Download: Chesney’s last album, the fine Hemingway’s Whiskey, instead..
Rush, Clockwork Angels (Roadrunner/Anthem) * * *
Asia, XXX (Frontier) * * *
Forget Rock of Ages. The real rock rush this summer comes from two veteran acts who’ve improbably remained active forever.
First up, the progressive component. Equal parts Candide and Cirque du Soleil, Rush’s 20th album follows an optimistic man’s quest to survive in a steampunk society as he encounters pirates, anarchists, carnies, storms and a rigid ruling overlord, the Watchmaker. Oh Lord Rolex, the venerable Canadian band’s first truly major conceptual work since its 1976 opus, 2112, already has Rush-heads excited that the hands on the clock on the album cover point to 9:12 — or 21:12 in military time.
Thankfully, Rush has set the philosophical yarn to some of its most convincing, inspired and technically accomplished music yet. Clockwork Angels taps the muscle and darkness of ‘90s metal but takes it out of the lumbering metal graveyard by applying prog rock’s complex time signatures. The gorgeous orchestral closer, The Garden, should prove a centerpiece of the fall tour.
By comparison, Asia, working once again with its original lineup, offers prog rock for people who don’t like prog rock. Asia sticks to the accessible formula that made its first two albums platinum hits at the dawn of MTV: serious musicianship played by members of prog acts Yes, ELP, King Crimson and the Buggles but in service of infectious pop hooks, with a heavy accent on melody. Asia’s new songs don’t rock quite as hard as those from the eponymous 1982 debut, but XXX also loses the bombast critics once moaned about. Singer John Wetton’s scotch whiskey voice hasn’t lost any range, and its interplay with guitarist Steve Howe and keyboardist Geoff Downes proves irresistible. Now if only MTV would play music videos again.
Download: The Garden, Caravan, BU2B (Rush); No Religion, Al Gatto Nero, Bury Me in Willow (Asia).
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