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Rush’s Malignant Narcissism up for a Grammy

Read below regarding the original nomination, but see the Feb 10, 2008 update Geddy Lee and Steve Vai Heckle Springsteen: News at 11 regarding the results.

I usually leave the cool music news to Isorski or Dr. John. But this time I am pleased to be the bazillionth to announce that Rush has been nominated for a 2008 Grammy in the category of Best Rock Instrumental Performance for Malignant Narcissism, a piece off of this year’s Snakes and Arrows album. Be sure and check out the very-attractive-but-turn-your-frickin’-speakers-down-before-clicking Rush website.

The heavy piece has a nice scrunchy bass groove with playful nonlinearities. Unlike many of their other pieces, this one was apparently done largely impromptu with a little nudge from new (phenomenal!) producer Nick Raskulinecz.

YouTube took down the cool fan-based video for Malignant Narcissism I originally posted here, so this is Geddy Lee singing a heartfelt rendition of O Canada from a 1993 MLB all-star game until I find another MN link:

I’ll keep Geddy’s crooning above, but here is a very nice Rush-authorized video (its available on Neil Peart’s own website) for Malignant Narcissism by Bobby over at

If you liked that, and are a Peart admirer, also check out Bobby’s YYZ animation (my only complaint is that it is a bit drum-o-centric, but quite a phenomenal and bold piece of computer animation):

This is the fifth Grammy nomination for a Rush instrumental: YYZ (1981, Moving Pictures), Where’s My Thing? (1991, Roll the Bones), Leave That Thing Alone (1994, Counterparts), and O Baterista (2004, Rush in Rio). They have yet to win. But you know what they say, fifth time’s a charm!

The competition is sort of strange this year, but then again this category has always been a little funny because it isn’t front-and-center. The Grammys are akin to the Oscars in this respect: only the top teenie-bopper pop categories (i.e. ratings grabbers) really get much attention, even though there are gazillions of categories and winners. For example, this year even bread-and-butter Evil gets a nod. King Diamond (yes, people, he’s still “alive”) was nominated in the Best Metal Performance category for a song called Never Ending Hill off of an album titled Give Me Your Soul…Please. If he wins (best of luck, King), somehow I doubt it will make the cover of Hit Parade.

Remember in 1988 when Jethro Tull beat Metallica in the Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal category? I loved that, being a Tull fan. Something not remembered so much today (as reflected in the following otherwise amusing YouTube clip) is that 1988 was the first year Metal was included in the Grammys at all (meshed with the Rock category), so there was bound to be some cultural collisions (an important point the “music journalists” in the clip seem to totally miss). The irony is that Metallica (yes, even old Metallica) barely fits the Metal category anymore. With competition like King Diamond and Slayer, I’m pretty sure a Metallica win in the Best Metal category would cause a similar fit in 2008 as Tull beating Metallica in 1988. Don’t get me wrong, I like Metallica. But, hey, perhaps this IS some Grammy progress after all.

Keep in mind circa 1988 the Rock category itself was still rather new, having only started in 1979. To give you a sense of how comically out-of-touch the people commenting are (e.g. when they say “Jethro Tull shouldn’t have been in that category”) it is instructive to look at who had previously won Grammys in the Rock category:
Eagles, Paul McCartney And Wings, Billy Joel, Bob Seger And The Silver Bullet Band, Police, Donna Summer, Bob Dylan, Pat Benatar, Rick Springfield, Sting, John Cougar Mellencamp, Survivor, Flock Of Seagulls, Prince And The Revolution, Yes, Michael Jackson, Don Henley, Dire Straits, Jeff Beck, Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen, Robert Palmer, Eurythmics, Art Of Noise, Carlos Santana, U2, and Frank Zappa.

Hell, by comparison to these previous winners, Jethro Tull WAS Rock/Heavy Metal. A Metallica win in 1988 (for …In Justice For All) would have been like King Diamond winning best Pop album in 2007. Giving Tull the win at that juncture was the right thing to do. Besides, Metallica eventually learned to sell out and become a Grammy-winning machine (having earned 7 of them since 1988). I still like their music though.

Nevertheless, a Grammy is a Grammy. Here are the other tracks nominated this year in the same category as Malignant Narcissism. I’m guessing Springsteen will get it.

The Ecstasy Of Gold
Track from: We All Love Ennio Morricone
[Sony Classical]

Malignant Narcissism
Track from: Snakes & Arrows

Always With Me, Always With You
Joe Satriani
Track from: Satriani Live!
[Epic/Red Ink]

Once Upon A Time In The West
Bruce Springsteen
Track from: We All Love Ennio Morricone
[Sony Classical]

The Attitude Song
Steve Vai
Track from: Sound Theories Vol. I & II
[Epic/Red Ink]

Although I liked Vapor Trails (May 2002) a bit more, Snakes and Arrows is an outstanding follow-up. If you abandoned Rush after their mullet-laden 80s-90s pop-rock phase starting with bits of 1985’s otherwise excellent Power Windows and leaking well into 1988’s Hold Your Fire, you are in good company. I held out as a Rush Apologist until Roll the Bones, but just couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t revisit 90s albums Counterparts or Test for Echo until after I bought Vapor Trails. In fact, I didn’t gain a full appreciation for Test for Echo until watching Neil Peart’s outstanding drum clinic A Work in Progress.

What I discovered (in hindsight) was that by 1993’s Counterparts they had already started reverting back to their (good) “old ways”, but I was a disillusioned Rush refugee by that point. On the upside, I basically was hit with three “new” albums in 2002 along with Vapor Trails which gave me a chance to rediscover Rush both by connecting with the new material and by taking a trip down memory lane by revisiting the older stuff. Between 2002 and 2006 I saw Rush four times, once in Milan, Italy (I happened to be there for work while they were there). That was probably the same number of times I had seen them total since becoming a Rush fan in 1982. At the Italian show, I remember briefly chatting with some Italian fans who were overjoyed Rush had finally come to visit them, “We have been waiting 30 years for this!” I didn’t have the heart to tell them I had already seen Rush twice in that two-year window.

In the late 80s and 90s, as a 20-something who grew up listening to prog rock classics off of Moving Pictures, 2112, and Permanent Waves, those late 80s-90s albums were, at least as they were released, difficult to digest: too poppy, too homogeneous, too hyper-produced. But now I look back and see them as very well-crafted (albeit a bit self-conscious) albums that reflect exactly what the band wanted to be at that time. They didn’t sell out, that’s exactly the sound they WANTED. That I didn’t enjoy them at the time is simply a matter of local taste and timing. For me, the experience and impression of an album more frequently reflects where I am in life than it does the artistic merits of the work itself. If you are approaching 40 and remember “the good old Rush days” be sure and give those 90s albums another listen. You may be pleasantly surprised — especially with the filters of time on your side.

Now it is time to come home. Don’t be shy. Its ok to be an Old School Progified MathRocker again.

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