Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Rush 24: Snakes & Arrows

While it wasn’t their longest break between albums, Rush certainly took their time before delivering Snakes & Arrows. Working with a producer who was four when their first album came out, the album is fairly heavy throughout, although Alex Lifeson adds a lot of acoustic guitar to the overall mix, and they indulge themselves as well as the listener with three instrumentals.
The first few bars of “Far Cry” remind us of their earlier prog tracks, but that changes to modern rock before even the vocals kick in. “Armor And Sword” has a big Presto sound with riffing and rhythm Metallica fans would appreciate, while “Workin’ Them Angels” has a mandolin for we believe the first time on a Rush album. “The Larger Bowl” is helpfully subtitled “A Pantoum” which is the rhyme scheme and structure the lyrics follow, and explains the repetition, which is effective. “Spindrift” is an odd one; though we like the “Witch Hunt” atmospherics at the start, the verses don’t seem to work with the choruses. Perhaps these ideas would be better suited in combination with “The Way The Wind Blows” two tracks later. While we can hear some vocals suggesting a melody, “The Main Monkey Business” is instrumental—not as intricate as “YYZ” or “La Villa Strangiato”, but still catchy in a stumble-along way.
After the aforementioned “The Way The Wind Blows”, “Hope” is just Alex on a 12-string for two minutes, providing something of a prelude to “Faithless”, which goes from tense to anthemic with subtle strings. “Bravest Face” is surprising lyrically, as it makes reference to popular songs and even TV shows, but the choruses are an improvement, and Alex plays an unexpectedly jazzy solo. “Good News First” is another rare Neil Peart lyric spoken conversationally, but the message is murky underneath the urgency of the music. The final instrumental, “Malignant Narcissism”, does indeed build on the conceit of those earlier epic epics, with tongues firmly in cheek. It’s a lot of fun. This already long album ends with “We Hold On”, which follows the theme of struggles scattered throughout the previous hour.
They toured behind the album, as would be expected. By now their marketing strategy seemed to have been borrowed from the Rolling Stones, as the following year’s Snakes & Arrows Live was their third live album in five years. Opening with a drawn-out tease on “Limelight”, they plow through old favorites, deep nuggets like “Digital Man”, “Entre Nous”, and “Circumstances”, and most of the new album note for note over the course of two discs that fans will find essential. Alex gets to play more acoustic due a new rig, and Neil’s drum solo follows “Malignant Narcissism”. (Thankfully, while the tour continued after the live album came out, which they were ostensibly now promoting, they didn’t release another live album covering that leg. Also, for those of you following along, Geddy’s side of the stage now included ovens cooking actual rotisserie chickens.)

Rush Snakes & Arrows (2007)—3
Snakes & Arrows Live (2008)—3

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