A Passage to Bangkok
Yeah, I remember this. Can I say straight off that the little 'shorthand for being in Asia' fill is about the cheesiest thing Rush ever recorded, but it still makes me smile. Apart from that, I remember this well - one evening in Edinburgh, I was pub-crawling my way home and found myself in the Southern - not a pub I visited often, but it was known for having a decent rock jukebox. I think I was looking for some Warren Zevon or something (I had a bit of a reputation in those days for putting odd things on jukeboxes), but I saw the word Rush. Abandoning my beer goggles for a moment, I managed to focus enough to put it on. It was this, a live version, and presumably the b-side to something; I don't know what. Whenever I heard it after that, I smiled to myself at the thought of the unsuspecting punters in the Southern being subjected to the Rush stoner's anthem.
And that's another thing - how long did it take me to work out what it was about? I'm not saying, but I lived a sheltered life.
So, once you get chopsticks out of the way, what is there to say about this? Not a huge amount, really - it's the ideal light relief after the storms of side 1, and it's just a simple riff and a pleasant melody. Kind of sticks in the brain, though. Just to reiterate that the production values are superb now - even something as light as this feels solid and crafted.
The Twilight Zone
A little descending figure, and we're straight into it. If (unlikely, I know, but work with me here) you were listening to this without knowing about the TV show, you'd be a little lost, I think. I love the way we transition to the chorus - that fluid bass still gets me. What's interesting about it now is its gentleness - this is almost an acoustic number - at least until we get to the solos, and then there's something I had never before noticed - the whispering!
I wish I'd been able to listen to all this stuff through crystal clear headphones when I was 20 - I'd have been in transports...
I don't remember this at all, and I'm not sure if it's going to stick with me after this, either. I detect the hand of a guitarist here - it's a real guitarist's song. In a way, this feels like the last gasp of the old Rush - there's a more basic, blues-based feel to this. I have to say that it all fits together perfectly well, with the possible exception of the screeching of the end of the chorus - not sure that's entirely necessary, but it is what it is, I guess. It has its moments, but not too many of them.
And so does this. A little oasis of calm in the midst of all this, it has one of the great guitar intros - I can't tell you how astonished I was one day to discover that it's just a transposed C chord, and it's another of those little figures that I play whenever I pick up a guitar - once you know it, you don't forget it.
So, I can't work out if this is all orchestrated, or if it's just synth work - I suspect the latter, but it's good enough to make me wonder. In the end this is not what we think of when we think about Rush, is it? It's a song which would have been perfectly acceptable if done by someone else, but just doesn't quite seem to fit with the rest of what's here. Odd.
Something For Nothing
But this is much more like it! Just listen to that bass - there's so much going on in the introduction that I'm lost in the music when I'm suddenly assaulted by those so-familiar 'Rush' chords and swept up into the sheer enthusiasm of the thing, irresistibly so by the time the solo comes along. So hard not to air guitar along...
I also still love the lyrics - how often do you hear this kind of philosophical sentiment expressed in a four-minute rock song? There's even a full-blooded scream in the middle of all this pondering on the responsibilities of the individual in the modern society.
Ah, I love this band sometimes.
Well, it's legendary. That in itself is enough to make it difficult to talk about, and familiarity just adds to the difficulty. But I'm hooked all over again. I think I had forgotten that side 2 does have its weaker moments, but overall, this is a fine package. It's easy to see why things just took off from heere - here's a mature band of excellent musicians, doing what they do so well. It rewards careful listening, and how many 29-year old albums can you say that about?