Graded on a Curve:
Rush, Rush

Remembering John Rutsey, born on this day in 1952.Ed.

Sounding less like a bird of prey than a castrati with a gerbil up his ass, Geddy Lee is trying to tell us something. Xanadu, subdivisions, the spirit of radio, how we’re all trees in the forest and if you happen to be a stunted one you’re shit out of luck—your guess is as good as mine. The late Neil Peart, may he rest in peace, wrote ‘em, and your average 13-year-old with a unicorn glitter notebook would have rubbed his nose on the playground gravel.

Behind Geddy, prog-metal bric a brac: 2012’s ping-ponging title track (Rush isn’t a band, it’s a kid with attention deficit disorder) boasts seven parts including a grand finale, and is less a suite than a Frankenstein monster of ill-fitting parts. As for the band’s concept albums, Geddy himself has been quoted as saying, “Even I can’t make sense of them.”

Either you love Rush or you loathe ‘em, and I loathed ‘em up until the day I realized they were a comedy act. Now I love ‘em. Geddy cracks me up every time he opens his beak. “Closer to the Heart” is my all-time favorite song.

But there was an old Rush before the new Rush, and the old Rush can only be heard on the band’s 1974’s eponymous debut. With the soon-to-be-booted John Rutsey on skins, and nary a tedious 19-minute musico-philosophical discourse on Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead in sight, everybody’s favorite Molson belchers made like Led Zeppelin on Beaver Tails, and while your critic types derided Rush as a turd hamburger, I like it cuz I’ll take good old-fashioned hard rock over mutant mullet metal any day.

You won’t hear any long-assed dick wankery on Rush. For the most part the trio keeps ‘em short (the exceptions being “Here Again” and “Working Man,” the only cut on Rush you’re likely have heard), guitarist Alex Lifeson makes like a hoser Jimmy Page, and Geddy sounds more like a kicked-in-the-balls Robert Plant than a kid who’s just had his tonsils ripped out of his mouth sans anesthesia. As for the lyrics, they’re refreshingly stupid–you won’t be force-fed any pretentious Libertarian twaddle along the lines of “By-Tor and the Snow Dog.” Rush made its bones playing Toronto’s high school dance circuit, and it shows in their primitive permafrost sound.

Let’s run down the songs. Led Zeppelin’s fingerprints are all over “What You’re Doing.” “In the Mood” is listenable mid-tempo anonyboogie that gives great cowbell. “Finding Your Way” threads the needle between AC/DC and shameless Zep splooge. “Need Your Love” is Gordie Howe (I know, wrong town) on meth, and makes me want to purchase Maple Leafs season tickets. The how-did-I-get- here? “Here Again” is a tip of the toque to hometown hero Neil Young. “Before and After” fools you into thinking it’s just another example of maudlin heartland balladry ala REO Speedwagon until the boys come to their senses and go back to being shameless Zep clones.

None of these songs are great, none of ‘em are gonna make your day or do the Crunge, but they give you an inkling of what Rush might have been had they stayed on the Trans-Canadian Highway with the likes of Triumph and Bachman Turner Overdrive. Nobody would have given ‘em half a chance, or plunked down their hard-earned working man’s dollars to see ‘em, but we Rush haters would have been spared a whole lot of needless pain and suffering.

But on the positive side, we’d have been denied one of the world’s greatest comedy acts. Rush isn’t a band, it’s the Three Stooges on maple syrup.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
B-

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