Martin Popoff’s homage to Rush, Contents Under Pressure: 30 Years Of Rush At Home & Away, is a definite must-read. Even if you’re not exactly a fan of the band.
And I know who you are, you who say that Geddy’s voice is the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard, you who say that Neil’s lyrics are pretentious and arrogant, you who prefer your music spoon-fed to you by unthinking Lite FM bullshit artists, you who inaccurately relegate the band in your mind to ‘that shit those geeks in high school used to love,’ etcetera, etcetera. Shame on you. Ach, well, fair enough, I suppose, but I think you’re missing out.
Guess I just tipped my hand, eh? Well, good. Besides, if you read my review of Chronicles, you know already I’m a fan.
Popoff, who is also the editor of my occasional heavy metal magazine Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles (see last review), keeps things moving without really bogging down into so much useless minute detail that even the rabid fan would want to stop reading. He touches on every album in the band’s long career (well past 30 years now, since the book’s publication in 2004 came just prior to their 30th anniversary tour). Interviewing all three members specifically for the book, every topic you might want to imagine does get covered, and yet even the few you can’t imagine including unless pressed for material still don’t come close to weighing it down.
Instead, as a whole, the book provides a really human look at three guys who are, on the one hand, completely competent and professional musicians, who go out of their way to challenge themselves with each new effort, and with each new show. Rush are very conscious of every aspect of the experience and, looking back through their catalogue, one would be hard-pressed to argue with the level of success this concentration has ensured.
But there’s more here, too. These people are friends amongst themselves, too, and there’s that great Canadian humility and humour about them, self-deprecating to a fault, more effusive about other people’s work than their own status, and huge fans of music in general. Plus, it’s a hoot to look back at pictures from the early years of the 70’s, and from the 80’s too. Oh, the hair! My my. So stylish. But so what? They made (and continue to make) amazing records (there isn’t a bad one in the bunch) and they keep on going despite trials and hardships in their personal and professional lives that would cripple many lesser people.
Rush are legends in this country, quite deservedly so, and I love ‘em. I read this book knowing I was going to love it and I did. Just look at the list below and be reminded (as if you need it) just how much brilliance these three men have offered the world.
1975. Fly By Night
1975. Caress Of Steel
1976. All The World’s A Stage
1977. A Farewell To Kings
1980. Permanent Waves
1981. Moving Pictures
1981. Exit… Stage Left
1984. Grace Under Pressure
1985. Power Windows
1987. Hold Your Fire
1989. A Show Of Hands
1991. Roll The Bones
1996. Test For Echo
1997. Retrospective I (1974-80)
1997. Retrospective II (1981-87)
1998. Different Stages
2000. My Favourite Headache
2002. Vapor Trails
2003. Spirit Of Radio: Greatest Hits
2004. Rush In Rio
2005. R30 3oth Anniversary World Tour
2007. Snakes & Arrows