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Is Rush still prog?

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Showing 1-25 of 44 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 24, 2012, 3:55:58 PM PDT
I was reading an article in Rolling Stone about Rush. The (short) article repeated the usual nonsense about Rush being a prog band with a small following of geeks - apparently RS hasn't noticed the fact that Rush have been on regular rotation in mainstream rock radio for the past 30 or so years? Anyway, IS Rush a prog band? I mean, yeah, they WERE around the late 70s, but after that I'm pretty sure their musical basis consists of pretty standard verse-chorus rock songs in 4/4 time? But, I'm not as familiar with their later material. I mean, what I've heard is pretty good, artistic, intelligent rock music, but that doesn't make it "prog". Do they do epic songs over 7 minutes that transcend the pop-song formula? Unusual (e.g. not 4/4, 3/4, 6/8, or 12/8) or constantly shifting time signatures? Use instruments other than guitar, drums, bass, and a bit of synth (and maybe some noodling on a guitar family acoustic instrument)? Bring in classical, avant-jazz, or ethnic folk influences prominently? I mean, I've heard Uriah Heep, Wishbone Ash, even Iron Maiden referred to as prog-rock by mainstream media, but (although these guys have their leanings) I don't consider that accurate. I'm figuring RS is just being their usual, clueless selves, but I do think Rush is a fine band and wondering if anyone here (who knows what they're talking about regarding both Rush and prog) can let me know if there's any truth in this statement (with specific reference to why you think so).
I'd like to put a disclaimer here - I only read Rolling Stone because they started sending me issues when I bought a concert ticket from Ticketmaster - I never requested or paid for their magazine, as they write mostly about mainstream music that has no interest to me and, when they do mention music I like,and clearly have no clue about music. I felt the need to get that off my chest to avoid losing credibility with prog fans : )

Posted on Jun 24, 2012, 5:05:15 PM PDT
STS says:
I think Rush hit their peak with Hemispheres and Permanent Waves. Between them was also a time when they actively decided to get away from complex epic songs, as they say in their recent biographical movie. By that definition they "stopped being prog". On Hemispheres there was one song, Trees, which was radio-friendly (and excellent). On Permanent Waves there were many songs that were radio friendly, and just a few (like Natural Science) that were prog. The songs did remain unique, but by definitions most people would use for prog, they were mostly not.

But they didn't start off trying to be prog. It was an emerging leaning with almost-prog Bytor and the Snow Dog on their second album (first with Peart) and more clearly with their third album, Caress of Steel, where I actually love the two prog pieces and shrug off the other songs. The adventurous guitar appealed to me most, as well as the general musicianship and lyrical depth. Geddy's vocals were mostly rather raw, but had good emotional quality for the style of songs. 2112 is a sci-fi prog epic, but as described in the movie, it was essentially a planned departure in a blaze of glory due to commercial failure of Caress. Instead, it actually brought them back.

Geddy's vocals got "better" by some definition in later albums that became radio-friendly. For Permanent Waves and Moving pictures, the innovative sound of the past few albums took a more radio-friendly form, and to this day those songs stood the test of time best. They are by far the ones still played on Rock Radio compared to later songs that generally were only played around their release time. But I think the combination of the general loss of appetite for prog, the drive to shorter radio songs, the coming of MTV, and the decisions by Rush, all created a major evolution. In my opinion they never returned to prog, and I lost interest after Moving Pictures. I like music that is not prog, but I liked the prog phase of Rush.

Prog itself morphed in different ways and re-appeared, and Rush went through various other phases, including one heavier on synthesizer for a while (a bit like Van Halen) and softer quasi-pop rock. I personally thought this was a weird time for them. I liked very few of the products of that time. Geddy's singing "softened" but he never became in some sense a traditionally great singer, so it sounded odd to me. It all came together better when it was more unusual and adventurous - a.k.a. prog.

But since they didn't start off as prog and the band and the external definitions of prog evolved, I'd say on average in their career they were not "a prog band". Similarly, Metallica is not prog even though Master of Puppets to me is outstanding prog metal. Dream Theater is more clearly determined to be and stay prog. Yes was the definition of prog in an earlier time.

Rush is a rock band that had a prog period but evolved and picked up differing fans at different times. Maybe the most unique thing about Rush is that fans admire their sincerity and independence which has always been there in all phases, so they stay pretty loyal with the band even when the styles change.

Posted on Aug 8, 2012, 4:56:38 AM PDT
RegF says:
They are on their new amazing album Clockwork Angels.

Posted on Aug 8, 2012, 9:01:18 AM PDT
Scottiemon says:
Rush has been a band that, for one reason or another, I have not seen in concert. I will be seeing then in November. I am very excited. I have always thought of Rush as a rock band with a progressive period. I think 2112 through Moving Pictures are some of the best music ever! I listen to all of those albums today.

Posted on Aug 8, 2012, 8:34:58 PM PDT
clearcutter says:
I'll offer my 2 cents just because it's almost the opposite of STS' viewpoint. First, however, I do agree that Rush is not prog. They were prog for awhile in the mid-70s. But I never liked their songwriting until Moving Pictures. Their songs sounded contrived to me, not natural, plus I couldn't handle Geddy Lee's screeching. Both of those problems ended with Moving Pictures. The songwriting became much more natural (yes, I agree also more conventional, but I've already said I don't consider Rush prog), and there was no screeching at all.

I have always enjoyed the evolution of Rush's sensibilities about what their music should sound like. Every album tries a new balance between the fundamental ingredients of bass, guitar, drums, and (optionally) keyboards. I am forever amazed how after 4 decades Alex Lifeson is still introducing new guitar textures. Their most effective period for me is the eighties: Moving Pictures through Hold Your Fire, though I personally think they got carried away with the keyboards on Power Windows. Things started downhill with Presto and I haven't been too enthusiastic since. But the new album is the best work they've done in over 2 decades.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 8, 2012, 9:38:16 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 8, 2012, 9:39:01 PM PDT
Progtologist says:
First of all I will start off by saying I've always had an admiration for Rush. I think they started as a prog band as others have stated. They may have moved from a true prog band to a more rock sound with progressive leanings, but I believe the direction has worked well for them defining their body of work. I admire the phases that they embarked on, whether I felt they were the right direction or not. What I've considered lesser output from them is still better than many bands best.

If nothing else their sheer mastery of instruments has always pulled me in. That trio could hang with just about anyone. I too enjoyed the period of 2112 through Grace Under Pressure the most. Counterparts was a really nice album in the lesser output as well. And recently Clockwork Angels was a wonderful surprise. I guess all and all I just consider them part of my prog collection regardless of whether they meet the definition or not. An inspiring body of work from some top notch musicians who know who they are. I can't ask for much more from a band.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 10, 2012, 5:27:46 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 10, 2012, 5:29:03 PM PDT
RegF says:
Clockwork Angels , has musical connectors between the songs , instead of silence. A lot of prog. bands have albums and / or sides of albums that seem like 1 long song tied together with the same musical and lyrical theme. C.A. , is like one great long song [hence : the return to the concept album]

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 12, 2012, 9:04:38 AM PDT
STS says:
Gotta say more about "screeching" and "contrived", common criticisms of early Rush.

Yes, Geddy is not a conventionally great singer, but neither is Ozzy Osborne, and yet somehow it fits the music his fans like and it stands the test of time. There are times when I think the early songs I love were near perfect and a little less screech would have sealed the deal. But at other times it is part of the success of the daring things they did, with the screech factor modulated in and out. Listen to "Entres Nous"... a screech-free love song that is actually one of the most sincere things I've ever heard lyrically (e.g. not contrived). Listen to "Free Will", where Geddy's screechy vocals after the end of the guitar solo are absolutely spot-on the emotional message, and as breathtaking 3 decades later as they were then.

I once played 2112 for a freind who hated the screeching. It took me an hour to explain that Geddy played characters in the story and modulated voice to suit it. The screeching voice was the harsh, unfeeling "Federation". There is plenty of soft and beautiful singing in other parts. And the brilliance of 2112 comes in the last suicidal words of this broken character, screeching and quivering, "my life blood spills over"... absolutely chilling. The rigid Federation destroys his free artisitic spirit to a point where he prefers not to live, and in his moment of death his screechy voice is the one the Federation forced upon him. This is the brilliant prog-rock theater that leaves non-fans baffled but makes fans continue to worship.

I also don't buy "contrived". If anything, the lyrics of almost every other 70s rock band were so empty and repetitive of a few themes, that it was THEM who were conforming and formulaic and "mindless". If escaping that boredom risks the label "contrived", it's a fair price. Rush lyrics (and Yes and a few others) were actually interesting to READ with headphones on, or without.

The other word the non-fan would use is "pretentious". Neal says on the bio-movie that nothing was ever about pretending. These were people who think about bigger topics than sex and drugs and they wrote songs honestly about them.

Admittedly the fan-base that appreciates this may be narrow, but so be it. Rush clearly never went for maximum pre-teen popularity, or they could be "Big Time Rush" instead. But the fans they do pick up are solid, and of course the fans are as diverse as the phases of Rush have been.

If I sit down over beers with a freind I may talk about politics, science, and philosophy, and both of us don't give a hoot about the nearby tables talking sports and thinking we must be pretentious. This is us being honest and real, and who cares what the world thinks? I'm glad Rush always agreed.

Posted on Aug 12, 2012, 11:51:15 AM PDT
Yodathedog says:
I don't care what anyone thinks. I like them, have always liked them, and will always like them. And I think Geddy's vocals fit the music just fine. He hits highs most singers just dream about, and can still do it today. Take that Steve Walsh!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 12, 2012, 1:20:32 PM PDT
Scottiemon says:
This is one of the best, well thought out posts, I have ever read on this forum (with no disrespect intended for the others who post here).

Posted on Aug 17, 2012, 12:19:14 PM PDT
Thanks for your input, guys! Despite the cliche about Rush being a male-fan band, I actually got into them because my girlfriend loves them - I saw them a couple times around the "Snakes & Arrows" era, and picked up that album (which I kind of like), before going to get the early stuff (being a fan of prog and metal, that's the era that appeals to me). I've been working my way into their 80s/90s output lately - I dug a bunch of my girlfriend's CDs out a few months ago (she likes the more mainstream era of the band) and I thought I'd get to know that before picking up the new one, although I'm optimistic about it - it seems to be getting some good response from fans. The whole "prog band or band with a prog-phase" is always a challenge - almost all 70s prog went pop in the 80s, and even the 80s neo-prog seemed to go mainstream after a couple albums. Although - bands like Yes and IQ got over their "pop phase", while Genesis and Rush didn't ever seem to return to prog wholeheartedly. I was listening to Permanent Waves the other day, and noticing how big an influence it was on prog-metal like Fates Warning and Dream Theater!
Regarding the use of "pretentious" and "contrived" - I think these words tend to be overused when applied to prog music. I mean, they can kind of be applied to ANY piece of music or art, can't they? Rush was certainly influenced by prog bands like Genesis and Yes in their early days, and I really like what they did with that - Genesis and Yes were influenced by each other and King Crimson, etc., etc. - it's like calling Black Sabbath pretentious and contrived for wanting to do something dark and being influenced by Zeppelin and Cream!
And, for the record, I really like it when Geddy Lee screeches - that's actually my favorite stuff by Rush : ) Kind of like Marillion's Fish, I enjoy when some singers go "all out" and over-the-top with their singing, and when they become smoother singers later in their career, I find it a lot less interesting. Rock music is supposed to be about passion, isn't it?

Posted on Aug 17, 2012, 8:14:33 PM PDT
clearcutter says:
Since I'm the one who used the word "contrived", I'll just respond that I don't see how that word connotes anything about being derivative or influenced by other bands. I had no problem with Rush's 70's output showing its influences. I felt their 70's music sounded forced and unnatural, like they were contriving to be clever instead of finding what was inside them and just expessing it in music. And for STS, I had no problem with Rush's lyrics, just the music: I always liked the intelligence of their lyrics.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2012, 3:10:38 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 18, 2012, 3:12:48 AM PDT
RegF says:
That is an interesting comment.
I believe that some of their best stuff was done in the 70s. Yes , on the albums RUSH and FLY BY NIGHT they wore they influences on their sleeves but with the 2112 album they became some thing ordinal and new.
FLY BY NIGHT , 2112 , A FAREWELL TO KINGS and HEMISPHERES. After P. WAVES , M.P. and SIGNALS this was easily Rush's most popular music period.
Not all RUSH is classic but they certainly have as many classic albums as U 2 , the STONES , The Beatles and PINK FLOYD , ect...
CLOCKWORK ANGELS , is just as great as their early 70s and early 80s period when for about 3 years they were the biggest band in the world.

Posted on Aug 18, 2012, 6:47:01 AM PDT
Does anyone know what Steampunk is? And has RUSH now incorporated this type of music into Clockwork Angels? If so, this would be a good example of RUSH still being a prog band.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2012, 9:36:22 AM PDT
Working Man says:
Wow, Rolling Stone had an article about Rush? I didn't even know that they knew who Rush was and I guess that is evident by the fact they thought they we a band with a small following of geeks.

Posted on Aug 18, 2012, 9:37:52 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 18, 2012, 9:38:11 AM PDT
Working Man says:
Actually, I don't think they are as progressive as they used to be obviously, but they are very diverse. I think of them as progressive hard rock.

Also, Clockwork Angels is a great album.

Posted on Aug 18, 2012, 1:29:22 PM PDT
Fischman says:
I love Prog.

I love Rush

Is Rush prog or not prog? Were they prog and now not prog? Were they prog, went mainstream and returned to prog?

I guess I never bother to ponder these questions because Rush is just a great band no matter what label you wanna slap on them. They've pretty much defied categorization all these years which is also okay with me.

Posted on Aug 19, 2012, 9:15:44 PM PDT
Working Man says:
I agree with you Fischman. Some bands defy specific classifications or cross over so many lines that they can be prog one album and hard rock the next. To be honest, I don't have a lot of prog so I do classify Rush as prog in my iTunes playlists. I even struggle with Jethro Tull as being prog but I see that more and more lately. I always thought of them as straight ahead blues, folk hard rock band so like Rush they are hard to classify.

Posted on Aug 23, 2012, 11:00:34 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 23, 2012, 11:26:59 AM PDT
Fischman - at the end of the day, the important classification of any music is really is it "good" or "not good"! But, I like prog and find a lot of prog music more to my taste than more mainstream rock, so I figure if they have done proggy stuff in their later years, it would appeal to me.

Working Man - I've seen the Tull thing, and agree they are less obviously "prog" than, say, Yes, Crimson, or ELP were for much of the 70s. But, when I first listened to "Minstrel In The Gallery", I thought it was really weird. The songwriting, instrumental arrangements, etc. are not "straight ahead blues, fok, hard rock" at ALL. As late as '77s "Songs From The Wood", they were integrating odd time-signatures, non-rock instruments (flute, lute, portative pipe organ), non-rock influences (Elizabethan lute songs, classical, celtic folk), and artistic standards that place them firmly in prog rock in my understanding. Of course, after the 70s they mainstreamed their musical style, but so did pretty much all prog rock bands! Again, as I commented to Fischman, the only important category is whether you like it or not, though!

Starman - to my understanding, Steampunk is a literery (not musical) genre, like "Science Fiction" or "Gothic Horror". Steampunk is kind of 19th Century science fiction - as if none of the technological advances of the past century happened, imagining moving forward in a different way (e.g. steam powered airships instead of jet powered and internal combustion engines).

Regarding "contrived", as a music writer myself, I find two kinds of writing: just let it flow out, or make an effort to do something other than what comes naturally. (In Rush's case I saw it as being derivative, because they were trying to do something like Genesis instead of just tossing off riffs without "contriving" towards a particular goal). The first case tends to produce music that is accessible and flows, but not very original or interesting. The second of these is kind of what I see as "contrived" music, and might seem "forced or unnatural". Often the more "contrived" music, ironically, comes from being influenced by someone else - influenced by Zeppelin's debut albums, Sabbath and Purple created heavy metal in an attempt to make music that was particularly dark, heavy, and exciting rather than just writing songs that "came naturally". King Crimson's debut had a similar influence (interestingly enough, also in 1969) on bands like Genesis and Yes. Quijada, I understand your meaning that the music sounds "forced and unnatural", and you certainly have a right to not be into music that sounds that way to you - there's some music in my collection that doesn't quite work for me on the same grounds, but I personally find a lot of "contrived" music a lot more interesting and musically satisfying (although, sometimes it takes a few more listens to appreciate it) than a lot of "natural" music - cases in point being the classic 70s prog era of such bands as Rush, Genesis, Yes, etc. as opposed to the more "natural" expressions of their later careers. To me, when I hear prog rock (or, any music that's trying to do something interesting and break out of the usual) described as "contrived", I feel like it's being criticized for the very thing that I value in it.

Posted on Aug 23, 2012, 2:47:01 PM PDT
Fischman says:
"But, I like prog and find a lot of prog music more to my taste than more mainstream rock, so I figure if they have done proggy stuff in their later years, it would appeal to me."

Understand completely, among rock in my collection, there is a disproportionately large amount of prog. Many have also said Rush's latest is their best in 30 years and many have said it's their proggiest in as many years. I suspect there may be a connection there.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 24, 2012, 9:38:47 PM PDT
STS says:
Some folks might like a pretty landscape painting, and some might like an abstract by Picasso. People are wired differently. Art is subjective. Is a Picasso contrived? By some definition his work might be contrived, but who cares about that if the outcome is interesting?

To refer to music as "natural" and not forced strikes me as meaning "people can dance to it". Well, nobody dances to Rush (might explain low female fan count). But most people like to dance and like 4/4 time to accomodate. I actually hate dancing and can't dance. Coincidence? I like the bizarre time changes of Rush prog song's like Cygnus X1, which happens to have some of the most unique and cool riffs in rock, that have not been matched in 35 years. If you call it "unnatural", again by some definition I would agree and then shrug.

As I said on another Dream Theater discussion, if you like prog you have to appreciate taking risk, and then you have to acknowledge that some risky ventures flop and others soar. The majority of the population prefers "comfort" and "familiarity".

Obviously Yoko Ono also took risks, but the difference is that there was never a good outcome. So, talent is a factor, and even where risk is taken there must be some understandable "purpose". Anybody can just keep taking mindless risks and claim that the result must be art, but it's not. It's most often just controversial, hoping that's good enough to get attention and sales where talent lacks. That approach strikes me as the most cotnrived, and there is a lot of it out there.

Risk-taking art may be for the minority audience. But when the risk pays off, the result stands out uniquely over time, like a Picasso.

Posted on Aug 25, 2012, 1:54:30 PM PDT
Yodathedog says:
STS, I think that has a lot to do with how Lennon's Double Fantasy album is set up. If it were a matter of a John side and an Yoko side, then every used copy would have no grooves on the A side and no wear at all on the B side. Thank heavens for mix tapes and iTunes playlists.

Posted on Aug 29, 2012, 12:09:56 PM PDT
vivazappa says:
Rush to me is a ROCK BAND although the do have their prog moments.
Cygnus X-1 into Hemispheres
Grace Under Pressure

Posted on Oct 13, 2012, 12:18:01 PM PDT
The short answer - YES, Rush is still a Progressive Rock band. According to a popular Progressive Music site with the word "Archives" in it, Rush is catagorized as "Hard Prog", which seems to fit as good as any since some people think of the band as a Rock Band, a Hard Rock band, a Classic Rock band, or a Prog-Rock band which played a harder, heavier version of music than some more "classical" styled Prog bands such as ELP and Yes.

I'm listening to Clockwork Angels as I read thru the previous posts and am now contributing. This album sounds really good on a better sound system then the previous times when I only played it in my car driving to work. Geddy's bass lines are much better then I had noticed before.

STS - I enjoyed your Yoko Ono comments such as "Obviously Yoko Ono also took risks, but the difference is that there was never a good outcome. So, talent is a factor..." Ha, ha, love it.

Posted on Oct 14, 2012, 3:17:51 AM PDT
Yodathedog says:
Amen on the Yoko Ono comment. I can't believe John (blinded by love I'm sure) let her ruin his other wise masterful Double Fantasy. At the very least they could've had their own sides.

And Clockwork Angels didn't sound so great in my (wife's) car either. First time I played it was in her car, and I almost decided it wasn't a good album. Played it later through really good 'phones and heard what I was supposed to hear.
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Initial post:  Jun 24, 2012
Latest post:  Dec 18, 2012

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