Saturday, September 16, 2017

An Exercise in Self-Indulgence

Given all of the free time I have created for myself by eliminating, at least for a time, certain subjects for my writing, I thought I would explore other topics of interest.

You all know that I am a fan of progressive rock, given my many cites of lyrics from Rush and Dream Theater (Primus is something else, indeed.  You classify them, I cannot).  I would like to examine a bit of the most progressive rock album ever released by Rush, Hemispheres.

As described at Wikipedia:

The album contains examples of Rush's adherence to progressive rock standards including the use of fantasy lyrics, multi-movement song structures, and complex rhythms and time signatures.

Believe me, it is complex music; way over the top.  In fact, so over the top that…well…

In the 2010 documentary film Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, the band members comment that the stress of recording Hemispheres was a major factor in their decision to start moving away from suites and long-form pieces in their songwriting.

I recall hearing them say something about the songs being so complex that they had a hard time figuring out how to even play them live.

What Good is a Rush Reference Without Some Lyrics?

I can live with it, but…

I have heard Neil Peart (the lyricist and drummer for the band) describe himself as a bleeding heart libertarian (heaven help me…but don’t lose hope).  From the opening song of Hemispheres, part VI. The Sphere A Kind of Dream:

We can walk our road together
If our goals are all the same
We can run alone and free
If we pursue a different aim

Let the truth of Love be lighted
Let the love of truth shine clear
Armed with sense and liberty
With the Heart and Mind united
In a single perfect sphere

Yet, I don’t believe he is offering this “bleeding heart libertarianism” as a political philosophy, but a personal philosophy.  I offer, from another song on this album, The Trees:

There is unrest in the Forest
There is trouble with the trees
For the Maples want more sunlight
And the Oaks ignore their pleas.

After a bit more explanation:

So the Maples formed a Union
And demanded equal rights
‘The Oaks are just too greedy
We will make them give us light’
Now there’s no more Oak oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet,
And saw…

From the entirety of the lyrics (you can check the above link if you are interested), it is clear that Peart isn’t happy with this outcome.  It seems clear that Peart views the “bleeding heart” portion of his self-description as a personal philosophy and not a political philosophy.

I am with him on this.


Back to the music.  Perhaps the best example of progressive rock on this most progressive rock album is an instrumental piece, almost ten minutes long and divided into twelve distinct sections.  As if to emphasize the excess progressive in this progressive rock piece, it is entitled “La Villa Strangiato (An Exercise in Self-Indulgence).” 

(Forgive the strange introduction, but this is a great live version of the song…and, also, don’t be fooled by the audience shots that include three different females.  That’s all of them.).

There you have it.


  1. My oldest son is at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He listens to his fair share of Rush music. I introduced it to him years ago (along with every other musical genre I could think of - thank God for MP3s), giving him Rush's 'Fly By Night' CD - the first progressive rock music by Rush. I fondly remember the chimes at the end of the vinyl version of By-Tor:

    I rarely listen to it anymore. My brother constantly blasted Rush - and nothing but - throughout my adolescence. I've kinda had my fill.

  2. 3 of the coolest fellas in Rock music. First concert I attended...and with Primus Opening to boot in '92. Gotta have some Wyonna's Big Brown Beaver..Lol..Primus is an unclassifiable outfit for sure. Still listen to Rush on occasion.

    Here's Rush having some fun at the dinner table.

  3. The first time I saw Rush live was in the 80's, at the Greensboro Coliseum. My brother lived in Greensboro at the time. He was able to get tickets through a business connection. What a concert... oh to be in my early 20's again. Unfortunately time, gravity and the stupid we men do has taken its toll. No amount of swinging a kettle bell and bike riding seem to be staving off the effects of the sins of my youth... damn beer!

  4. Love Rush but Neil Peart also said that Rand Paul "hates brown people."

    1. This might be the most difficult comment I have ever had to address at this blog.

      Never on earth did I think I would have to criticize Peart AND defend Rand Paul - and both at the same time.

      I have stopped writing about culture for a time; must I also give up on Rush?


    2. No way Bionic. You just have to enjoy the art...For instance I really "Dig" Skinny Puppy..but don't care for their politics. I know, I know it's an acquired taste...some of my friends probably disagree, Lol.

      Unfortunately most of the Real artists in the 70s 80s and 90s Real indie scene have the Progressive views we are at war with. You still have to live and let live sometimes.

      I'm not the same politically 15 years sense in hating my self. Lol!

      What about Frank Zappa...decent on some things..but questionable on others.

    3. "Never on earth did I think I would have to criticize Peart AND defend Rand Paul - and both at the same time."

      While I enjoy Rush, many of the bands I enjoy musically are predominantly commie's.

      My hearing isn't that great for a variety of reasons- from years of riding motorcycles without earplugs, I also had to have plugs put in as a child and my hearing wasn't that great even then and I always had constant ear aches)- for a side gig I teach motorcycle safety now and then and use my stupidity in my youth as a teaching moment. I also further damaged my left ear hearing when I forgot to put in my left plug once during some shooting practice with a friend while refreshing some shooting technique with him(yeah...I know-more stupidity). I knew I had done something bad because we were under a pavilion with a sheet metal was in essence an amplification chamber.

      Anyway, I can't hear words/lyrics very well, so that probably influences my musical choices. I do love traditional jazz, but I have to play it loud which is somewhat ironic.

      Rock wise, it's SOAD, Tool, Sound Garden/Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder/Pearl Jam(his Ukulele album has some decent tracks though), Rage Against the Machine, and a host of others.

      Sadly, they are almost all hardcore commies. Part of me believes that if they were just exposed to the right ideas that some of them might re-evaluate, but who knows.

      I'm not going to stop listening to their music because they are misguided- I guess that's another proof of a somewhat free market bringing people together regardless of their differences.

  5. Geat post. I'm listening to Hemispheres right now. I've not listened to this album since the early nineties. I also saw Rush and Primus in 1992. It was a great show, but I was dissapointed that Primus only played a thirty minute set. I did understand why though.

    After many beers, and listening to Suck on This, Fizzle Fry and Sailing the seas of Cheese back to back to back, through Klipsh Chorus IIs, powered by a Nakamichi TA-2 with the volume set at about one o'clock, a friend and I set out to determine Primus's genre. As best we could figure, it is:

    Funky Psychedelic Circus Metal!

    To the best of my knowledge, this genre still awaits it's second worthy inhabitant.

    1. Corrections:

    2. Nice description. Lol. Fishbone kinda all over the map as well...but generally worked where current fusion generally lacks creativity or a definitive sound.

    3. Jeff

      Your post unleashed a memory…when you mentioned “Klipsch.”

      Right around the same time of your memory, I went looking for a new amp and speakers. To try the speakers, I took 5 CDs with me; I had a song from each that I wanted to hear on various speakers.

      I specifically remember two of these, “Tommy the Cat” (the first Primus song I ever heard, and still the most stunning), and “Everybody Hurts,” by R.E.M. (specifically for Michael Stipe’s singing). I don’t remember the other three – I am certain there was one from Rush, probably one from Steve Vai…and then…I’m not sure.

      Anyway, back to Klipsch. So I narrowed it down to Klipsch and B&W. The Klipsch were great, offering a very full sound. The B&W’s were great; a crisp, clean sound.

      I went with the B&W’s.

  6. The fact that you choose the B&Ws over the Klipsch tells me that you had more money than I did at the time.

    1. I don't know - they were at the same price point. If I recall correctly, I put about two or three months' rent into those speakers. I ate a lot of ketchup sandwiches in those days.

    2. The B&W 801s were my dream speakers. One of my friend's father had 801s and a Dynaco tube amp. Best sounding system I've heard outside of a showroom.

      I got my Klipsch used, but they still cost me about two months rent. It's interesting that I can remember how much I paid for those speakers, but am not sure exactly what my rent was.

  7. BM that was a most easy going post. Very simple and kind hearted yet still with a touch of libertarian theory!
    My heart bleeds for all humanity personally as well but past and recent events make me feel like "no more nice Mr. Libertarian".
    Thank you for shining some light onto our hearts sir!