Review Summary: Forget a sequel, this album is the real "Moving Pictures"
“Signals” is the red light that stopped many fans dead in their tracks. For the Canadian Rock Trio, 1982 is the year everything changed. The synth drenched compositions of this album threw many into leaving the Rush fan-base and handed the green light to many music critics who had been looking to heavily pan Rush since their inception. Most were turned off when it became apparent the straightforward guitar driven rock sound was missing. It was all but presumable for almost every band that entered the 80’s still alive. The unusual hit off of the album, ‘New World Man’ came from nowhere street and wrecked the charts with a stunning #21 Billboard Hit, Rush’s highest chart to date. Although as underrated it was at the time, the song structures would show as the forefront to Rush’s 80’s sound until the next decade, and would become the focal point of Rush’s synth driven era.
However, this album is the real Moving Pictures. The songs push past the lyrics of fiction and sci-fi themes to reveal the deep side of Rush. A side that anyone can relate to if they actually try, and that is a side that many would not like to face. It’s the visual image of your problems and fears in the mirror and the feeling of sadness and creative depressions. Rush cloned the feeling well, as is apparent from the “moving” melody of ‘The Analog Kid’. “You move me, you move me/With your buildings and your eyes/Autumn woods and winter skies/You move me, you move me/Open sea and city lights/Busy streets and dizzy heights”
The hit songs ‘Subdivisions’ and ‘New World Man’ were sudden changes of pace compared to the hailed and overplayed ‘Tom Sawyer’. From the beginning of ‘Subdivisions’, the haunting uncertainty of the synth drives deep emotional feedback into the listener. 7/8 paces of underlying moods push into the listener’s feeling of the heart, while the 4/4 tempo gathers the well of emotion a great deal more than a rock classic such as this should. Rush certainly demonstrates that they can influence emotion while creating a driving force behind it all. Songs akin of ‘Losing It’ and ‘Subdivisions’ explain the true passion behind the record, but the tracks ‘Chemistry’ and ‘The Analog Kid’ show the side older Rush fans may enjoy. Even the song ‘Digital Man’ has a reggae pressure to it, those who enjoyed Rush’s previous flirts with reggae would heavily commend.
Excerpt from ‘Losing It’
“The dancer slows her frantic pace
In pain and desperation,
Her aching limbs and downcast face
Aglow with perspiration
Stiff as wire, her lungs on fire,
With just the briefest pause
The flooding through her memory,
The echoes of old applause.
She limps across the floor
And closes her bedroom door...”
Neil Peart’s lyrics are much more focused and in sync with life on Signals. Troubles of life and the insecurity for growing up and getting older sway the general feeling of the album. The lyrics themselves are incredibly well thought out and processed. Geddy Lee’s singing fit perfectly with the new sound and created a motivating masterpiece of grandeur.
Excerpt from ‘Subdivisions’
“Be cool or be cast out
Any escape might help disprove
The unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth”
“Signals” shows a passion that many deny and others push aside. Every song shows musical complexity in its rawest form, whether it’s reserved or a sprawled-out intricate array of imagination. Along with the auras of Hope and Faith present in the lyrics and melodies, “Signals” is a psychologically captivating classic. Every track and space fits seamlessly into the next, weaving such a masterpiece as this.
Don’t get me wrong, this album isn’t just about gushy feelings, Rush still shows that they’ve got their stuff, as the guitarist Alex Lifeson presents on the track: ‘The Analog Kid’. The mechanical drum beat of ‘The Weapon’ is catchy to say the least. It drives a tough and intricate lyrical trance on life’s fears. The album also shows it has guts with its epic closer ‘Countdown’, that is strangely about a space shuttle launch. I can’t imagine how anyone could make a serious song about that, but Rush pulls it off with gliding wonder. I love it. It’s those kinds of surprises that Signals pitches into the right field.