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The Friday Morning Listen: Rush – Snakes & Arrows

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Over at Confessions Of A Fanboy, Josh Hathaway got me to thinking about this whole "rock stars too old" thing. In a Listening Room entry, he brought up the "Stones too old" cliché that's been tossed their way on what seems like nearly every release since Brian Jones left the earth.

This has always bothered me. Sure, rock is supposedly a young man's game but hey, it goes both ways. The listener can lose it as well. For every band that hangs on too long, releasing material that seems flat in its infancy, there are millions of listeners who have stopped caring about checking out anything new. It's a sad thing. People move on past their teen years, become entangled in the adult world, and decide that nothing is worth bothering with…that nothing can compare to that Blue Oyster Cult 8-track they listened to in the van on that Friday night in 1978.

So sometimes, it's tough to decide: has a band lost it or are most of the ears so jaded and/or switched off that the criticism misses the mark?

Though I'm pretty sure that I had heard some Rush on the radio back in the 70's, my first extended listening experience was with a cassette copy of All The World's A Stage that I borrowed for an entire summer. Oh yeah, that album helped me through many a brutal Cumberland Farms opening shift (I had to open the store at 6am). At first, I didn't know what to think. I loved the drums. I loved the guitar. I was perplexed with Geddy Lee's voice. After listening to the record just about every day for three months, it had become a part of me.

Now all these years later, Rush releases a new album. Yep, they're a lot older. Yep, I'm a lot older. People have been saying that the band should have given up after every post-Moving Pictures release. This seems crazy to me. Artists do work that's both a part of and a reflection of their lives. It's called "the creative process." The process itself is sometimes interesting to examine, which is why I continue to buy records by The Rolling Stones and Rush.

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About Mark Saleski

  • JC Mosquito

    And sometimes people just get too old to like it loud.

    And sometimes the wheel is still turning but the hamster’s dead.

    And sometimes that old dog that still has a couple of tricks (and ticks) left in that flea bitten, white haired hide.

    And finally, sometimes Kirk Gibson pinch hits in the bottom of the ninth and cracks that home run like he did in the World Series back about 20 years ago – a thing of beauty in a world so real you couldn’t have made it better in any work of fiction.

    That’s the power of rock and roll: one can still get into the “young man’s game” with the old man’s assorted aches and pains and bruises, but it’s the old man’s heart that makes all the difference.

    And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

  • http://daslob.blogspot.com/ Pico

    To continue Skeeter’s sports analogy, sometimes the eldest team in the NBA wins the championship. Like the Spurs, Rush is a collection of old guys still at the top of their game.

  • http://www.confessionsofafanboy.com Josh

    There are some folks who stay too long and others — like Dylan, McCartney, The Stones — who continue to make great records well past their “prime.”

  • Mark Saleski

    and who can also really bust it out in concert. like i’ve said before, Mick & Keef may be old coots, but they slam it every single night.

  • Hung Nguyen

    I personally think Rush did some of their best work after “Moving Pictures”, but that’s just me. :) I know I’m glad that they’re still around and kicking and showing all the n00bs in the rock business how it’s done.

    I don’t understand the “too old” argument myself, and I’ve heard some of my friends say it. I’m glad that all these classic rock bands are out there and still going, largely because I was too young to see them live at the height of their popularity. A lot of them still put out very viable music, much better than a lot of the current crop of newcomers. I don’t doubt that in large part also has to do with the experience, professionalism, and maturity that comes with time.

    Also, it’s really silly to say that some people are too old to still be in rock, because only now do we have the opportunity to see those who ESTABLISHED the rock genre – like the Stones and members of the Beatles – actually reach this age. And what do they do? They decide they still want to write and play rock music! I think this will be the norm from here on out.

  • http://www.lookoutforhope.com Tom Johnson

    I’m biased, but Rush is one of very few bands at this point in their career still putting out vital new music when most are either simply touring or turning out albums for the sake of touring – and then ignoring most of the new album on the tour. Rush is playing nine songs off of Snakes & Arrows on this tour, according to the opening night setlist, which, and I won’t spoil any exact surprises for anyone, is rich with nuggets the band hasn’t played in a long time but short on standards that casual fans will be looking for. This is practically a Rush die-hard’s dream concert. I can’t wait until our show on July 27.

    And I would seriously have a hard time believing anyone who claimed Rush was “too old” had actually listened to their music. Just head over to Neil Peart’s site and listen to the drums-only version of “Main Monkey Business” and tell me the guy playing that busy drum line is “too old.” I will smack you. Okay, maybe only verbally, but still.

  • http://www.confessionsofafanboy.com Josh

    I applaud Rush for challenging their audience with the new material. I was a bit disappointed at how little of Bigger Bang is represented on Biggest Bang. They made this really good record and then didn’t play it for the fans. Of course, part of that is because they want to play to over a million people at a free show in Rio, but I wish they’d mix in some smaller venues where they could ::gasp:: rest “Satisfaction” in exchange for “She Saw Me Coming.”

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Great Article…

    I don’t buy that whole attitude either.
    Death came out with some really important CDs in the mid to late 90’s that would over shadow their late 80’s material on a mature & pioneering level for the Metal community.

    But, I guess it all depends on the artist. Alot of bands just don’t have the talent & insight to push the envelope while keeping true to their roots. Music has to be more than just about stardom & money. When that’s flushed out then you get the real musicians… The Wonders,Sabbaths,Maidens,Rushs,etc…

  • http://www.joyrides4shutins.typepad.com Peter

    Help me get into this album, guys. I love Rush, but this last one is extraordinarily spotty for me. I think I even like VT better. It starts out really strong and then, in my mind, it goes flat on my ears. Maybe 3 solid cuts…?

    I am encouraged by the tour setlist I saw from the Atlanta gig; looks like some older stuff is coming out — “Circumstances” and “Mission” are among them.

  • http://waflesradio.com Chris

    I haven’t gotten a chance to hear this new one yet, but I have no doubt that it’s worth hearing.

    I think more than age itself, the amount of time since an older band’s last album is more important. If you take a long time making it people expect a masterpiece. I’ll admit, when Vapor Trails came out I was a bit worried because Rush hadn’t really made anything good in a long while. That lasted until Neil Peart opened the album.

    But hey, they’re Rush. Even if this new one doesn’t live up to the hype (and I’ve even heard it talked about a lot on the new Rock stations in Tampa)everyone deserves a sub par album every once in a while.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    The too old line is just lazy, cliched thinking by people who don’t take the time to investigate for themselves like the The French love Jerry Lewis.

  • http://www.iamcorrect.com Lono

    I stopped listening to actively to new Rush about fifteen years ago. That isn’t Rush, though, that was just me. When I was younger, and of course thought I knew everything, I thought all rock dudes should retire by law at like 40.

    Now that I am 35, I see it totally differently and absolutely respect that these guys (any aged rockers) are still cranking out quality music. It’s not like sports, where after ten years in you get a cushy network job doing color commentary.

    Plus, every single artist in history (except maybe Annie DiFranco) has been royally dicked over by their record companies… so they still have mortgages to pay.

  • http://joe Joe

    Saw Rush on 6/16 in Tampa. Was by far better than I expected. These guys get better with age. You won’t regret going. But you will say it was too short.

  • Greg Gladfelter

    When I first heard Stones and Arrows, I wasn’t sure what to think. There were some tracks that definately caught my attention, and there were others that didn’t. What I found out was that with each new listening, I noticed more and better music. Like any real piece of work, whether it is a book, a song, a painting, etc., there are many levels and each experience of the work exposes more material. I think that this is a great release. And if you have the opportunity to see them live, don’t miss it! I have been to at least one show from every tour since “Roll the Bones”, and other than my front row seat from the “Test for Echo” show in Camden, NJ, I have never been more impressed. The show at Montage Mountain in Scranton was tight and there is a wonderful feedback (pun intended) between the band and its admiring audience. I just hope they have a few more tours left in them!

  • Matt Wilkinson

    Saw Rush last night in St. Louis. They really did a great job, and the new music was fresh. I have to say, I wasn’t sure how they’d pull off a cut like The Larger Bowl live – I think the video helped. Only thing, I would have like less video, more camera action on the guys – they did this with the Police, and it was awesome to have screens dedicated to each performer. Not seeing any spoilers, I expected the guys to do their usual 2-3 new songs, and then a lot of old favorites. I did feel bad for some of the casual Rush fans with me – they didn’t get what they were hoping for, though they still had a good time. I have seen every tour since Signals, and they have NEVER played this much new music. Very interesting.