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Rush - Permanent Waves CD (album) cover




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4.28 | 2123 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Review 37, Permanent Waves, Rush, 1980

StarStarStarStar Permanent Waves is naturally paired with its successor, Moving Pictures. In my opinion, Permanent Waves is a much, much better album, with more genuine and moving atmospheres, the boring moments focused on a couple of shorter tracks rather than creating a sort of inverse magnum opus in The Camera Eye. The high points of the album definitely merit the cost, but there are weaknesses. I enjoy this one.

Noone can accuse Rush of not having a knack for openers, and The Spirit of Radio is proof of this, with great rocking guitar parts, a non-screechy, yet enjoyable and singalongable vocal from Lee (combined with a humming and very liberated bass part), Peart throws in great normal drumming, as well as shining with glockenspiel (or something similar) and tympani in the more progressive sections. Some solid enjoyable lyrics sail behind the music, including a nicely-used reference to Simon And Garfunkel's The Sound Of Silence. The combination of rather progressive sections and harder rock is handled sublimely, and we get a lively and energetic solo from Lifeson.

Freewill's opening comparatively lumbers a bit, with overdone synths and a rather awkward ambling guitar part (coupled with boring, bombastic drums). It doesn't help that the lyrics are, while original in idea and form of expression, very forced at times ('they weren't born in lotus-land'). The choruses pick up a lot musically, but Geddy's voice just doesn't quite make the impact that it sometimes does. A rather mechanically inserted instrumental break features some rather odd bass playing from Geddy, a many-many notes per second solo from Lifeson, that was a bit acquired for me, but I now enjoy it. The conclusion is really no better than the original part, and the song overall a rather bland experience.

Jacob's Ladder is a surprising gem, with a very dark, powerful atmosphere that Rush rarely attempt to build. The Lee-Peart rhythm section outdo themselves, through a rather vicious, military and driving feel. Lifeson shifts adeptly between a dark rhythm guitar and some stunning solos. Geddy Lee handles the vocals with tension and emotion, and his synths are a lighter counterpart to the powerful guitar, rather than ineffectual. In the build-up to a massive crashing section, we get a great decisiveness and a feeling of spontaneity that Rush often seems to lack. Everyone on top form, and the atmosphere is very moving.

Entre Nous is rather a let-down after this, because the vocal is simply annoying and upbeat, failing to provide a real feel (the lyrical idea is good enough, though the wording doesn't satisfy me). The guitars are top notch, using acoustics and electrics well. Peart is responsible, with a rolling style more reminiscent of his earlier stuff on 2112 or Caress Of Steel, for most of the impact of the chorus, but his work on the verses simply holds no real interest for me, getting annoying if I listen too hard. A synth solo actually works better than I'd have expected, and it does give an opportunity to a brief, but no less likable, bass solo from Lee. Not absolutely terrible, but it leaves a lot to be desired.

The gentle song of the album, Different Strings, is a very good piece, with a combination of acoustic guitar and a wonderful piano that weaves into it, an effectively uplifting bass (a rarity) part, and some decent Peart additions on drums from the second verse onwards. Alex Lifeson provides one of the slow emotional background solos we've earlier seen on Into The Darkness, as well as a rather more bulky one at the song's end. Certainly not a weakness.

The long concluding piece, the tri-partite Natural Science, doesn't disappoint, beginning with a slow, gradually appearing-and-disappearing acoustic, some watery effects, some completely odd effects and a watery vocal with the right sort of distant feel for the song. The rocking chorus 'Time after time in a spiral away...' flows right into the next section, concluding Tidal Pools.

The fast beat of Hyperspace, with its speed, mechanical, distorted vocal, a set of interesting drums from Peart and a use of a moog synthesiser as well as Lee's usual array of stuff. A mocking derision of the technological side of society gives way to a moving solo from Lifeson (rather reminiscent of Shine On You Crazy Diamond, only faster) and then a return to the chorus.

Permanent Waves gives us the album's most grandiose moment, with a positive, determined vocal, some of the classic bombastic drumming-guitar ideas that pervade Rush's discography (only, they work!). A whirling guitar solo from Lifeson appears over a static bass drum line. The gradual drive-up to the chorus's alter-ego is perfectly handled, twisting with a concision and constant mobility. The instruments are relaxed in favour of a water effect fade, which works perfectly in context. An exceptional piece of work, with constantly good playing from everyone, an atmosphere of its own and it manages to hold interest throughout. Definitely a much-loved Rush piece, for me.

In conclusion, there are two weak tracks that I don't like on this album. On the other hand, there are four gems that should be in the collection of any (progressive) music lover. Essential, but not a masterpiece. The feel of the album isn't quite rounded due to the aberrations that are Entre Nous and Free Will, but that shouldn't discourage anyone from getting it.

Rating: Four Stars

Favourite Track: Natural Science

Edit: Last listen placed it as a firm three... I can't say that it has the same freshness it did when I wrote this review.

TGM: Orb | 3/5 |


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