Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Last Song On The Album

Josh had a nice review of the new Rush album, Snakes & Arrows, on his blog last month, and one of the things he mentioned, in blurbing “We Hold On,” the last track on the record, is that Rush always seems to close their albums with really good songs. This was something I had never really pondered before but which, upon consideration, proves to be true.

I just listened to “We Hold On,” which popped up on the party shuffle feature of iTunes between the Benaroya Hall version of “Thumbing My Way” and “Storm Front,” and it opened up to me for the first time. Why did it open up to me? There’s a line in there that goes, “Straining against a fate / measured out in coffee breaks.”

Measured out in coffee breaks is strikingly similar to the line “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons,” which is from the T.S. Eliot poem “The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock,” which is my all-time favorite poem.

Not the thinking person’s rock band for nothing are these cats. It’s not the first time they have referenced Eliot’s poetry - though the only other example I can think of off the top of my head is, “So many decisions, a million revisions,” which is from “Double Agent,” the best song on the very good Counterparts album. And not just Eliot - “Losing It” from Signals has not one, not two, but three references to Ernest Hemingway. And, of course, Ayn Rand - whose influence is most notable on “Freewill” and “Prime Mover.”

Not only that, but “We Hold On” is also the most balanced song on Snakes, though “The Larger Bowl” is close - its folkiness detracts from its balance because Rush is not a folky band. The song is fine, but it’s not a quintessential Rush song - “We Hold On” is such a song, with open and clear vocals, power chords in places, searing guitar licks in other places, patient arpeggiation in yet other places, and a driving rhythm line that knows enough to get out of the way of the vocals and guitar work.

And it’s a great last song in a long line of great last songs. Josh mentions the following tunes in his post:

Mystic Rhythms
High Water
Carve Away The Stone
Out Of The Cradle
Between The Wheels

These are not the only ones. Others include:

Natural Science
Vital Signs
Available Light
Everyday Glory
La Villa Strangiato

That’s ten of their eighteen studio albums (though I’m not entirely on board with “High Water”) - with honorable mentions to:

Working Man
You Bet Your Life
Closer To The Heart (from A Show Of Hands)

There seems not to have been much point to this post, other than to acknowledge Josh’s point about great last songs on Rush albums - but I hadn’t blogged in awhile, and the only thing I had on the radar was complaining about the new Oprah book. This is much more positive!

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