Rush’s first side epic was 1975’s “The Fountain of Lamneth,” a 20-minute fantasy adventure piece with a rambling narrative, choppy musical structure, and haphazardly inserted drum solo.
It was undoubtedly a bold decision at the time – before Caress of steel, the kings of Canadian prog had largely trafficked in virtuoso hard rock. But in retrospect, it was just a warm-up for long trips on 2112, A farewell to kings and Hemispheres. In other words: For Rush, not so weird!
Then again, this band’s “normal” changed considerably over the decades – by the mid-’80s, Geddy Lee’s once indomitable scream had largely mellowed, and it was not uncommon for fans to encounter riffs reggae (“Digital Man”), synth pads (essentially everything from this period) or Aimee Mann collaborations (“Time Stand Still”).
But some moments stand out as unusual for any era of Rush, whether it’s stunning lyrics or an arrangement that would be mental for any band.
10. “I Think I’m Going Bald” (from 1975 Caress of steel)
The title alone makes the argument. Neil Peart has written lyrics on big topics – from youthful alienation to individual freedom to the detachment that comes with fame. For this crunchy, pedestrian blues-rocker, he explored the horrors of losing “a few more hairs.” Peart sneaks in some depth towards the end (“My life is slipping away from me / I’m getting older every day / But even when I’m gray / I’ll always be gray in my own way”), but it’s still deeply eerie to hear Lee screaming about male pattern baldness.
9. “Natural sciences” (from the 1980s permanent waves)
One of Lee’s favorite Rush songs, “Natural Science” is structured into three distinct sections – altogether, a maze with fascinating twists. The reflective opener, “Tide Pools,” is unlike anything else in their catalog, with Lee’s smooth vocals and Alex Lifeson’s strumming guitar illuminated by splashing water and the natural echo of the mountains nearby. from the Studio in Morin-Heights, Quebec. During this time, the rhythms of “Permanent Waves” bounce cheerfully in an almost constant movement.
8. “Leave That Thing Alone” (from 1993 Counterparts)
The strangeness is subtle about it Counterparts banger, which earned Rush his third Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Lee and Peart were no strangers to funkiness and their beats are here deeply groovy – but they’re an odd match for Lifeson’s pulsing organ chords and dramatic, grating guitar solos.
7. “Red lentils” (from 1984 Grace under pressure)
Too rambling to feel like a true epic but too intriguing to dismiss, “Red Lenses” is a classic “throw ideas against the wall and see what sticks” song. Peart aimed for a kind of structured nonsense with his lyrics, which hint at Cold War paranoia, but they end up sounding flimsy (“I see red / And it hurts my head / I guess it must be something / That I read”), while Lee’s overly affected and non-melodic delivery dampens the desired effect. Musically, “Red Lenses” also jumps in all directions: bluesy riffs, scary synths, brief puffs of vocals and electronic percussion.
6. “Tai Shan” (from 1987 Hold your fire)
“You’re supposed to be shitty when you make your first three or four records,” Lee said. Blender in 2009, “but even in the middle of our period, we did this song called ‘Tai Shan’ using a poem Neil wrote about climbing a mountain in China. When I listen to that, it’s as, Bzzt. Mistake. We should have known better.” The lyrics alone are abnormally cheesy for Peart (“I stood on top of the mountain / And China sang to me / In the peaceful mist of harvest time / A song of eternity”), and the song’s attempt to mimic traditional Asian sounds is even more atypical: we really could have done without Lifeson’s pentatonic pinch.
5. “Scars” (from 1989 Presto)
Most of Rush’s basslines refuse to stand still, continually weaving new melodic phrases and rhythmic sensations. The repetitive groove of “Scars” does the opposite, however, repeating and repeating a fine-sounding lick through a sequencer. The drums, meanwhile, contrast in complexity – but not with Peart’s signature prog showmanship. His playing here cleverly relies on an African beat, albeit grounded with a bass drum that often pushes the track into dance-rock territory.
4. “The Necromancer” (from 1975 Caress of steel)
“As gray traces of dawn tint the eastern sky / The three travellers, men of Willowdale / Step out of the shade of the forest,” a deep and quirky voice. Just like that, thousands of teenagers around the world turned on their black lights, lit joints and snuggled up in their bean bag chairs. This stoner-friendly narration adds a layer of overt weirdness to “The Necromancer,” a 12-minute fantasy epic that alternates somewhat jarringly between sweetness and heaviness.
3. “Bravest Face” (from 2007 snakes and arrows)
Peart was immediately struck by the soulful “Bravest Face,” which features a spin on the 21st Century Rush vibe with uneasy falsetto jumps, soulful vocal vibrato, and jazz-blues vibes during the solo. guitar. “I was particularly excited about the difference [it was] of everything we had done before,” Peart wrote later. He described the song as “fresh and vital, but rooted in deeper musical currents”.
2. “Double Agent” (from 1993 Counterparts)
“We were losing our minds, that’s what we were doing!” Lee said once, while describing Rush’s mindset for this “complete exercise in self-indulgence.” He said “we just wanted to get our yah-yahs out and just have a little rave. And really, it’s one of the craziest songs I think we’ve ever written.” After a fairly conventional intro, the track bursts into rabid funk-metal riffs and noir-tinged spoken word poetry – one of the most unusual combos in the entire Rush catalog.
1. “Roll the Bones” (from 1991 roll the bones)
More commonly known as “the one where Geddy raps”. Nothing else is quite so remarkable in “Roll the Bones”: there’s a rarely used organ, and Peart attacks his kit with funk-metal intensity. But all roads lead to Lee’s ruthlessly mocked attempt to spit bars. Even with the pitch-shifting low, no musician has ever sounded more uncomfortable using the word “homeboy,” and… well, there’s this: “Jack, relax / Deal with the facts / No zodiacs or almanacs / No maniacs in poly pants / Just the facts / I’ll kick ass max.”
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