Rush. Progressive rock legends. Worshipped by millions. 40 plus albums in their discography, a multitude of which have gone gold and platinum. Esteemed members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame…but alas, for me their appeal’s been elusive. I’m not happy to say this. After seeing the admittedly excellent documentary and career retrospective, “Beyond the Lighted Stage” a few years ago, I absolutely wanted to like them, the whole story had been so compelling, and cool, I thought yeah, I’m finally getting this….but minus the tale, and the visuals, just listening to them on the headphones, I felt nothing. Was not transported. Had no epiphany.
This hopefulness was nothing new, this attempt to love, feel, and understand Rush. Several years prior to the documentary, I’d been similarly swayed to give them another chance, after witnessing the unbridled Rush passion of Nick Andopolis on “Freaks and Geeks” ( best TV show ever). His complete, and utter worship of them, playing along on his 29 piece drum kit , passionately, and horrifically to “Spirit of the Radio”, and later defending their genius to his ex-girlfriend’s Lindsay’s Dad, made me think, yes, there’s something to all this, I want to feel like this too…and with that, I hopefully cued up their mega “Moving Pictures”album…but again, nothing.
“Neil Peart is the greatest drummer alive !”…say no more Nick, turn that shit up…
Why continually try when these attempts have never worked ? Well, it’s all because of one song ,”Subdivisions”, from 1983. I kind of love it. For real. That song alone is what’s fueled this eternal optimism. It’s fat, melodic synthesizer line, and darkly, perceptive lyrics about suburban teen alienation spoke to my young, angst-ridden ass, as deeply as my most beloved band at the time, the Smiths did. It was my “Manchester, so much to answer for”, except of course my Manchester, was the considerably less historic, austere, damaged, and romantic patch of unbridled suburbia known as, uh,…Long Island. Anyway, this song understood my feelings. It got me. I lived it.
In the High School Halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out
Yes, Rush, yes, I geekily nodded, and thought. “Subdivisions” release in 1983, coincided with MTV’s growing prominence, and, as a result, the video was on constantly, with it’s overt, and completely literal suggestions of alienation, and bullying, both of which are dealt with by our outcast representative watching Rush sing the song on TV, and playing a video game at the mall. Here it is, in all it’s glory:
You know when you’re so into a song that you have a playlist solely devoted to it, featuring every ( decent) cover version of said song imaginable ? Bueller ?…anyway… while you might be spoiled for choice as far as versions of say, Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”, or, lord help us, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, when it comes to “Subdivisions”, there is struggle. There’s a real dearth of decent cover versions …still, the best one is exceptionally good, and that’s Anita Athavale’s 2007 version. It’s not available on any of the usual music streaming homes, or on YouTube in a conventional way…as in the only way to hear it, is by watching a grim, un-ironic, lost love letter to a deceased shopping mall in Cleveland, complete with a “1976-2009” graphic at the end, that it soundtracks. It’s earnest with a big E. Seriously though, Anita strips it down to it’s bones, and it’s pretty great. Here it is :
…there’s one more joyful thing to share regarding this band. In the aforementioned “Beyond the Lighted Stage” doc, the elephant in the room is addressed candidly, and awesomely…that being that the Rush audience is obviously, and overwhelmingly male. It’s become kind of a running joke, and is best encapsulated in this scene from, wait for it, “I Love You Man”. Watch Rashida Jones, as Paul Rudd’s beleaguered girlfriend experience the Rush effect in real time. It’s perfect.
Can I tell you something, after writing all this I’m seriously considering giving Rush another try, I mean, maybe it’ll stick this time….
p.s. I did try one more time. No, it didn’t take. I’ve made peace with it though. “Subdivisions” is clearly all I’ll ever need… and that’s truly enough.