Why the Hell Should I Like… Rush? (The Rebuttal)

Why the hell should I like… ?” is an experiment of sorts between Popblerd and The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. What we’re going to attempt to do is to pick 10 songs from our favorite artists — one for which the other has professed dislike or disinterest — and show them why they’re wrong.

So, first of all, I’ve gotta give props to Mr. Gray Flannel Suit, not only for agreeing to collaborate with me on this series but also for rocking a gray flannel suit in the heat of summer. That’s dedication.

I don’t dislike Rush. I just don’t know much about them. Prior to listening to the list of songs that was selected for me, I had exactly ONE Rush song in an iTunes library that just recently crossed the 43,000-song mark — “Tom Sawyer.” No excuses — I was brought up on Top 40 (and urban) radio, and even as I grew up and my musical taste became more eclectic, I just never ran into anyone who professed their love for Rush other than a casual liking of a couple of songs. So I welcomed this chance to get a little more familiar.

Truth is, I couldn’t have asked for a better tour guide, even though I knew exactly what to expect when I clicked on that first link. The song descriptions were super-helpful, coming from someone who’s obviously a huge fan, and they added a bit of color to my basic understanding of the Canadian rock legends.

In his intro, Mr. Flannel Suit said: Over the last 20+ years of my fandom, I’ve heard all manner of excuses for not liking them or not wanting to give them a chance. The three I hear most often are that Geddy Lee’s voice is too much to take, their lyrics are too pretentious, and they spend too much time showing off with their instruments.

That’s what I’d gleaned from friends who were into Rush. After a run through the list of songs, I can say this:

1) Geddy Lee’s voice is NOT too much to take. The only song on which his nasal, high-pitched whine got to me was the ballad “Tears”, so maybe it’s just a sign that Rush shouldn’t do very many ballads? Look, I grew up on falsetto singers. Folks who sing high aren’t gonna get to me, and hell, it’s part of what makes Rush distinctive, right?

2) Yeah, their lyrics are a bit pretentious. Having said that, nothing about the lyrics got me into full eye-roll mode until “Cut to the Chase”‘s “the archer must be sure with his aim” refrain beat me into submission. Aren’t prog-rock lyrics supposed to be pretentious?

3) If I was as good as they were, I’d show off with my instruments too! Yeah, there’s a fair amount of “look how badass I am!” noodley-type stuff going on in their songs, but hell, these guys are obviously VERY proficient on their instruments. It’s what I came away from this playlist being most impressed with. I’m not very good with technical musical terms, but any band that’s able to pull off time signature changes and all this other “Bohemian Rhapsody”-esque stuff gets a gold star in my book based on sheer talent.

I don’t know if I see myself becoming a Rush super-fan like, say, my friend Mikey (who jumps up and down about Rush not being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame every time I bring it up), but I dig what I’ve heard so far. Some of the Eighties stuff in the list reminded me of Genesis — a band that I’m a huge fan of (and whose roots are equally proggy). I mean, Geddy Lee’s no Phil Collins, but…

I guess the one thing that surprised me most is that they didn’t rock as hard as I expected them to. I mean, maybe it’s a consequence of going to too many metal shows, but it seemed like most of the rocking done on these songs was in a very, uh…polite way. Maybe it’s a Canadian thing. Or maybe they’re just studio perfectionists and scrubbed all of the aggression from these songs before releasing them. It also probably wasn’t a very good idea to start the playlist with a 10-minute song! My ADD kicked in pretty quickly, but it’s a testament to my enjoyment of the music that I was able to sit through it relatively painlessly.

In the end, I didn’t out and out dislike any of the 10 songs that were presented to me, and I actually wound up downloading two of them — “The Pass” and “Afterimage.” Not a bad start to this series. I can only hope that Mr. Flannel Suit digs what I come up with as much as I dug these Rush songs!

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