Neil Peart, the lyricist and virtuosic drummer of the Canadian progressive-rock band Rush, died on Tuesday, in Santa Monica, California. He was sixty-seven, and had been preventing mind most cancers for a number of years. Rush shaped in Toronto, in 1968 (Peart joined in 1974), and launched nineteen studio albums, ten of which have offered greater than 1,000,000 copies within the U.S. Based on Billboard, Rush presently ranks third, behind the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, for probably the most consecutive gold or platinum albums by a rock band.
Peart was wildly literate, and his earnest love of science fiction knowledgeable Rush’s singular aesthetic. Together with the singer Geddy Lee and the guitarist Alex Lifeson, he helped pioneer an audacious pressure of brainy, intricate laborious rock that maybe borrowed extra voraciously from Ayn Rand than the blues. Although the band’s affect was huge, one thing about its music appeared to talk deeply and on to marginalized younger males. Each Lee and Lifeson had been the youngsters of immigrants who had left Europe following the Second World Battle (Lee’s dad and mom had been Holocaust survivors; Lifeson’s fled Yugoslavia after the conflict), and an individual will get the sense that the members of Rush had internalized a sure diploma of cultural exclusion. Quite than retreating, they embraced concepts that eschewed conference.
Rush was struggling commercially when, in 1976, it made “2112,” an intense, formidable, and unrelenting report a few dystopian future. The band had spent the earlier yr taking part in small, dirty venues. (Within the 2010 documentary “Rush: Past the Lighted Stage,” the band jokingly referred to this stretch of exhibits because the “Down the Tubes” tour.) Nobody appeared notably energized in regards to the subsequent album. Rush’s supervisor, Ray Danniels, needed to cajole Mercury Data into not dropping the band totally.
“2112” was a Hail Mary, however relatively than dutifully capitulating to —making one thing extra aligned, spiritually and compositionally, with, say, Steely Dan’s “The Royal Rip-off” or the Rolling Stones’s “Black and Blue,” two of probably the most beloved business rock information of 1976—Rush as an alternative assumed a form of fuck-it abandon. The band had not assembled an viewers by way of intensive radio play or essential adulation or company positioning however by folks tapping one another on the shoulder and saying, “Dude, verify this out.” For “2112,” the band leaned additional into its idiosyncrasies relatively than attempting to curb them.
The album opens with its title observe, which is twenty minutes lengthy and takes up the complete first aspect of the LP. Peart wrote the lyrics, which have one thing to do with an interplanetary federation and an odious, vaguely fascist group generally known as Monks of the Temples of Syrinx, who command “nice computer systems”—to be sincere, I’m not overly assured on the narrative particulars. What the music does convey, unambiguously, is a form of maniacal amplitude. Peart needed to inform huge, advanced tales that each embraced and rejected formal constructions. The remainder of the report is somewhat bit goofier, however no much less distinctive. “A Passage to Bangkok,” which Peart additionally wrote lyrics for, is a doting homage to weed, and varied cities and international locations around the globe the place it’s cultivated: Colombia, Jamaica, Morocco, Acapulco, Thailand, Afghanistan, Kathmandu, Lebanon. “We solely cease for the very best!”
Since Peart’s loss of life, pictures of his drum equipment—an expansive, fascinating construction of drums, cymbals, and diverse percussive instruments—have been circulating round social media. Making an attempt to make sense of its maze of parts is almost unimaginable for anybody not intimately acquainted with drum gear, but the equipment nonetheless communicates, in a wonderful and unambiguous approach, Peart’s vigor. It will need to have felt so glorious, ensconcing himself in that golden tower, an ever-expanding assemblage of surfaces to whack! Till his loss of life, Peart was thought-about by many to be the best dwelling rock drummer; watching him play, it’s laborious to not begin pondering he possessed a number of phantom limbs. The sound was cruel.
Misfit tradition has been codified and romanticized over time (we consider James Dean in a leather-based jacket, coolly smoking an unfiltered cigarette whereas leaning in opposition to a sizzling rod, or of David Bowie, vamping in full “Aladdin Sane” make-up), however the members of Rush had been bizarre in a approach that didn’t reliably translate in mainstream tradition. As such, they supplied their followers a really exact and rarified solace. Rush might be one thing of a personal pleasure. I consider a tv commercial for the Volkswagen Golf, from 1999, wherein the actor Tony Hale sits alone in a parked automotive, listening to “Mr. Roboto,” by Styx—one other beloved prog-rock band of the nineteen-seventies, with equally conceited ambitions—at high quantity, dancing like a deranged cyborg. Some music simply feels destined for secret communion.
This, for me, was all the time probably the most lovable and admirable issues about Peart and Rush. For many years, the band was massively uncool. It’s enjoyable to search for the early critiques—peeved critics huffing and puffing about bombast and pretension. How dare this band strive so laborious! Within the 1979 Rolling Stone Report Information, Alan Niester gave “2112” two stars (out of a potential 5) and described Lee’s voice as “a cross between Donald Duck and Robert Plant.” (To be honest, this stays probably the most fascinating and lawless period of Rolling Stone; the journal didn’t particularly look after “Blood on the Tracks” or “Exile on Foremost Avenue,” both.) For those who can’t have a very good time blasting “Tom Sawyer,” then some superior a part of you has withered. I say, increase a joint to Neil Peart tonight, and go get it again.