Rush are a band that epitomise the concept of the musician’s musician.
There’s not a rock drummer worth his salt who isn’t in awe of Neil Peart, a man who constructs his kit around him until it’s roughly the size of the Large Hadron Collider before conjuring complicated, expansive and mathematically precise rhythms. That he goes against tubthumphing cliché and writes all the lyrics just adds to his mad scientist appeal.
Frontman and bassist Geddy Lee’s voice is cartoonishly high, but combined with the weighty rhythm section and Alex Lifeson’s more melodic, poppy guitar work, the Canadian trio perfected a formula early on in their career that has kept them on top for close to four decades.
This ‘Classic Albums’ documentary takes all the main players of the Rush recording story back into the studio to talk about the most significant albums of the band’s career: 1976’s 2112 and 1981’s Moving Pictures.
The band is in its element as the members discuss their influences (Led Zeppelin, The Who, Jethro Tull), and it’s heartening to see that they’re as nerdy and as impassioned by music as their fans are, even at this stage in their career.
Their original producer Terry Brown isolates tracks on famous songs such as ‘Tom Sawyer’ like a kid taking a TV apart to see how it works, but even when stripped down to a simple bassline it’s impossible to see how it creates such an immersive whole.
The disc is rammed with information and reminisces, but for those still hungry for more the extras pack in an additional 54 minutes of interview footage and film of the individual band members playing along live to their most famous tracks.
Most interesting, though, is hearing about the lyrical concepts: a sci-fi future dystopia; drugs; The Twilight Zone; and car fetishism all play a part, as do Peart’s initial struggle with fame, and the band’s embracing of new wave and reggae on Moving Pictures.
The crucial question is, will this appeal to those without an already established interest in the band and its music? The answer, unfortunately, is no. Listening to the minute details that went into the music, without a love for that music, will be an interminable bore.
Whereas those who pack out the stadiums despite musical trends moving on, who strive to complete their Rush record collection with little regard for how cool the band are, will be rapt.
You’ll need a healthy interest in Rush’s albums to get the best from this doc, but if that’s already in place this is revelatory stuff.