Review by Luke Henson
YYNOT started life as a Rush tribute band, so it should come as no surprise that their self-titled debut album (released on June 1st) sounds a LOT like Rush. Rush so happens to be my favorite band of all time and the one that got me into progressive and classic rock, so I was quite pleased to hear an album of quality, Rush-esque original music from one of the best tribute bands around!
The first thing you need to know is that Tim Starace is THE MAN. You will seldom find such a technically talented bassman! Tonally, of course, he sounds very much like Geddy Lee, but he is by no means a carbon copy. His licks are a lot of fun to listen to, especially for a bass nerd like me. YYNOT differs from your average Rush cover band because Tim does not sing. That job is left to young prodigy Rocky Kuner, a very strong female singer. Geddy’s voice is very high and so she actually does a better job of harnessing his vocal style than most of today’s male Rush tribute band singers. On this album, however, she sounds more like herself, which I enjoy.
YYNOT kicks off with a hard-rocking, borderline pop song, “Hourglass.” Right off the bat, they are sounding a lot like Rush. This one features the heavy riffs of 70s Rush and the catchy melodies of 80s Rush. It’s a great opener. The next track, “Invisible Heart,” is lyrically the best track on the album. Its storytelling style reminds me of classic Rush ballads “Losing It” and “Tears.” “Etheria” opens with a fantastic Lifeson-style riff, played on acoustic guitar by Billy Alexander.
The next song, “To Come Back Home,” is my favorite on the record. It kicks off with some very Moving Pictures-esque synthesizer work before shifting into a beautiful acoustic ballad. The lyrics are powerful and fit the melody very well. Starace’s playing is less busy than usual, but still difficult and adds a lot to the song. Alexander contributes the best solo on the album, one that reminds me more of Yes’ Trevor Rabin than a Rush solo. For me, personally, this is the moment on the record when YYNOT stops being a Rush tribute band and comes into their own as brilliant progressive pop songwriters in their own right. It’s possibly the best new track I’ve heard this year.
The next track, “Kingdom Come,” is possibly the most progressive on the album. It sounds like a B-side from Hemispheres or A Farewell To Kings-and it’s arguably more interesting than some of the shorter songs on those albums! Drummer Joel Stevenett is in top form, guiding the band through several surprising time changes while throwing in some groovy, Peart-esque fills. Unfortunately, this is where the band gets a bit too “interesting.” The track opens up with a semi-corny comedy routine, which I’m still not sure if I like. The intro includes some fake crowd noise, which I really don’t think is necessary. But hey, nothing here is as bad as the rapping on “Roll The Bones.” Just like Rush, they’re having a little fun, and a lot of the prog world seems to have forgotten how to do that!
“The Curtain Falls” has a more 80s-Rush sound than the previous track, and even-dare I say it?-a modern pop feel. I think you could get away with playing it on the radio in 2018 (that’s not altogether a bad thing!). The next track, “Another Trip Around The Sun,” reminds me of a cross between “2112” and underrated Rush track “Ghost Of A Chance.” It has a funky, almost ominous feel to it, which I like. It’s possibly Kuner’s strongest performance on the album, and features a lot of fun rhythm section noodling in the guitar solo. The next track, “Run On Love,” is another great one. It legitimately sounds like a cut from one of Rush’s first two albums-and it’s probably better than some of those songs! It’s insanely catchy, too; It’s been stuck in my head all day. “YYNOT” closes out the album, and fellow Rush-heads will correctly guess that it’s an instrumental. Alexander, Starace and Stevenett get their chance to show off on this track, and it’s full of guitar solos, bass licks, and drum fills that will please any Rush fan!
The only real problem I have with YYNOT is the mix. I almost never say this, but there’s a bit too much bass! I realize that it’s supposed to sound like Rush and Geddy always turned his bass up pretty loud, but the bass isn’t mixed this high on any Rush album I can think of. Alexander and Stevenett are extremely talented musicians, but sadly I think some of their best moments get lost in the mix at times. The guitar tone in particular is a bit muddy.
This is a solid album, and when you consider that it’s a debut album from a tribute band, it’s incredible for what it is! While not every song is an instant classic, there are some real gems here and the band members are all extremely skilled. I’m excited to see what YYNOT has in store for us going forward!