Ah, Rush. One of the three bands that first got me listening to music as a hobby. Widely recognized as one of the best bands of the 70's and 80's, Rush has cranked out album after album for over 30 years, every one a masterpiece in itself. Grace Under Pressure represents a full departure from the lingering half-progressive, half-synth sound of Moving Pictures and Signals, into a full-blown synthesizer-dominated era ending in 1989 with Presto. While some will argue that this development was a negative one for Rush, all my very favorite Rush albums come from this era. This one being a more recent addition to my library, I was not disappointed.
Geddy Lee- vocals, bass, synths
Alex Lifeson- guitar
Neil Peart- the best drummer to walk this earth
Grace Under Pressure was written during the Cold War. A scant few years after the harrowing Cuban Missile Crisis, the threat of nuclear fallout and the end of the world was still fresh in everyone's minds. Neil apparently decided to write his lyrics about this forboding topic, and as such Grace Under Pressure is very dark, compared to Rush's other albums. The synths are almost constantly going, but they create a sad, or ominous sound rather than the futuristic role they played in previous Rush efforts. This is by no means to say that there's anything wrong with the music. As a matter of fact, it's all spectacular. The opening Distant Early Warning has Alex clashing high-pitched chords to Geddy's slick keyboards, the Body Electric has a plodding, rhythmic guitar-syth duo, with Neil pounding away in the background, and Red Lenses is a strange, otherworldly-sounding montage of ingenius chaos. As always, the music of Rush is original and flawlessly executed. The synths really give Grace Under Pressure a full and rich sound, but the guitar never fully gives way, only pausing for brief periods to build emotion.
If the music is dark, the lyrics of this record are even darker. Distant Early Warning refers to "singing in the acid rain", and Red Sector A inquires "are we the last ones left alive?" In fact, nearly every song seems to have an underlying message of the end of the world, with the exception of The Body Electric and Kid Gloves. And while those two songs don't deal with a Soviet takeover or Nuclear war, the Body Electric is about an android escaping the slavery of factory work, and the Kid Gloves is about the pressures of youth to conform (like Subdivisions). No happy-go-lucky Marathons or Freewills here. However, this is once again not a bad thing, in fact it makes this one of the most atmospheric albums in Rush's repertoire.
Grace Under Pressure doesn't have any low points to speak of (but then most Rush albums don't), and this is one of their most different-sounding records. If you tire of the space-epics of Hemispheres and 2112 or the urban soundscapes of Moving Pictures and Signals, come to the syth-era of Rush. You'll find such jewels as Grace Under Pressure, and be sure that Rush deosn't compromise when it comes to technicality, even if they're letting the synths do the heavy lifting. Each member or Rush makes a contribution to each song with his instrument, and all the parts never get quite drowned out or lost in the rich sound. Pick this one up, if you haven't experienced it yet. It's become one of my favorites.
Good review. I think you were stretching it little by adding in the Cuban Missile Crisis bit, as it happened more than twenty years before the recording, but the Cold War analogy was a very good one. I've yet to pick this album up, but almost every Rush review on here, including this one, has made me want to pick up whichever album was being reviewed. Again, good job. It gets my vote.
Thanks for the comments, I find that writing a non-track-by-track is alot harder but more fulfilling to those who are actually willing to read the whole thing. I have a sneaking suspicion that TbT reviews are flawed in that most people only read about a few songs. Lol but that's just me. Again, thanks for the props.
Rush, one of the worst bands I've ever had the displeasure of listening to. On a side note, this website isn't letting me give their earlier albums the terrible ratings they also deserve. This Message Edited On 06.25.07
I have to say that this album is my favorite Rush album if taken as a whole. Given that EVERYONE was using synth at the time, their use of it was well done. I was 7 when this album came out and it is the first album of theirs that I remember and though dome preceding albums have reached as high a pedestal for me, only Power Windows even come close of the albums thereafter.
Rush is one of the most musically articulate bands that have ever graced the planet. Very few groups come close to the leve of invention and consistency that these guys do. Thing is that I don't like anything after this record, up to and including 'Roll The Bones'. I think 'Power Windows', 'Hold Your Fire' and 'Presto' are incredibley cold and unmoving albums. But, nearly everything else has at least something to offer. Nothing beats the Prog-Metal period from 'Fly By Night' to 'Hemispheres', but the reinvention period of the early 80's is just as important. Great band that never grows old.