Review Summary: An overlooked piece of art that offers something different from Rush
Rush had recently gone through a revolution that came in the form of 1982’s synth dominated Signals
. Gone were the rock anthems of Red Barchetta and The Spirit of Radio and the progressive classics such as Xanadu and Jacob’s Ladder, which were discarded in favour of a more contemporary sound that retained the unmistakeable Rush vibe. Unfortunately, this change came at a price, which was that Alex Lifeson was pushed to the bottom of the mix, whilst Geddy Lee’s keyboards came into play. What happened after Signals
was that Rush came up with a compromise in the form of Grace Under Pressure
Effectively, this album is a continuation of the futuristic synthesizer sound of Signals
, whilst returning Alex Lifeson to the limelight. The result is an album that is unique in Rush’s discography, and – more importantly – more than a little amazing.
The album kicks off with fan favourite Distant Early Warning
, which immediately introduces an spacey sound laden with Geddy’s bass, which you’ll hear a lot of in this album. The song does everything right; throwing around enough keyboard melodies to categorize it distinctly into Rush’s 80s period, whilst rocking hard enough to make it easy to imagine that this album could have followed Moving Pictures
, and then have been succeeded by Signals
. If you are looking for a general preview of the album, this is a great place to start, since it contains aspects of all the other songs whilst still being interesting in itself.
Next up is Afterimage
, which is very upbeat compared to Distant Early Warning
, and quite a bit darker; hardly surprising when you consider that it was written about one of Neil Peart’s
friends who sadly passed away. “I feel the way you would” certainly conveys a sense of what Peart must have felt. This song is very catchy as well as slightly sad, and Alex’s power chord solo will stay in your head for days. In my opinion, this takes most of the aspects of Distant Early Warning
to greater extremity, as it is faster, catchier, longer and (IMO) better.
To follow up to Afterimage, Rush could either write an even more similarly upbeat song or do something totally different. Red Sector A
is unique in their discography. The simplest way to put this would be ‘a dark pop song’, but that does it no justice. The keyboards are prevalent here to a greater extent than the rest of the album, but it is focused around Geddy’s singing (which is very strong throughout the album), especially the lyrics. Neil Peart wrote this song about the holocaust, and the subject matter of “ragged lines of ragged grey” combines with the futuristic vibe to create a song that is very dark, very memorable and absolute win. Hear this if you haven’t already; it’s a surreal experience.
After Red Sector A
, the album could easily have reached a climax and failed to carry on at the incredible standard performed thus far. Fortunately, Rush were hardly going to allow this to happen, so they recorded one of the most underrated songs I’ve ever heard. The Enemy Within
is the perfect song to succeed Red Sector A’s
depressing message; it is even more upbeat than Afterimage
, but without the melancholy lyrics; this song is full of energy and makes you feel good to be alive. The highlight and driving force is without a doubt Geddy’s bass line, which Lifeson plays around flawlessly. My personal favourite from the album; a must have if you like Rush.
Unfortunately, Rush couldn’t maintain complete perfection for more than the first half. The Body Electric
is a great song, but it fails to stand out as much as any of the songs that preceded it. However, it is still worth listening to, as Geddy’s binary in the chorus works very well, and the lyrics are based on the original subject matter of “A humanoid escaping/An android on the run”, which has later inspired Nevermore’s Sentient 6
After The Body Electric
lowered the bar along slightly, what Rush needed to do was to put a winner in slot #6, a song that would add a new perspective to the album whilst shining alongside the first four tracks. Kid Gloves
succeeds in offering a new perspective with its plucky, upbeat nature, but it sadly fails to impress as much as any of the other songs. Lyrically, it’s a continuation from Subdivisions
, with lines like “It’s tough to be so cool”
After Kid Gloves
lowered the album’s profile once more, Rush could pretty much follow it with anything of similar or higher quality. Red Lenses
is the strange song on the album; half funky singing, half proggy interludes, it does not surpass anything on the album in terms of quality, but is both impressive and memorable and a decent song to boot.
Rush have done everything they need to do so far; they’ve recorded upbeat songs, sad songs, weird songs and happy songs, whilst maintaining an incredible musical standard in tracks 1-4 and a decent standard in tracks 5-7. All they need to do now is to throw in something slightly better than the songs before it to end the album with a bang. Between The Wheels
does this perfectly, as it features great interplay between Alex and Geddy throughout, keeps the listener hooked through the jarring keyboards in the verse and has a great guitar solo to top it all off. The chorus is strong and dramatic, and it all comes together to make a great closer.
Excellent first half (it could have been a 5 if they’d kept up the standard)
Variety of songs, which all share the same vibe
The second half isn’t nearly as good as the first half (still worth hearing though)
Top 5 Songs
1. The Enemy Within
2. Red Sector A
4. Distant Early Warning
5. Between The Wheels
With Grace Under Pressure,
Rush perfected the sound that they would use throughout the 80s, and just for that it deserves more recognition, never mind the fact that the first four songs are all classics. If you like Rush, buy this. I’m giving it a very strong 4/5