Laura Miller discusses Martin having to deal with the "Entitlement" generation among other things in this great piece in The New Yorker. Read it here.
Rush’s career is steeped in science fiction in fantasy. From their second studio LP, Fly By Night, up through the classic Moving Pictures, science fiction and fantasy played an important role in the band. (Heck, one of the reasons I started listening to the band back in high school was because of The Necromancer off of Caress of Steel when I was getting psyched to play D&D.) Take a look at any of those, and you’ll find a solid collection of sf & f songs: Rivendell, The Fountain of Lamneth, 2112, Cygnus X-1, side one of Hemispheres, Red Barchetta. (Okay, Permanent Waves might not have anything sf & f, but Grace Under Pressure sort of does – Body Electric maybe and possibly Red Sector A.) Of course, I probably left out your favorite, but you get the idea. On their current tour and their upcoming album, Clockwork Angels, they’re not only returning to sf & f, but are also delving into steampunk.
A lot of you may be familiar with steampunk by now. It’s the hot topic in sf & f literature. At conventions, it’s a whole new subculture, with its own fashion and music. You may know Abney Park, or maybe you read my review of Aether Shanties. At its heart, steampunk hearkens back to Wells and Verne – it is essentially futuristic Victorian Period. Doesn’t sound like Rush? Well, yes and no.
Rush constantly stays at the forefront of innovation. When the synth was developing in rock music, they were there. You can probably chart the development of the rock synth through their albums, starting with 2112 and peaking around Signals through Power Windows. And while steampunk keeps a foot planted firmly in the past, it is ever reaching forward. In an environment like that, there is plenty of room for speculation. That’s what sf & f is all about anyway, right? One of my all-time favorite quotes comes concerning speculative fiction from Ursula K. Leguin: “it isn’t factual, but it’s true.” Because when sf & f are done correctly, it’s about us.
If Rush are nothing else, they are a thinking man’s band, so it’s no surprise that sf & f has been a part of their career. Take a song like The Fountain of Lamneth. It’s an epic journey about self-discovery. 2112 and Red Barchetta are about individuality and freedom. Why not steampunk? Two songs have been released from Clockwork Angels. They are very Rush, but are they steampunk? I say, yes. The album, we are told, will be a concept piece. Reports indicate the title track will be multipart like 2112 and Hemispheres, but the entire work may be thematic like Moving Pictures or Signals. Will the story or theme be steampunk? Don’t know. But the sound is definitely steampunk.
I can only attest to the live versions of these songs from their current Time Machine Tour, but they are available at places for download: those are BU2B (Brought Up to Believe) and Caravan. The sound, I would definitely describe as steampunk. Now don’t go in expecting to hear anything like Abney Park. Captain Brown & Co. uses a plethora of instruments, styles, and their subject matter is definitely steampunk. Rush’s sound, even during their most synth phase, has been heavy. These songs are no different; they are very Rush. If anything, they continue the return to heavy trend they’ve been following since Vapor Trails. The music in these songs is characterized, however, by heavy rhythm, much like an old machine’s chugging. You can literally hear the pistons churning as the songs are punctuated with rhythmic blasts of steam. So, not only is the aural quality there, so is the visual.
The stage design this tour is also steampunkish. Where as Abney Park could have stepped out of a Jules Verne novel with their instruments and apparel, Rush’s set design follows a more surreal take on the genre, more like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. There are touches of art deco, clocks, pipes, dials in several contraptions on stage where amps would usually be. Behind Alex is like a bank of steam-powered washing machines, and behind Geddy is a machine with clocks and dials that churns out sausages (it links to the comical short films I’ll get to shortly). Around Geddy’s synth is a thing with a Victrola-style “horn.”
On the screen behind the band, during the new songs, there are some steampunk videos. On BU2B, there are clips of an old typewriter keyboard and a printing press with blocks. Caravan has an animated video which follows a strange, steam powered airship (a steampunk staple) flying across bizarre land and cityscapes. Throughout the show, too, along with close-ups of the band performing, the video appears in monitors that look just like they came right out of a Jules Verne movie adaptation. And there’s an old turn counter ticking off the years, very reminiscent of the dials in the Rod Taylor version of Wells’ The Time Machine.
So, the setting is very steampunk. The name of the tour, though, comes mostly from the comical short films framing the concert recounting the “official history” of Rush. It begins in an alternate reality with a band called Rash that gets whisked into other alternate time lines via a time machine. The scenery in the film is very art deco retro and connects to the alternate reality of the stage. (That and the blissful journey through their music catalog, which includes a stop in 1981 for Moving Pictures in its entirety!)
The Time Machine Tour is an introduction, I suppose, to what’s to come with the release of Clockwork Angels. I’ll be real excited to check out that album and its tour, but as for this tour, it is visually interesting, fun, and I would say, definitely steampunk. Die hard steampunk fans might be disappointed (unless, or course, they are also die hard Rush fans), and die hard Rush fans will think, hum, that’s interesting (unless, of course, they are also die hard steampunk fans, in which case they will think, “very cool”).
The show, btw, surpasses any words that could vaguely attempt to describe its greatness. I caught it in Atlanta and Louisville. Enough to say, it was Rush.
In the not too distant future, the earth has been plunged into darkness. Supernatural creatures are rising to power in the eternal moonlight, and the human race is being hunted like game. Vampires, Werewolves, and Ghouls are locked in a mortal battle with the Human “Hunters” who dare to defend mankind. They all fight to claim the inky darkness of this changed world as their own... or so they think. Unknown to all, there are unseen hands pulling the strings from behind the curtain of darkness, making and breaking hidden alliances between both friend and enemy clans. In this land of Nightfall, you are the puppet master, and these creatures your unknowing minions.
Nightfall is a competitive Deck Building game created by first time game designer David Gregg, and published by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG)...