A few years back I reviewed a Kindle Single, a keen drummer’s list of his Top 30 Drummers. Keen drummers don’t always make the best writers and this book – well it’s a sliver of a book (as is the point of Kindle Singles – seems wrong in this instance to bestow a title like essay) – is very poorly written. But, hey, points for trying, I guess. In this brave new world we can all be writers if we want. And we can all be reviewers too. And so on.
So good on Ian Worrall for having his say – but his list is riddled with typos, lurches along with little in the way of punctuation and then, most shockingly – well, it’s not a shock as such but certainly most disappointingly – the list finishes with his #1 pick being Neil Peart.
I imagine there are few drummers about who haven’t heard of Neil Peart – and certainly if you’ve ever read a drum magazine you’ll know all about Peart even if you’ve never heard his band, Rush.
I couldn’t recommend you ever listen to Rush. Although I’m oddly a bit of a sucker for one of their worst albums, go figure.
Blame Canada and run for the hills. A better solution than giving this music a go. Trust me on that.
Rush formed in 1968 but the core trio – the band that was Rush – came together in 1974. Neil Peart completed the lineup. He was arguably the spiritual centre of the group, chief lyricist and he designed the lazy susans on which his arsenal of drums revolved.
I’m baffled – to this day – that so many drummers love Neil Peart. That so many Rush fans…er…exist.
And yes, Peart passed away recently, and that is sad and he had trauma and sadness in his life. This is no dig at any of that. This is purely about the rating of him as a drummer.
As a Modern Drummer enthusiast I had read all about Neil Peart’s multitude of drums and his complex rhythmic changes and the fact that he wrote the lyrics. I knew about his motorcycle riding adventures and his penchant for headwear. But I’d never heard his playing. The way he was being written up he had to be the best thing ever – better than my heroes of the time (Ringo, John Bonham, Stewart Copeland, Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, Sheila E. and Max Roach – to name just a few). Neil Peart had to be the best. I was also expecting Rush to be pretty spectacular.
And then I heard Rush.
You couldn’t make up a better parody band. Honestly, these guys should be opening for a puppet show.
A bass player with an impossibly stupid voice (how did it get so high? I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy?) and collectively it’s a trio of musicians all busy solving riddles with their playing, serving no groove, pushing no song anywhere near euphoria unless you’re the 40 Year Old Virgin.
The Dude-Bro Music of prog-rock, that’s what Rush is and its fans are a special breed. In fact it’s as if the band named itself after its fans’ breathing pattern, all moisty-palmed and hung up on the maths-problem sound of the band’s music.
And Peart’s lyrics? A fan of fantasy fiction and sci-fi and philosophy – presumably the fortune cookie kind: “why are we here? Because we’re here. Roll the bones”. Thanking you, Confucius. But wait, there’s more. “Why does it happen? Because it happens. Roll the bones.” Ah, I see.
Perplexed by the Roll the Bones album – especially that idiotic title song – I figured I’d just got Rush on a bad day. So it was back to Moving Pictures and forward to Counterparts, to compilation albums and even 2004’s EP of rock covers, Feedback. I’ve watched concert videos and YouTube clips and Neil Peart’s performance at the Buddy Rich tribute show…and, well, on and on it goes. And it goes nowhere.
I shouldn’t make it seem as though I’ve wasted a huge part of my life trying to like Rush – I have not. I’ve simply given them some time given all the Rush gushing that comes from the eager fans I’ve encountered, from across-the-counter record store conversations (when I was on the working side), from reading Modern Drummer, seeing Geddy Lee on every other month’s cover of whatever bass player magazine it was that used to float around in the store where I worked; from perusing an interview with Lifeson back in my Guitar World–reading days…
It’s not that I don’t understand Rush. Okay, okay, clearly I don’t. But it’s more that the thing most people consider to be the band’s strength – or at the least a very crucial ingredient, that being Neil Peart – is the part I think takes away from the band. Peart can’t groove. He’s too busy showing you his remote control kits that spin around; his exotic percussion samples that he polyrhythms over, his time spent nailing paradiddles. It’s all so boring. And grooveless.
I’d go so far as to say that Neil Peart is the most overrated drummer of the past 30-40 years.
A list of Top 30 Drummers with Neil Peart even in it – even included anywhere on the list let alone at No 1 – is a list I can’t take seriously. Can someone please explain the appeal of Rush? Any Rush fans out there?
And if you had to pick just your No 1 drummer, who would it be? One drummer – the top of your list? I’m going with Bernard Purdie. (Well, that’s my answer today anyway.)
Postscript/s: Here’s Neil Peart’s shockingly dull, groove-less, lifeless drum solo from Letterman’s Drum Solo Week, 2011. He might as well be working under the hood of a car.
Of course I’ve since published my own Kindle-single type e-book about drummers so I’ll no doubt be the subject of rants elsewhere for who I included and more likely for who I didn’t.