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Music: Clockwork Angels

"IT SEEMS LIKE A LIFETIME AGO which of course it was, all that and more. For a boy, life on the farm was idyllic, but for the young man I became, that very peace and predictability were stifling, unbearable. I had big dreams, and needed a big place to explore them: the whole wide world.

Near our village of Barrel Arbor, the steamliners touched down and traveled on rails along the Winding Pinion River toward Crown City. Watching them pass in the night, how I prayed to get away . . ."
Caravan liner notes

Clockwork Angels is the 19th studio album and first full-fledged Concept Album by cult Canadian Progressive Rock band Rush. Its basic plot follows the highlights and lowlights taken from the lifetime of an unnamed man living in a Clock Punk and Steam Punk inspired alternate universe.

In the first five songs the setting itself is given more focus but is soon overtaken by much more analogous tales with more prominent themes of illusion.

A novelization co-written by Kevin J. Anderson was published in September 2012, accompanied by an audiobook read by drummer Neil Peart. Anderson, a longtime friend of Peart, worked from his storyline for the album and incorporated snippets of Rush lyrics throughout the book. This was joined by a graphic novel in 2014, and a vague Tweet from Anderson that may point to a movie deal.

Tropes related to Clockwork Angels include:

  • All There in the Manual: Unlike its big brother 2112, this album virtually requires the bonus story snippets in the liner notes. While it's possible to piece together the story with just the songs, having the novelization or liner notes makes it much easier.
  • Author Avatar: A possibly unintentional one. The protagonist seems to share several similarities with Neil: growing up on a farm, going out into the world as a Wide-Eyed Idealist, and eventually having his optimism crushed by a Trauma Conga Line, only to have it restored somewhat near the end.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The chorus from the song "Carnies".
    How I prayed just to get away
    To carry me anywhere
    Sometimes the angels punish us
    By answering our prayers
  • City of Gold
  • Dark Reprise: BU2B2, which dispenses with the heavy rock instrumentation of BU2B in favor of strings, and is all about the belief mentioned in BU2B failing the protagonist.
  • Easter Egg: If you look at the cover (the page image) and assume the normal placement of numbers on an analog clock face, the clock reads 9:12. 9:12 PM is 21:12 when read in 24-hour format.
  • Epic Rocking: To the surprise of no one.
  • Dual Meaning 'Chorus': Subtly done. Carnies has two repeatedly repeated sections that change meaning over the course of the song.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: The title track.
  • Grief Song: BU2B2 is not explicitly a song spurred by the loss of a human life. The liner notes, however, mention that it is an(or is analogous to an) internal monologue based upon all the things that the protagonist has lost, a concept that could be interpreted liberally enough to include such a loss.
  • Loving a Shadow: "Halo Effect" is about when the album's protagonist realizes he's been doing this repeatedly.
  • Miniscule Rocking: To the surprise of everyone.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Ranging from 2 ("Halo Effect") to 8 ("BU2B").
  • Mood Whiplash: Due in part to the borderline Genre Roulette track list.
  • No Name Given: On the album, the main character is never named, and the fandom referred to him as "The Protagonist." The novel named him Owen, and it stuck.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "The Anarchist", "Carnies", "Halo Effect", "The Wreckers". Taken very literally, also "The Garden" (though it refers to "a garden" many times) and "BU2B" (it stands for "Brought Up to Believe", a line that does appear many times in this song).
  • Shout-Out: To Candide, in the final track's notes.
    • The novelization also includes several subtle and not-so-subtle Rush references by plugging in lyrics, song titles, and band member references. (Three clowns Owen meets at the carnival are called Deke, Leke, and Peke. Rush's nicknames are Dirk (Geddy), Lerxst (Alex), and Pratt (Neil). Doesn't help that the audiobook version is read by Neil himself. Something about Neil reading these references in his deep, booming voice is adorable.
  • Small Town Boredom
  • Title Track
  • Wanderlust Song: "Caravan" is the protagonist finally acting upon wanderlust, with the liner notes(See current page quote) detailing the conception and reveling in said feeling
  • Villain Song: "The Anarchist"

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alternative title(s): Clockwork Angels
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