Review Summary: Rush dive into the deep end of 70’s progressive music and hit the ocean floor.
Rush’s transition into the foreboding realms of progressive music wasn’t subtle at all. The band didn’t tip-toe cautiously into the likes of pretentious lyricism, and they certainly didn’t mark their adventurism from album to album with gradually expanding song lengths. No, instead of easing their abilities as songwriters and musicians slowly and carefully, they went with an “all-or-nothing” method. Rush, without warning, dove into the deep end of progressive music and released Caress of Steel
And they got everything completely ***ing wrong.
Instead of maintaining any sense of coherency, both of the album’s epic passages (The Necromancer and the Fountain of Lamneth, respectively) suffer from a crippling disjointedness and lack of consistency. Sure, Lifeson and Lee churn out some fun and undeniably classic-prog riffs and many of the mellower segments within both songs highlight the band’s under-appreciated attention to atmosphere, but both compositions - well over ten minutes in length each - are teeming with seemingly unfinished ideas and flimsy narrative. ‘The Found of Lamneth’ is actually a rather pleasant song until Peart decides to interrupt the flow with a completely irrelevant and needlessly technical drum solo - which is later further complimented by erratic guitar shots and Geddy Lee’s always irritating heliumized shrieking. The song never really finds its feet after this crucial mistake - it merely meanders around aimlessly without any unifying musical themes until the song finally collapses upon itself. This moment of defeat on Caress of Steel
is a microcosm of the entire album - a boatload of terrific ideas marred by lack of direction and outlandish, unnecessary “prog”-moments.
Granted, opener ‘Bastille Day’ and minor radio-hit ‘Lakeside Park’ are good examples of Rush playing it safe and mostly succeeding - each song abides to a standard classic rock sound that is identifiably Rush, but neither song manages to capture the glory of Fly By Night
’s ‘Anthem’ or 2112
’s ‘Passage to Bangkok’ (don’t even get me started on ‘I Think I’m Going Bald’). The magic isn’t there. Yet, I can understand why Caress of Steel
feels so unfinished and lifeless - Rush released Fly By Night, Caress of Steel
all within less than two years of each other. It’s only natural that Caress of Steel
would be a little undercooked contextually... but the band truly did rush themselves into the album and it’s made obvious. The objective truth remains - Rush are better when Peart isn’t narrating kitschy plots through a vocoder and writing lyrics about losing his hair. Luckily, by 2112
, Rush learned how to write a progressive song that doesn’t titillate you with promise only to lead you to disaster. Progress is a beautiful thing to observe.