Clockwork Angels: Background


The piece is the title track of the Clockwork Angels album and it “corrals at least half a dozen different musical ideas into its seven minutes without ever sounding like it’s showing off. The fact that it’s topped off with a spring-heeled chorus shows a band with total and utter confidence in themselves.”—Dave Everley, Classic Rock

The “song began with an experimental instrumental soundscape Alex wrote using technology, resulting in some amazing textures,” Geddy says in a Bass Player interview. “When the lyrics came along, I saw a way to break down what Alex had into several sections and write some melodies over the top, and before long we had created this interesting rock/electronica song. The trick, both in recording and mixing, was to retain the spacey, mysterious sounds while keeping the song urgent and somewhat organic. Neil had that swingy, shuffly groove in mind when he first heard the demo, and when the song was finished we both couldn’t wait to tackle that feel.”

The clockwork angels are idols created by the government to comfort, entertain, and mystify the people. They float above the city and serve the same function of religious idols. As the people see them, they are reassured that the world is orderly and that everything is under control, that they’re protected from above. In other words, they’re intended to keep people entertained and reassured so there’s no need to question why things are the way they are.—Rob Freedman, Rush Vault

Neil says that in early in January, 2010, he sent a bunch of lyrics to Alex and Geddy in Toronto. “They got together in Geddy’s home studio, just messing around, jamming and seeing what came out, recording everything they played. Alex put together one collection of ideas that turned out to be most of the song ‘Clockwork Angels,’ and as soon as I heard its rhythmic feel, which was so different for us, my response was, ‘I want to play to that!'”

Alex in a MusicRadar interview says he was just messing around at home and came up with what later turned into much of what the piece would be. “Ged and I both like to work on a day. We don’t really bring stuff in, nor do we refer to soundcheck jams any more. We’re both just excited to start on something new. But I had this thing floating around, so I gave him a copy of it, and he really liked it and saw great potential in it. We rearranged it and developed some of the parts a little bit more in the verses. From there, the song just came together. I love the strumming in the verses; it’s so energetic. And the pre-verse sections are so dreamy; they take you to another place. There’s also that blues section in the middle, which comes out of nowhere, but it really emphasizes the lyric. And then it just falls back into that beautiful, climbing arpeggio. It gives me goose bumps every time. Near the end, there’s a vocal harmony that Ged does that almost sounds like a prayer. He sang it for one of the other parts, but it got flipped around. I think Nick is responsible for that. He said, ‘Hey, check this out,’ and we listened to it and figured, ‘Oh, we have got to have that in there.’ It’s really nice, especially since you don’t know where it’s from.”

Alex in a Metal Express Radio interview says the solo in the piece (and in “The Garden”) are among his favorites of all time, yet they were almost throwaways. “Geddy went away for a few days, so I continued working and filling things in a little bit and I threw down a couple of solos in just a few takes and that was it. The thing is that after a while they kind of grow on you and you don’t think about them when you’re doing them as they were so natural and spontaneous. So, those solos were two throwaways that I did very early on, before those songs were really fully developed. With me, when I don’t think too much about what I’m doing, that’s when I tend to do my best work.”

Producer Nick Raskulinecz in a MusicRadar interview says the “bluesy bar band section” in the middle of the piece is something that wasn’t brought out in the song originally. Rather, it “definitely happened in the mix.”

“It’s a lot to take in all at once, but what stays with you are things like Peart’s blissful dancing on the hi-hat and Lifeson’s bold Townshend-esque revelry. (Can a song have its own overture? It not, it certainly does now.) And then there’s Lee’s voice, which has never sounded so smooth and unaffected. When the band is hard charging, Peart pounds on his toms with an almost beastly force. By the 4:30 mark, the spotlight hits Lifeson, performing a solo that plays like an aria. It all builds to a playful false ending, an audio tromp l’oiel . . . which proceeds to a shattering finale.”—Joe Bosso, MusicRadar

“Now we’re getting stuck into new territory! What immediately jumps out at you about the title track is how it harkens back to the Rush of the late 70s. The various sections that make up this mini masterpiece feel slightly indulgent yet sit together comfortably. The feel, too, is very evocative of that era—lurking somewhere between ‘Xanadu’ and ‘The Trees,’ albeit far more powerful than they have ever been.”—Dominic Hemy, The Digital Fix

“The expansive, multi-layered and intricate title track is as good as anything the band has ever recorded.”—Philip Wilding, Classic Rock

The piece is “one of many with a huge swooping finale that could close an album or a show. And the remarkable picture that emerges is that of a future imagined from 120 years ago, a world lit only by fire and all that, steam, of contraptions-–-this is now graphically, sonically, aurally, representingly (!) being played out in the ragged, 21st Century schizoid music. . . . The snap of Permanent Waves is not here. This is Rush looking at mortality, carrying around Alex’s extra 15 pounds and Geddy’s deteriorating, yodel-era voice, and probably Neil’s knees any month now. In other words, there’s a worn wisdom here, and the guys turn in their most inspired music, even at and inside the improbable crucible of jammy spontaneity, and then Neil writes perfectly in line (as if we want to ascribe order when there is none), with layers of enigma, a feast for hours of reflection.”—Martin Popoff, BraveWords

More about “Clockwork Angels”

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~ by rvkeeper on May 23, 2012.

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