In 1984, progressive rock was long dead and synthesizers had become the norm for any 70's band who had survived into the 80's. While bands like Yes and Genesis were making simple pop music for the era, Rush were using synths to progress their sound in true progressive fashion. The type of music the band wanted to make was perfect for the synthesizer. The synths that Rush used conveyed many emotions that many other bandwagon-jumping bands could not perfect. It complimented the music perfectly, and Rush were still undeniably themselves; refusing to jump on trends but rather keep the same attitude while adapting to the changes around them.
was one of the first examples of a completely synth-dominated album by a prog band that was actually good, and with Grace Under Pressure
this sound continues, with the synths becoming ever more prominent in the mix, and while there isn't much guitar solo wankery, or any wankery at all, this is not a bad thing. Rush are trying to write respectable songs here; and they accomplish it. They sound great. And the new sound provided a sleek, smooth sound to the band. While it was not a welcome change for all, the music is widely agreed to be worthwhile.
While the lyrics on this one delve more into actual realistic themes like the Cuban missile crisis ("Distant Early Warning"), wasted youth who sit on their ass all day ("Between the Wheels"), and even the Holocaust ("Red Sector A"), the musicianship is just as great as it once was as well, despite the radical changes. Musically, the band is far tighter than on their previous album. The synths sound less awkward and mesh in with the overall sound far more smoothly than before. Geddy's bass has more groove than it ever had, and his voice is at a peak from a professional standpoint. Neil's drums are exactly what you'd expect from Neil Peart, and Alex, despite being referred to as a weak link on the synth-era albums, showcases some riffs that belong in the goddamn Rush Hall of Fame, like the aforementioned "Between the Wheels" featuring an excellent solo among the band's most soulful pieces, and on "The Enemy Within" Lifeson's guitar is filled with reggae-influence.
But of course a Rush album is good musically and lyrically. But the attitude and overall feel that the album has is simply wonderful. The band sound so exciting here; like they really love to play. Every note, every vocal, every lyric; it all adds to the package. The album has stellar flow, with themes of persistence and perseverance through tough times, and these emotions reflect in the sound of the music itself, which is another area where the synths prevail. The songs on Grace Under Pressure
will inspire you to get up and do something with your life (besides listen to Rush).
This is another worthy piece in Rush's extensive catalogue and while the dominative synths may be a turn-off for some, those that do not mind a little polish will find a fantastic album.