth of Tragedy! Oh, the drugs must have been very good in 1978, Mr. Peart, very good indeed...
Any analysis of the album is, essentially, redundant and extraneous; it’s the same old Rush story, you know it very well if you know the band at all: superb musical passages suddenly interrupted by cheese-ball synth work, Lifeson’s classic-rock-monster riffs making you wonder “what if”, Geddy Lee’s vigorous and tasteful bass work and, yes, Peart’s outstanding drumming undone by some of the most preposterously overwrought and insensate lyrics ever written. And I don’t care that they’re “Canadian”, that’s no excuse; I’ve known plenty of Canadians who aren’t this lame, or this...befuddled. Lee has never been at higher, testicle-cringing altitude than the “singing” done on this album, indeed, it almost sounds like he’d heard this dude named "Surkamp" was out there and he really needed to ratchet things up to keep his title of Falsetto Rex the Shrill. I’ve always felt Lee was somewhat unfairly maligned for his vocal work; this is rock n’ roll, after all, and Robert Plant got away with some serious helium-sucking excess on Houses of the Holy and is worshipped like a god. But there are times on Hemispheres that Mr. Lee sounds like the air horn the Germans used to put on the nose of a Stuka dive-bomber to scare the hell out of hapless refugees. Volume is one thing, but a gaggle of rioting macaques can’t match the sheer insanity of Geddy’s nefarious ululating, done to a pitch that is generally only heard in music when a tube-amp has exploded or a serialist composer has gone mad. Fortunately, what he’s singing about is even more ridiculous, so some of the pressure is taken off of Geddy’s shoulders and returned to the Randian epigone who is personally responsible for half the political arguments I get into when I go to bars.
Again, what is there to say? If Allen Greenspan were a rock band, he would be Rush and Hemispheres is the band’s sub-prime loan. Superlatives are in mean supply when the fantastic catastrophe of Atlas Shrugged comes up, but I must admit, Peart matches that vicious old crone pomposity for pomposity, and brings back in 5/4 time all of the festering rage I nurse for that fascist slut with the loving care of a murderer – for Ayn Rand is the single greatest argument that I know of that Lenin didn’t kill enough.
Which leads us to the meat of this essay: are Rush fascist, and if so, should children be protected from them? Well, I find it significant that in the All Music Guide review of Hemispheres (which the dazzlingly obsequious reviewer feels is a “masterpiece”; who wrote this crap, Mrs. Maury Weintraub of Toronto, ON?) mentions that "The Trees", quote, “deals with” racism. Okay, this is a bit of a stretch, but let’s say it does; if so, a cursory perusal of the lyrics would seem to indicate Peart would be in favor of keeping the lesser elms in their place. This is one of the most violently anti-egalitarian songs ever written, and while it is fine to tout the superiority of the individual and the pressing need of the tallest tree to preen most keenly and take the most light, this kind of anthropomorphism is fantastically deterministic; for trees are only a product of their genes, can neither learn nor think, and only man himself can even prune them for their own more- efficient survival. A Freudian analysis of the lyrics unveils a host of priapic demons rife in Peart’s flowering metaphor, a Lacanian one more menacing eugenic fantasies that betray a perhaps more closely-cropped moustache than the Rollie Fingers look he sported ca. 2112. But all of this posturing misses a central point: the lyrics are, of course, strictly Randian, a woodsy re-telling of the John Galt fantasy and the struggles of a man used to practicing “situational ethics”, and, therefore, preposterous, laughable, essentially fraudulent and pure Romanov-diaspora kitsch. I return to a point made much earlier in this essay: kids didn’t kill each other when they listened to Rush (though some of us sure as hell thought about it) and that, after all, is the final proof that Ayn Rand is just a phase like acne, parachute pants and premature ejaculation during furtive sexual experiences (not that I would know anything about that, mind you) that some overly-Romantic dreamers pass through on the way to an adulthood of massive conformity and literary fantasies lingering in sobering desuetude. And The Curator finished his paragraph, and yea, did he weep...
Thus, what is there to say about Rush, in conclusion? A youthful trifle, a bagatelle of adolescence, perhaps if all goes well a gateway drug to more challenging and beauteous Prog; and I must admit, while the album version falls short, Lifeson’s magnificently emotional live solo on "La Villa Strangiato" (from 1981’s Exit: Stage Left) still can produce a frisson of envy that I could never make music like that. But when one transitions from pimply-conjecture to wrinkle-browed wisdom...perhaps it is time to put Rush in the toy box along with many other discarded pastimes, segue gracefully to books somewhat-less-horrific than The Fountainhead, and realize that paying your taxes is a downpayment on civilization. Because, as said, I still blame Peart for this plague of buffoons who look at Somalia and see the happy fate they wish upon my poor United States of America. You pack of tea-bagging cocksuckers, anyway.
And if you think I’m being typical in my bludgeoning exaggerations...below, perfect Randian wisdom from those ideological scalawags at the Cato Institute. Enjoy. (Skip down to the part about Somalia with the “Find” feature in Firefox; simply, absolutely must be read to be believed) - TR