As you remember from the last post, Will and I are looking forward to the sure-to-be-glorious Rush R-40 concert later this year. In preparation, we’re ranking Rush albums from the least-great to “Moving Pictures.”
We started the countdown at No. 20 with “Caress of Steel,” which I think a consensus of Rush fans would rank as the band’s lowest point.
And here’s where I start getting in trouble. Remember, people. The least-glorious Rush albums are still better than much of the stuff out there.
No. 19: Snakes & Arrows
Released in 2007
Highlights: “Far Cry,” “The Main Monkey Business,” “We Hold On.”
Least-great moments: “Faithless”
Cool Neil Pearl lyrical moment:
“It’s a far cry from the world we thought we’d inherit
It’s a far cry from the way we thought we’d share it
You can almost feel the current flowing
You can almost see the circuits blowing.”
From “Far Cry”
A lot of people liked “Snakes & Arrows.” I wrestled with this one. I might have had unrealistic expectations. “Far Cry” was released in advance and it’s awesome. It’s everything we love about Rush, with poignant lyrics, precise drum and guitar interplay and a memorable chorus. It seems to have become a concert staple, too.
Then the rest of the album came out. There are a lot of long, lumbering, plodding cuts with lyrics that seem less upbeat than usual. Protagonists in Rush songs usually rise above. Here, they seem to be wallowing.
Geddy’s vocals seem to be layered throughout, making it difficult to understand what he’s saying. For a band that prides itself on its lyrics, that’s a problem. This isn't like Whitesnake finding new ways to rhyme “knees” and “please.” Will noted that the songs sounded better in concert, where just one Geddy was singing at a time.
It’s not unusual for Rush to have an instrumental on an album, but there are three of them here. They’re also the liveliest cuts on the disc. That makes me wonder if Geddy and Alex were struggling to match music with Neil’s lyrics.
Usually it doesn't take long for a Rush album to embed itself in my subconscious. Outside of “Far Cry,” nothing from “Snakes” ever did. I’ve been playing it again this week to see if fresh ears would make things seem better, and I still can’t reach back and find most of cuts.
The best moments seem to bookend the album.
“Far Cry” is an expression of frustration at the times. “Whirlwind of faith and betrayal, Rise in anger, Fall back and repeat.” The tracks were written throughout 2006, and the world was a pretty scary place. Of course, we had no idea it was about to get scarier.
Check out this video of "Far Cry" from the "Time Pieces" tour. It's really good!
But the closing track seems to be an upbeat response. “We Hold On” speaks of determination and rising up to challenges. “Keep going until dawn, How many times must another line be drawn, We could be down and gone, But we hold on,” and “Keep holding on so long, ‘Cause there’s a chance, That we might not be so wrong. We could be down and gone, But we hold on.”
It’s like Neil is saying, “Yeah, we've got some problems. Things are a mess. But we’re not giving up.”
Here's the of the countdown. Remember, we're in the early stages.
20: Caress of Steel
Tell us in the comments where we have gone astray.