It’s Rush week. No, not the week where a bunch of college bros engage in lobotomized hazing rituals that involve alcohol poisoning and various levels of butt play. A week where three Canadians descend from whatever passes for Mount Olympus in Canadian mythology and deliver a new disc of Songs from the Holy Trinity.
The album, Clockwork Angels, was released Tuesday, and I marched off to an actual store to buy a compact disc and went home to play it in a stereo system. That combination of things made me feel even older than getting a newspaper delivered to my driveway every day (the way God intended us to get the news).
It just so happened that The Lovely Becky and Libby were gone on Tuesday. Now, I love my wife and my daughter, but they hate Rush. If you ask Libby if she likes Rush, she says, “I HATE RUSH.” That it’s said in an adorable four-year-old voice doesn’t make it any less painful, and my wife, who I love dearly, cackles every time she hears that, knowing her Bathory-esque murder of Rush appreciation in our daughter has been successful. So, normally, I would be relegated to listening to this new album in the basement on my computer. But a night of abdication by the queen and princess meant I had control of the stereo upstairs. I threw on the CD, sat back, and listened.
I had a flashback to being in the eighth grade and buying Grace Under Pressure on cassette. It was the first album I ever bought on a release day, and I retreated to my room, threw it into my boom box, threw on my headphones that looked like two halves of an old McDonald’s Styrofoam Big Mac container strapped to my ears, and just listened. Over and over again. Side one, flip, side two, flip, repeat until dinner time, then again until bed time.
I got through the album twice. It won’t make my daughter say, “I LOVE RUSH,” but as someone who has been a Rush fan for 30 years, it’s a great album. With Rush pushing 60, it also makes me wonder if there will be another new Rush album. That makes me a little sad, but also glad that I got to savor it on release day.
Okay, Rush crush over, time for tunes.
1) “My Generation (Live),” The Who. Why not start the weekend with a 15-minute extended jam of the most rock and roll song ever recorded? In fact, if I could only take one album with me to a desert island, I might have to take Live at Leeds. Partly because it’s the greatest recorded rock performance of all time. Seriously, if you were to ask, “How much more rock and roll could this performance get?” the answer would be, “None.” Also, I would have a really hard time picking one Rush album.
2) “Summer Babe (Winter Vision),” Pavement. A fantastic song that I have played hundreds of times, and yet I have absolutely no idea what the lyrics mean. I wonder if Stephen Malkmus even knows.
3) “Go Ahead,” Rilo Kiley. I like them more plugged in than unplugged like they are here. This almost feels like it would be used in a Jetta commercial. I don’t even mean that disparagingly, because I discovered Nick Drake because of Volkswagen advertising. And, whoah, it was used in a VW ad in France!
4) “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” Led Zeppelin. My brother Tickle was in town last weekend, which resulted in drunken poker with some of the Vegas gang. We wanted some music and were not happy with the satellite radio selections we were getting, so I tried to pick an album everyone would dig. You can almost never go wrong playing the first Zeppelin album with a group of white guys, especially white ones between the ages of 30-41. It’s not overplayed like IV, it’s doesn’t have some random piece of bongwater like “The Crunge” that splashes you in the face, and it can get quiet and soft without slipping into ballad territory, which would just be odd to play with a group of guys. I couldn’t imagine saying, “Let me find something to play during the poker game,” and then having Extreme’s “More Than Words” start. Although that would be funny as hell, so I probably will use that during our fantasy football draft this year.
5) “Porchlight,” Neko Case. It’s funny to hear how much twang she injects into her early solo stuff. She almost sounds like Lurleen Lumpkin. It makes me wonder if that’s her real Virginia accent and she’s worked hard at sounding more Vancouverish with The New Pornographers, or if she’s acting the way I do when I add a little Superfan accent whenever I talk about Da Bears.
6) “Fast and Loose,” Motorhead. Along with the new Rush, I’ve been playing Japandroids Celebration Rock a lot. I still have a teenager’s interest in learning about bands I really get into, so after I picked up the new Japandroids, I was reading articles and watching videos about them. There was one interview of them from SXSW 2010, and they were asked which bands they were excited to see. Their lead singer not only answered, “Motorhead,” but that he saw them two nights in a row. He sang the praises of how Lemmy outrocked kids a third of his age, and this after Lemmy has spent a lifetime taking crank and other drugs you’ve never seen anyone take because you don’t hang out with bikers. That's what indie rock needs: more Motorhead appreciation.
7) “Someday I Will Treat You Good,” Sparklehorse. I got this from a friend years ago yet have never really listened to it. Damn, this is really good. I love when I get an iTunes surprise.
8) “Spiral Shadow,” Kylessa. They use two drummers, which is what most bands would need to do the work of one Neil Peart. I do really like this band, and the two drummers add a lot of percussive depth and/or womp. However, they aren’t quite in the same league as the best two-drummer attack of all time: Animal and Buddy Rich.
9) “Sunday Bloody Sunday (Live),” U2. Seeing a concert at Red Rocks is on my bucket list. Ideally, I would be able to take my Mr. Fusion-powered DeLorean back in time to see this concert, with a flag-waving Bono making sincerity and even mullets seem cool. I don’t even think Jesus could make those two things seem cool now.
10) “Humming,” Portishead. My friend and source of my current Facebook shame Tom called me yesterday. He was suffering from a very embarrassing dilemma. Not erectile dysfunction (or, at least, he didn’t mention that). Not an existential crisis. No, he found himself reluctantly, inexplicably, uncontrollably, just a little bit…rooting for LeBron James. “Why am I doing this?” he asked me. “I need your help in figuring this out.”
This was a real problem. In fact, I wondered if we could still be friends. Why would someone who is not from Miami, a rapper, a member of LeBron’s entourage, or over the age of nine root for LeBron? It was the sports equivalent of rooting for Germany during the invasion of Poland. We talked some more, and we figured out that his wife—who watches almost no NBA games—hates LeBron James. Now, there is nothing wrong with hating LeBron James as a sports fan, because as a sports figure, LeBron is terrible. But he’s not a terrible person like, say, Tiger Woods. In fact, he’s probably less of a dick than Michael Jordan was, it’s just that Jordan was a master at hiding his dirty laundry. Really it was a case of him getting annoyed that his wife had this unvested hatred of LeBron, so his brain decided to take a contrary position, both as a counterbalance and also because it is fun to have opinions that annoy your spouse. After all, you have to keep things interesting if you’re going to stay married, and conflict is the basis of all interesting narratives.
Of course, this doesn’t excuse his rooting for LeBron. I commented that it was funny that he was having this argument at home as his wedding anniversary approached, and then remarked that it was also the anniversary of the O.J. Bronco chase, which happened the night before he got married. “Hey, I never asked you this,” I said, “but how happy were you when O.J. got off?” Because making your friends wear a girl’s NBA jerseys or asking them if they also root for despised wife-murderers who escape justice is how guys keep their friendships interesting.
11) “Danny Boy,” Johnny Cash. Amazing but way too fucking depressing to end this. In the spirit of the U.S. Open, I’ll take a mulligan.
11) Some audio atrocity from Dream Theater. Goddamn, I really need to delete this shit sandwich from my collection. Okay, I’ll take a drop next to the water.
11) “Drive Somewhere,” The Vulgar Boatmen. There we go. These guys are a great overlooked band from the late 80s who wrote that kind of jangle pop that conveyed a sliver of sun peeking through the window of a dark corner bar where you were already on your third double of bourbon at 2:30 in the afternoon, with no stop sign in sight because you had made a wrong turn onto a lonely road. Sure, it’s depressing, but at least it’s sunny.
Have a great weekend.