After nearly 30 years together, the members of Toronto power trio Rush have little left to achieve. The band has released a slew of albums (at one point, three in 18 months) that will be fodder for classic-rock radio stations until well after the polar ice caps melt away. They're all rolling in the dough, and are regarded as masterminds by many other musicians: All those best-of-all-time lists that crop up in guitar and percussion geek-mags usually feature drummer Neil Peart and bassist Geddy Lee (even if guitarist Alex Lifeson rarely makes the cut).

Ask most air guitar-toting Americans of a certain age to name one band from their neighbor to the north, and Rush almost always gets the nod. In Canada, they are demigods, a part of the country's very fabric; the group's name invokes a Springsteenian rush of patriotism.

But how cool is this: Rush was a leitmotif on the cult TV comedy show, Mystery Science Theater 3000, during its heyday. A scary network of Rush maniacs chronicled the outbursts, all of which are now available online in WAV format. For example, when a headphones-wearing corpse appears in one of the movies MST3K is cracking wise about, co-host Tom Servo blurts out, "He died listening to Rush," and one of his partners intones, "2112." Another time, MST3K concludes that a rustic cabin in the cinematic Canadian woods must be "Geddy Lee's birthplace!" (For what it's worth, Lee is said to be a fan of the show, and MST3K was thanked by the band in the liner notes of the 1993 album Counterparts.)

With such a bona fide legacy -- and admittedly, some lean years along the way -- it might be surprising to some that the band hasn't gone into Stones mode, i.e., concede that its best music is long past and stage quadrennial mega-tours. But with the recent release of Vapor Trails -- their first studio album in five years -- it's clear that the band isn't running on fumes.

As usual the lyrics are all Peart's. Even before his personal hell unfolded -- the deaths of his teenage daughter and his wife in the span of a year -- the hyperliterate drummer was already regarded as an introverted intellect who hid behind his phalanx of drums. Peart's lyrics are more concise here than on albums past, though as usual, the debate still rages: Are Peart's musings stream-of-conscience psychobabble (that only innumerable bong hits could decode) or a brilliant sociopolitical commentary about man's constant struggle against oppression, à la Bad Religion? Or are they both?

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Greg Barr
Contact: Greg Barr