Witch Hunt

I always find it hard to enjoy this song. I respect the excellence of its execution and would be surprised to hear anyone claim it was bad, but the depressing sound and lyrics lead me to respect it without any affection.

At the opening we get chimes, very light, at least as tenuous as the street sounds that opened the previous track. More ominous noises creep in, following quickly by the sounds of an angry, shouting crowd, and then at 0:45 by a really extreme flanger. I'm not sure it has anything to flange, but there it is, doing its thing.

A distorted guitar kicks in around 1:07, followed by a heavily fuzzed chorused bass. They definitely had a mood in mind, and the production sets it very well. The fuzz and time effects, combined with the choice of low notes throughout, create a sense of ponderous inevitability. A mod rarely travels fast, but it takes Chuck Norris to stop one. Musically they went very minimalist here; if you can't learn to play the first verse of this song, put down your instrument.

In the chorus we get more synth but otherwise things stay similar, though the melody builds towards a resolution of sorts. Beating and burning and killing often resolve matters, though rarely satisfactorily.

In the second verse the overall scheme remains the same but we get the embellishments characteristic of the band, especially in the bass and drums. The fill at 3:30 hasn't a patch on "War Paint" but it clearly belongs to this second verse, not the first.

The music works around a little more during the last 45 seconds or so, but never reaches any great musical heights. I suspect even Rush find it difficult to sound depressing while flexing their muscles. I wish I had more to say about this song, but honestly, I just don't want to break it down much more.


Not cut! No LJ-cut for the haters. Being an instrumental, YYZ features none of those shrieking Geddy vocals or pretentious Neil lyrics that sometimes turn people off. If you believe, as I believe, that being able to play your instrument well beats playing it poorly, you can probably stand to take a listen and follow along. You can just scroll down, if you want to be that way. I don't know if anyone actually misses these when I don't post them, but I do feel bad about diving back in January and then falling off the wagon so soon. Life got a little complicated there, and I sort of lost track of the project, but I'm going to try to get back into it.

This song taught me the limits of woodshedding. Every other song I had learned, I started by playing it slow, but through gradual practice, could get up to recorded speed in a few weeks. With YYZ, even with the published tab in front of me, I could never get half speed. I got so frustrated that I struck my bass with my fist, which broke one of the pickups. That taught me the importance of controlling my temper. I think that must be a landmark in my emotional development, since I don't know that I've truly lost my temper since.

Anyway, the song. The distinctive opening cadence, in which first Neil and then the entire band tap out the letters Y, Y, and Z in Morse code, must be built into the auditory framework of every true fan. I use it when I knock on doors as a matter of habit, and I don't think I'm the only one. With headphones on I can clearly hear the sound panning around at the opening, but it stabilizes in the center once the band joins in. The keyboard plays pedal tones in the background, laying out a melody which the band returns to periodically.

At 0:35 the magic starts, with Geddy and Alex playing a heinously complex figure in perfect unison. That goes right into the riff commonly identified with the track, which cannot be played by anyone without a comprehensive mastery of their intrument. At 1:10 they change into a more typical Rush approach, with Alex slowing to quarter notes while Geddy gives a little impromptu clinic. The line he plays at 1:22 almost defies the ear, and it's not even a proper bass break, it's just a little something he does for fun.

At 1:37 they move on to a new movement, and this time it includes some featured bass and drum breaks. The 1:56 bass break always gets a cheer at live shows, and I like the way the 2:12 break ends with a little ringing harmonic. I must also give Alex his creative props; the tone of the guitar remains consistent, but the way he changes from a very smooth, sustained style to the staccato shows the way he brings creativity to the table without relying on raw chops. At 2:18 Neil gets to show off a bit, which is only fair in a song where he often has to play a simple 4:4 line to anchor the band and let the guitaristas play their little game. Anyway, after that bass break, around 2:24 it's back to about what we had at 1:37, but not quite the same. (Why be the same when you can be different?)

At 2:47 Alex uses one of his beautiful descending spiral riffs to move the song into a slower-paced, keyboard-drenched movement, but at 3:19 they resolve all themes and pound straight into the rif we heard at 0:35.

I should probably walk back my earlier remarks about the drums. If a Rush cover band played this song at a bar, the drummer could probably manage a straight 4:4 beat, and as long as he had the one and the three right, the audience would let it all slide. However, Neil never just slides by. When I listen carefully, I can pick out the spots where he throws in little embellishments here and there. I really appreciate the way he does that. To me, it says that he knows he plays in a trio and has to support the rest of the band, but also that he can play in back and support the band without having to be boring. The guy writes his lyrics as pantoums; he understands that sometimes, having to fit into a structure can be an aid to creativity.
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Presumptive Freecycling

My Kindle's battery is pretty much shot, and I decided I wanted a new one instead of shelling out for the replacement battery. Anyone want a free Kindle 2 with 1 day battery life and no charger? It would cost about $60 to have Amazon replace the battery. Any micro-USB charger that can deliver enough power should work, or you could buy an official Amazon charger for $20.

I hate sloppy thinking

This Thom Patterson guy writes that "Some 41 million potential fliers chose not to travel by air from May 2007 to May 2008, according to Geoff Freeman of the U.S. Travel Association. That translates into $26.5 billion in lost spending that could have boosted a recession-dogged economy."

First of all, does anyone really think that people who decide not to buy airline tickets put that money in a sock and never, ever spend it?

Second, considering that excessive borrowing helped cause the recession, would it really be so awful if people did save their money for a change?

I used to love flying and now I avoid it whenever possible. That doesn't magically increase my savings rate. I just spend it on other stuff.

Tom Sawyer

Look, two Rushppd posts in two days!Collapse )

If I had picked up this album when it first came out, I'm not sure if I'd be stoked at this point, or let down. As Earthshine mentioned in his comments to my last entry, Permanent Waves seems to mark the end of the band's crazy experimental phase and show a movement toward something more concise and polished. If I listened to "Science" and then "Tom Sawyer" for the very first time, I might feel let down by the loss of that experimental spirit. On the other hand, not all experiments work out as intended. As you'll see as I work my way through, I think Moving Pictures is one of rock's few perfect albums, and if you can do work like that while going commercial, then may I and all of you have the good fortune to go commercial too.