Backbeat Books has a noteworthy non-fiction franchise in
its “FAQ” series, a string of books that covers all manner of pop
culture topics like films, filmmakers, t.v. shows and especially bands and
singers. These books are often subtitled “All That’s Left To Know About…
” and act as next-level texts designed to accompany a conventional
biography or historical overview via essays, interviews and other features that
allow fan to go deeper into knowledge and conjecture on their pop culture topic
offers an effective example of how this supplemental approach can work. Author
Max Mobley, a veteran rock journalist with a longtime interest in Rush, has
taken the “all that’s left to know” mandate to heart and produced a
book of essays that touch on topics that might be considered too personal or
esoteric for the conventional ‘Rush 101’ tome.
If you’re already up to speed on the basics about the band, it’s a
frequently rewarding read.
The opening chapters start off simply enough: Mobley
pens a piece that pays tribute to early Rush drummer John Rutsey, breaks down
the different types of Rush fan and analyzes three albums that represented
pivotal moments for the band’s career. The most rewarding chapter in this early
section is an 18-page essay that goes in-depth on the evolution of how
keyboards and synthesizers were incorporated into the Rush sound by Geddy Lee.
It delves into granular detail about the types of gear he used over the years,
the motivations behind their use and how the evolution of keyboard and
programming technology interacted with Lee’s ambitions for fleshing out the
group’s sound. It’s a real piece of scholarship and worth the price of the book
But that’s not all Rush
FAQ has to offer. As great as the keyboard analysis is, the true heart of
this book and the greatest value it offers to the Rush fanbase is a lengthy
string of chapters that explore Rush’s live albums and concert videos, starting
with All The World’s A Stage in 1976
and continuing all the way to the Clockwork
Angels Tour in 2013.
Mobley contextualizes each release within the arc of the
band’s touring career, assesses their strengths and weaknesses, goes into
specific detail on the gear each band member used for the tour in question and
discusses unique elements of the setlist, including if a rare number was
revived for a tour or how material was reinterpreted over time. Live albums
usually get cursory discussion in band books so this aspect of Rush FAQ makes it of special interest
to the band’s fanbase, offering a worthy supplement to the extensive
exploration of the band’s studio albums in other books.
The final pages of Rush
FAQ cover a few more areas of interest for the band’s fans. There’s an
interesting chapter on Peart’s lyrical style, including a few examples of how
they are sometimes misinterpreted, and a good piece exploring the Vapor Trails album and the factors
behind its odd, overdriven sound as well as a defense of why it needed remixing.
There’s also a nifty look at Le Studio, the now-shuttered Canadian live-in
studio where the band recorded several key albums. The book was written around
the time Rush was invited to join the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, so there’s
a chapter exploring the different angles of that moment, including (of course)
Alex Lifeson’s controversial acceptance speech.
In short, Rush
FAQ lives up to its subtitle for the group’s fanbase. Consider it advanced
reading, the kind of book that allows you to take your Rush studies into the
obsessive territory that a fan already acclimated to the band and their work
will want to explore.