Wednesday, December 01, 2010

What's the Rush?

Oh, Froog you incorrigible punster!  Enough, already!

At the risk of alienating my new "No. 1 fan" Hopfrog (and countless other fans of the band, no doubt), I have to say this:  I just don't get Rush.  Never have.  One of my best friends at university persuaded me to give them a listen, and he was someone whose knowledge and taste I generally trusted, someone who introduced me to a lot of other good stuff.  I tried with Rush, I really did, but.... I couldn't really work out what people saw in them.  Or, I thought I could guess what people saw in them, but it didn't appeal to me.  I've given them several tries on and off again over the years, and they still leave me absolutely stone cold.

Of course, they have a fanatical following - including a lot of serious musicians, which ought to be a high recommendation.  However, I can't help feeling that much of this following (not excluding the musicians) is of a rather nerdy bent, and most of the admiration for them seems to be based on their technical virtuosity rather than their musicality.  These are people that a lot of other players want to be able to play like, to extend their technique.  But that's not the same as wanting to play (or listen to) what they play.  People - my old college buddy and Hopfrog among them - rave in particular about Neil Peart's drumming.  And I can understand what they're getting at: sure, he can be a very fast and intricate player, coming up with a lot of patterns that you don't hear from just about anyone else.  But you know, you don't really want virtuosity from a rock drummer; you just want someone who's going to tie down the beat and add some punch to your sound.  That's the problem I have with the whole band, I suppose; it's very fast and showy, but... I just don't hear the music in any of it.  Add in whiny vocals and - most of the time - truly godawful lyrics, and you have a band well worth avoiding, for my money.

Big Nige, the relief barman down at 12 Square Metres who's become an invaluable music guru to me this year, has given me a digital copy of the recent documentary about them Beyond The Lighted Stage.... but it's sat on my computer for 3 or 4 months and I still haven't got around to watching it.  I will try to soon; people tell me it's a very good film, even if you don't like their music.... and they say it shows them in such reverential light that it may have the power to woo even the stubbornest non-believers like myself.  I rather doubt it.  Nigel, a chap who has awesomely good musical taste, is a bit of a sceptic about them himself: he's been giving them a try lately, but doesn't seem that much impressed.  Last night, one of their songs came on the playlist at the bar (I think it was Fly By Night?), and we both kind of shrugged and said Why are we listening to this?  Indeed, I didn't really listen to it; I am so thoroughly immune to their 'charms' that I'd subconsciously tuned out after only 15 or 20 seconds, and only started paying attention again when a different band came on next.

However.... veteran of the Chinese metal scene Kaiser Kuo (only a semi-laowai in the first place, since his parents are Chinese; and he's been living here pretty much half his life, so is fairly 'naturalised') is always worth checking out.  And if he wants to put together a Rush cover band as an excuse to team up again with a bass-playing buddy from his college days, who am I to denigrate his ambitions?  Moreover, they were going to play their two shows last weekend right on my doorstep, at Gulou 121 (as the new-ish [open 7 or 8 months] music bar on Jiugulou Dajie seems to have settled on calling itself).  Now the weather's got bollock-freezing cold at night, close is good: it will have to be a once-in-a-lifetime kind of a show to entice me all the way over  to 2 Kolegas while the weather's like this, or even to the just about walkable Yugong Yishan - and there was no such attraction anywhere else in the city last Friday and Saturday.

And despite my profound Rush-aversion, I found that the show wasn't half bad.  I hadn't known how good Kaiser is on the guitar (I think I've probably only ever seen him playing bass before; well, except for a couple of the unplugged Chunxiu shows earlier this year).  The bass and drums were, I thought, just adequate; but the lads hadn't had much time to rehearse (the drummer was still relying on a crib sheet!).  And the vocals were.... well, practically inaudible, which may have been a mercy (but still an improvement, for me, on Geddy Lee!).  And it was a fairly short set; they've thus far only learned 7 songs.  However, it covered most of their more accessible and rockier stuff, and the guys clearly had a whale of a time doing it.

I think I probably had more fun watching this than I would have done at an actual Rush concert.  Yes, I am that resistant to them.  Sorry.  I don't suppose I'm ever going to change on that now - despite Kaiser's best efforts.


The British Cowboy said...

You've missed out the (IMHO ridiculous) political affiliation that many Rush fans have to the band. Somehow the libertarian superman concept appeals to many 30 year olds who live in their parents' basement.

Froog said...

Yes, well, I don't really know much about the fan profile in North America, BC - beyond the impression that they're a bit Wayne-and-Garth-like. "Libertarian superman" I like!

Hopfrog said...

I'm no more alienated than if you had written a diatribe about your dislike of raw oysters. I love the stuff, but am not particularly put-off if someone else doesn't. Different strokes and all.

I kind of equate Rush to Jazz. Yes, yes, Rush has absolutely nothing to do with Jazz itself and you may very well like Jazz, but I've found there are those of us that love the stuff, and those that just scratch their heads and say "I just don't get it". I personally love Peart's lyrics and would much rather listen to his fills than someone just keeping time and rhyming a few words as they sing about the typical boy meets girl droll.

It is indeed a select group that seem to appreciate the band and I rather respect their company. I've yet to meet one that lives in their parent's basement and don't quite understand how one could be politically affiliated to a band.

ZappaFan said...

Hi, Froog,

I've mostly been a lurker on your interesting blog, but this post deserved some support. I, too, have never been able to be a Rush fan, despite many, many years of trying to like them. I finally concluded, as you seem to have, that although these guys really are virtuosos on their instruments, what they produce is not as musical as many other bands with less instrumental and vocal prowess. Sad.

I thought for a while that it was just that I couldn't get into Geddy Lee's voice, just like I don't really like Phil Collins's vocals (but like his drumming, and his music, otherwise). But,'s something else, too. No joy, no swing, no...I dunno. (Pavement has a cool lyric about Geddy Lee's voice, in their song "Stereo." )

I wouldn't fret about not being a Rush fan. You and I can both taunt my younger brother, who thinks they are the greatest!

Froog said...

Good of you to be so tolerant, HF. A lot of music fans are over-sensitive to criticism of their idols - as I discovered earlier this year when I was rash enough to suggest that Canadian songstress Ember Swift (now based here with us in Beijing) is just-slightly-less-than-100%-wonderful. [Really! It was a mostly very positive review, and yet it provoked a mass flaming from some of her more psychotic and braindead fans!]

Froog said...

Glad to have goaded you out of your lurking, Zappa Fan. I hope we'll hear from you again. (Maybe I should start a new weekly feature where I take sacred cows to the barbecue? Next week: why U2 are SHITE...)

Are you a fellow Beijing-ren? I can only think of one person I know here who has been upfront with me about a Zappa devotion (and copied most of his albums for me) - that's not you, is it?

Chinstrap said...

No, that's not me. But I've also been lurking around here for quite a while and I suppose it's time I started commenting.

I could never get into Rush myself -- too clinical. Good musicians, though.

Don't even get me started on U2.

The British Cowboy said...

Ummmm... Rush are libertarian poster-children. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But many of their fans I have encountered, particularly those who stress that element, are amongst the least capable people of surviving without a centralized government. Actually that's true of the overwhelming majority of libertarians I have met, not just Rush-fan-libertarians.

Hopfrog said...

Ah, well for the record I am not a libertarian and in all sincerity, I have never met a Rush fan who identified themselves as such. In fact the two biggest Rush fans I know are what I would label as wingnuts. They are pretty far to the right and generally want to work their politics and stereotypical views into just about every conversation, however, when we have talked about Rush, we pretty much just stick to the music.

Everyone has their own political views and artists are no exception. I am vaguely aware (sincerely) of their politics but have never felt they were trying to shove an agenda down my throat. I've generally found that most right wingers will tune out if someone's politics are not in line with their own so in thinking about it now, for the first time by the way, I can't help but wonder why this is one of the few areas where my two friends are looking past politics. They are both accomplished musicians and former band members so I imagine therein lay the answer.

Hopfrog said...

Postscript. Almost immediately after posting this I watched Nasri score one the prettiest goals I have ever seen. I gather your an Arsenal fan Froog so just felt like mentioning it while I am here and to put in a request. For me bars have been all about music and sport. We get plenty of music talk here, how about some EPL posts and discussion. As a rabid fan of both NFL and EPL I get plenty of talk about American football here in the states but am absolutely starved for good socc....err Association Football discussion. Just a suggestion.

Froog said...

Hmm, I suppose sport is a bit of a crossover area (along with music!). I try to keep everything on here bar-related, and everything else I like gets dealt with over at the other place... so you might find rather more on sport - particularly recollections of my childhood enthusiasms (Kevin Sheedy scoring for Everton against Liverpool in the early '80s!!) - over on Froogville. That said, I have had LONG discussion threads on here about this year's World Cup and the 2008 Euro Championship.

Following the Premiership is a bit of a struggle out here: there's no live coverage on terrestrial Chinese television any more, and we lost the best satellite provider of English-language coverage this year; there are only a handfull of sports bar here, and they're all desperately SHITE; and the time difference is a beast (no 'daylight savings' regime in China, so the gap just got an hour wider: a huge blow psychologically, since even the 3pm games are now finishing well after midnight, which is a little difficult to deal with on a 'school night').

I wouldn't really identify myself as an "Arsenal fan" (well, one of my most football-mad buddies is a Spurs fan, so I wouldn't dare); just an unaffiliated admirer of good football. However, I do very much like Wenger's style of play, and the way he keeps finding such great young talent on a much smaller budget than the other big teams. I guess I have been pulling for them a bit in the last few years, on a 'rooting for the underdog' basis. On the other hand, it is a bit disappointing that they pretty consistently the least English team in the Premiership.

Sami is a gem. I hope to be able to catch some highlights somewhere later this week.