.Editorial - Exit the Warrior - RIP Neil Peart
Metal Reviews

Release year: 2020
Reviewed by Goat

It's hard to know where to begin to describe the impact that Rush have had, from the hugely influential music to the number of sales, third ever for most consecutive gold or platinum albums by a rock band according to Billboard. They're the type of band that you fall in love with on first contact or ignore utterly. And even if you are one of the many non-Rush fans out there, you still have to admit and admire the technical skill of the three individuals involved, masters of their craft be it bass, guitar, or drumkit. And as a confirmed fan of the Canadian trio, who regrets having already written up their discography for this site simply because it means it can't be done again with the insights gained from the extra years of living since, it is truly devastating to come to terms with the loss of Neil Peart, confirmed this week after a quiet struggle with brain cancer. Even ignoring his technical skill, reading his lyrics shows his talent, and even ignoring that, his life story is more than enough to tug your heartstrings. A high-school drop-out who made drumming his world, tapping out Keith Moon patterns in detention, he would absorb books and philosophy between gigs and regurgitate it onto the lyrical sheet with ease. And after becoming a Hall of Fame-worthy drummer, the tragic loss of his daughter in 1997 and wife shortly after in 1998 is a double-dose of tragedies that would floor anyone. Who could blame Peart for quitting music, quitting drumming, quitting everything and going on a personal journey, riding alone across north and central America on a motorbike, writing a book about it and later, when he rejoined Rush, the song Ghost Rider.

The truth is that you could write more than one book about Neil Peart and an editorial like this can only be a snapshot of a rich life, especially that of someone who touched so many. Everyone from Dave Grohl to the Trailer Park Boys has posted tribute to him in the past few days. He was not one of those drummers that you need to be a musician to be impressed by; the talent was on show from the start and not only from technical prog workouts like La Villa Strangiato. Poppier Rush fare like Closer to the Heart was just as impressive for Peart's contributions, and later experimental tracks like Scars revealed the breadth as well as depth of his style, which along the way would incorporate everything from Big Band to African tribal rhythms. He even retaught himself drumming in 1994, incorporating jazz and swing elements.

And his lyrics have touched so many, too, from the early Ayn Randisms to tackling topics as diverse as the Holocaust, nuclear weapons, the French Revolution, even more grounded and relevant subjects like urban alienation and online dating! Freedom of the individual was always a touchpoint, from the drive fast and live loud rebelliousness of Red Barchetta or subtle weed paean A Passage to Bangkok, and 2112 of course blending revolt against dystopia and the purity of rock expression in a way that resonates around the world even now when some countries still ban certain bands if not entire genres. Yet there was no stereotypical libertarian selfishness to warm, comforting lyrics that dealt with, say, bereavement (Afterimage) or environmentalism (Distant Early Warning). Even in later years, his lyrics could not but help touch you - the way that The Anarchist describes depression, for instance, "the lenses inside of me that paint the world black" and "a missing part of me that grows around me like a cage". The man had such a way with words, always identifying with the outsider, making the lonely feel a little less so.

It's ironic that one of my once lesser favourite songs from the band, 1982's Losing It, comes to mind now (described it in the review then as 'utterly miserable', and it still is). Sometimes you hear a song and discount it immediately for being irrelevant to you at that point in time, yet if you're lucky you'll rediscover it later in life, older and wiser, and think again. And so these lyrics resonate much more now than it did with the callower, youthier me who dismissed it and the rest of the song in a single line of text from a review eleven years ago:

"Some are born to move the world, to live their fantasies
But most of us just dream about the things we'd like to be
Sadder still to watch it die than never to have known it
For you, the blind who once could see
the bell tolls for thee..."

In another eleven years, if I'm still lucky enough to be writing for this site, I hope I'll have more cause to reflect on Neil Peart's wisdom, and more life lessons learned far too late. Some of the great artists speak to you directly and powerfully at certain points in life but the best, the greatest, stay with you throughout and have more to say as time goes by, and Rush are most definitely one of those acts. 'Are', not 'were', because although now we mourn one of rock's greatest drummers, we know that his music and writings will have eternal life with fans from here on, whether you be a seasoned Rushian or had never heard of him until news broke online of his passing this past week. And even as we relisten to the still mindblowing likes of Subdivisions and Xanadu and marvel at his percussive prowess with the drumsticks, it's good to reread his lyrics and remind ourselves of his love of life, his compassion for all. We all have to make our own mistakes, after all, but Peart was a sage chronicler and philosopher of the human condition, and as we get older and start to both know what is right and choose it, it's good to know that we have a guide, yet. Farewell, Professor, and thank you for it all; the road behind, and the road ahead.

Killing Songs :
Goat quoted
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