After the last date of the Rush ‘R40’ tour on 15th August 2015 in Los Angeles, Rush were at a crossroads, this was their final tour as they had agreed to bow out on a high note, seeking not to slump into trying to recapture the former glories, as has befallen many other groups over the years. Even the band themselves were unsure of what to do next or even if there would be a ‘next’ moment.
This all came sharply into focus again in January 2020 when Neil Peart lost his battle with brain cancer and, while the world quite rightly mourned his passing, Rush were effectively over. This left Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson in a quandary realising that anything they did would suffer comparison to the might of Rush.
So they did what they could cope with, Alex went fishing and valued his home life, Geddy wrote his memoirs (to be published this year) and both men struggled with the loss of their long term friend. They had both known about his illness yet the end still hit them hard, in addition they needed time to grieve him, plus we had various lockdowns and limitations on life due to covid.
Well, thankfully, that time has come to an end as Alex has now ventured back into the public eye once more by contributing his graceful, elegant guitar tones to a brand-new project called Envy Of None. It could not be any more removed from the progressive elements of Rush. Two of the songs were released by Lifeson on his own social media pages, namely Shadow and Spy House, which were intended to introduce the band to the public.
Now the album in full is out and, yes, it is something tasty indeed and different to what he has done before, for sure. Yet, even so, within its simpler shorter songs lie strands of Lifeson’s musical DNA. In just eleven short tracks you hear Alex revelling in playing music again and exorcizing his demons and his grief in the only way he knows, through music.
The album has elements of Pop, Rock, Emo and even electronica within its sounds, it certainly is hugely different and that is no bad thing. Take the opener for instance, I Never Said I Loved You, with a strong sequenced opening motif and the dreamy vocals of Mariah Wynne and steady bass of former Coney Hatch bassist Andy Curran driving the song along (the band used various session players to provide drum support). The sound is full and leaves room for each instrument to be clearly heard, in addition, it is a great little song. Sequencing plays a big part in the groups sound, this is all is sympathetically done and does not detract from everything that is going on.
Look Inside is a good example of how this all works together to create something exceptionally fine indeed. There is even a sampled muted trumpet playing in the last moments, a tremendous piece of music that is both imaginative and accomplished. Liar follows but this fails to hit the mark for me. Whilst being well crafted, it is a bit too busy for my liking and has too much layering to really click. Spy House has Lifeson unleashed and all over the track with an insistent riff threaded throughout it. It’s great to hear him in this vein and his solo is fabulous and free spirited. It is the Alex we all know and love to hear and a great moment in a very good track.
Dogs Life is another brooding, moody and slow burning number that builds in its intensity before breaking out into a busy section, this time the slow burn really works well for the track. This album is really a bit of a grower and more volume really helps in this case, making it one of the best tracks so far to these ears. Kabul Blues follows with it Far Eastern sounding synths and delicate guitar lines woven through its grooves. This sounds very exotic and Middle Eastern and quite different to what has gone before, great bass lines from Andy Curran making this another winning track. Old Strings is the album’s longest track at just over five minutes as Mariah sings of lost memories, lost opportunities, and stolen moments. Again, this is a slow burner of a song with subtle but effective dynamics which all combines to make an impressive song with sensitive playing from all parties, marvellous stuff.
Dumb works really well, a strong back beat drives the song along with its great sequenced sounds and a very eighties sounding drum pattern really kicking it out and providing much drive to the song. Penultimate song Enemy is built on hypnotic synthesiser lines and settings that work to a pronounced effect with strong performances. Growling synth sounds and fabulous dynamics make this is a great song and, again, volume reveals its intricacies beautifully. This leads us to the final piece, Western Sunset, which is an acoustic guitar tribute to Neil Peart. Alex spent a lot of time at Neil’s pacific home and, whilst enjoying a beer, looked out at the shoreline at sunset. This memory was the one that inspired this delicate, brief piece of musical imagery. Ironic really that this should feature but it closes things for Alex. So, as such, it earns it is place here as a tribute to his dearly departed friend.
This album gains in stature the more you play it and it certainly is a very worthy collection of songs. The slow burn of these tracks creep up on you as they reveal their intricacies. I guess that only time will tell if the band continues, like they plan to. What sounds they explore next time remains to be seen, however, for now, this will do very nicely thank you.
Released 8th April, 2022