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Music / Clockwork Angels

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"In a world where I feel so small/I can't stop thinking big…"

"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 travelled 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 nineteenth and final studio album by Rush, released in 2012 through Anthem Records (in conjunction with Roadrunner Records outside the band's native Canada). Its basic plot follows the highlights and lowlights taken from the lifetime of an unnamed man living in a Clock Punk and Steampunk 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 long-time friend of Peart, worked from his storyline for the album. This was joined by a graphic novel in 2014, and a vague Tweet from Anderson that may point to a movie deal. In 2015, Peart and Anderson collaborated again on a loose sequel, Clockwork Lives.. During the final years of his life, Peart began working with Anderson on a third and final novel in the storyline; after Peart's death, his widow gave Anderson permission to continue the project. It was published as Clockwork Destiny in 2022. All three books incorporate snippets of Rush lyrics and references to song titles.


  1. "Caravan"
  2. "BU2B"
  3. "Clockwork Angels"
  4. "The Anarchist"
  5. "Carnies"
  6. "Halo Effect"
  7. "Seven Cities of Gold"
  8. "The Wreckers"
  9. "Headlong Flight"
  10. "BU2B2"
  11. "Wish Them Well"
  12. "The Garden"

Principal Members:

  • Geddy Lee - lead vocals, bass, synthesizer
  • Alex Lifeson - guitar, keyboard
  • Neil Peart - drums, percussion

Seven Cities of Tropes:

  • 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.
  • Ambiguously Brown: In the graphic novel, Owen is illustrated as looking vaguely Southeast Asian or possibly Polynesian, albeit with somewhat more pale skin than is usual (though still definitely not white, at least not wholly). As he isn't described as being a certain race in the book, this isn't a Race Lift.
  • 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.
  • As the Good Book Says...: The Clockwork Angels quote a bit of Proverbs 3:5 (as the liner notes point out "as also seen on an In-N-Out milkshake!") during the automaton's proclamations to the city square.
  • Bad Samaritan: The titular characters in "The Wreckers" have set up a beacon to lure ships into crashing on rocks during storms so they can plunder the wreckage.
  • 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
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Both the Watchmaker and The Anarchist are opposed with each other with vastly different ideals. The Watchmaker a control freak who keeps society under his thumb via a quasi-religious social order with strict dicta for people's personal lives with no freewill, and The Anarchist a violent rebel who seeks to spite The Watchmaker by destroying his order. By the end the protagonist learns to live a life free from The Watchmaker's obsessive control, but doesn't embrace The Anarchist's violence; instead learning that forgiving others and cultivating a charitable legacy is the life fulfillment he needs.
  • City of Gold: The protagonist is looking for one in the aptly titled "Seven Cities of Gold" and nearly dies when caught in a snowstorm in the desert in the attempt.
  • Dark Reprise: BU2B2, which dispenses with the heavy rock instrumentation of BU2B in favour of strings, and is all about the belief mentioned in BU2B failing the protagonist.
  • Dual Meaning 'Chorus': Subtly done. Carnies has two repeatedly repeated sections that change meaning over the course of the song.
  • Easter Egg: If you look at the cover (the page image) and assume the normal placement of numbers on an analogue clock face, the clock reads 9:12. 9:12 PM is 21:12 when read in 24-hour format, and Neil Peart's birthday is September 12 (9/12).
  • Epic Rocking: To the surprise of no one.
  • 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 (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.
  • Grand Finale: Clockwork Angels became this with respect to the band's studio discography, as they didn't record any further albums before their breakup in 2018 and Neil's death in 2020.
  • Loudness War: It's not as bad an example as Vapor Trails, but this album's production has nonetheless received some criticism for falling into this trope. It's arguably the album's only major flaw.
  • Loving a Shadow: "Halo Effect" is about when the album's protagonist realizes he's been doing this repeatedly.
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: While The Watchmaker isn't exactly unknown to his subjects... his public face is the titular Clockwork Angels, automatons that spill out decrees on The Watchmaker's behalf.
  • Miniscule Rocking: To the surprise of everyone. BU2B2 clocks in at a very short 1:27.
  • 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 Hardy, 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).
  • One-Word Title: "Caravan" and "Carnies".
  • The Resenter: The lyrics of 'The Anarchist' portray the eponymous villain as this.
  • 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 named Deke, Leke, and Peke. The band members' 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.
      • Clowns resembling Deke, Leke and Peke are played by the band members in a video intro that ran at the start of each show on the Clockwork Angels Tour.
  • Title Track: "Clockwork Angels"
  • Transmutation:
    • The Watchmaker's rise to power is fueled partly by his discovery of a method to create vast quantities of gold.
    • The Anarchist's ability to harness alchemy to create the seemingly impossible; a diamond infused with his own blood, is the origin of his feud with The Watchmaker who he believes stole his achievement.
  • Villain Song:
    • "The Anarchist", sung from the viewpoint of a villain.
    • "The Wreckers", sung from the viewpoint of the protagonist whose ship is destroyed and looted by them.
  • Wanderlust Song: "Caravan" is the protagonist finally acting upon wanderlust, and Owen's acting upon this is what kicks off the plot of the novel.

What do you lack?