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Rush - Moving Pictures CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.38 | 3003 ratings

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4 stars Geddy's Giddy Heights

I was put off Rush in my formative years by a school buddy who used to play All the World's a Stage at every available opportunity just because he knew I loathed the singing. Ever since that trauma, I have approached the vocal entreaties of Geddy with some trepidation, listening appreciatively but all the while steeling myself for the moment my 'helium warbling early warning' system would be tripped by the castrato via falsetto exertions of By-Tor & the Snow Dog and the like. It begs the question, what did Geddy sound like before his balls dropped ?

Tom Sawyer - it's hard to reconcile the mean mean stride of this incarnation of Mark Twain's famous character with that depicted in the many novels in which this carefree, playful and immature lad appeared? I think for Dubois and Rush, he may simply be representative of a free spirit immune to external conditioning. Regardless, the swept filter Oberheim synth burrowing its way beneath Peart's punning and swaggering kit pattern makes for a very impressive opening and even Mr Lee appeases me with a vocal from his lower register. Way to go boys!. Lifeson punctuates the narrative with fat ringing chords but sparingly, so as not to intrude on the verse melody and thereafter we get to hear some of those lovely cascading and chorused trademark arpeggios of his that imply rather than state the harmony directly. The synth dominated central instrumental section reins in the urgency temporarily and must be one of the band's finest moments on record. It appears to be in 7/4 meter but Rush had by now garnered sufficient nous so that you cannot even see the join. For reasons probably of lazy association I always seem to catch a whiff of Genesis in my nostrils here. (Dunno)

Red Barchetta - a.k.a the world post hydrocarbons, where a gasoline powered vintage sports car would have to sit rusting in the garage. Rush swapped the counter-culture for the shop counter-culture as the 80's progressed and quietly pursued a conservative right wing methodology in the composition, recording and presentation of their music (which they would have likened in all probability to that of the Rush 'brand') In short, European proggers sank by remaining 'reactive' while this trio of ambidextrous left wing libertarians survived the shifting marketplace by being 'adaptive'. This track negotiates a wide variety of diversions, tangents and detours, but is expertly handled by your three co-drivers who ensure a safe but disorienting journey. Even stripped of the virtuosity, a fine core melodic song would endure.

YYZ - Probably my favourite Rush track ever and it can't be just a happy accident that this utilises a thrilling morse-code tritone in the main theme ? (and was a Grammy nominated instrumental which lost out to erm...the Police. Is there no justice?). Listen to the many sly and subtle embellishments and accents Peart provides here and despite a bar line balancing audit nightmare, he never lets the pulse or his pocket calculator drop once. A breathtaking performance that also exploits a delicious metallic shimmering 'thingy' struck at regular intervals to telling effect. It's worth noting that in a heavy rock trio with the main chordal instrument being a distorted guitar, Rush are restricted in their choice of harmonic flavours such a timbre can carry. We might call this the 'compromise of crunch' which necessitates Lifeson employing open voicings of mainly 4ths, 5ths and occasionally 9ths. Vertical constructs of 3rds, 7ths and 13ths would result in the chords simply disintegrating into a frazzled mush. During his horizontal playing however, Lifeson is under no such constraints and is a guitarist who utilises an adventurous choice of scales and tone colours. He also cleverly exploits the tonal ambiguity afforded him by the accompaniment being shorn of a dominating harmonic instrument. Sort of like Red era Crimson but with less roomy pants worn by all concerned.

Limelight - Robert Smith of the Cure once remarked that he thought his creativity would be given the kiss of death if ever he started writing songs about 'writing songs' Although there is a vestige of truth in this, the reverse side of the coin's adage is equally true i.e only write about what you know. For a band with such a conspicuously low profile as Rush, Peart's discomfort with the pitfalls of celebrity are clearly sincere and couched in disarming honesty:

- Living in a fisheye lens, caught in the camera's eye, I have no heart to lie, I can't pretend a stranger is a long-waited friend -

On first listen, this seems a much more straightforward 'rawker' than its predecessors, but on closer inspection it has a very smooth and deceptive 7 beat phrase length, which in other less capable hands could sound disjointed and jerky ('scuse the pun Tool fans) Rush certainly love their synth pedal point and I think this is another clever trick forced on them to overcome the aforementioned 'Compromise of Crunch' i.e. by this means they can imply harmonic territory denied them by the distorted guitar alone.

Witch Hunt - the gradually swelling intro to this sounds almost akin to eastern European classical music a la Mussorgsky or Janacek. Is it sampled or was it composed and performed by the band? It certainly conjures up images of rabid and bloodthirsty villagers with torches marching upon some outcast who has incurred their wrath. As a broad metaphor for the victimisation of minorities, it is very apt and subtly implies that manipulation of our basest instincts has been exploited by the Church, state, media and politicians for their own shameful ends since primordial soup was a menu choice. There is an arresting and unnerving lurch in tonality during the verses here which always causes my fur to bristle agreeably. A much gloomier song than we are used to from the three Canadians, which in places almost approaches the crucible of Black Sabbath.

Camera's Eye - Reportedly inspired by author John Dos Passos, it centres around the juxtaposition of two cities (New York and London) and features a Musique concrète intro incorporating urban sounds of car horns, sirens and distant shouting etc. Geddy dispenses with his bass chores for much of the first half and instead dials up a haunting array of synth textures on a plaintive and resilient theme. Subsequent to the verse sections we are assailed by a hybrid 6/8 3/4 meter redolent and possibly punningly alluding to Bernstein's America. Certainly a shoo-in for the Rush gold medal collection but at 11 minutes with an unwavering cyclic design, they could have dispensed with the victory lap. PS Alex laddie, you might want to take your foot off that bloody chorus pedal once in a while. As huge as this makes the guitar sound, it does get a tad 'samey' if used without relief for 40 minutes.

Vital Signs - If there is one thing guaranteed to set a Lemming's teeth on edge it's white guys with dreadlocks, no I really mean 'drainpipe' reggae (i.e. no flair). This being 1981 it was almost compulsory (on the orders of the Police) to attempt a skanking beat via some wretched staccato chorused guitar and inappropriate timbale accents. However stripped of these horribly dated garments, this is still a strong song that I am sure Rush wish they could re-record in a rather more flattering guise. They might also want to clarify if "evelate" (sic) is a freshly minted word from Mr Lee? In its present form the creature that traipses down the catwalk is wearing a duffel coat under a balaclava but we can still tell she is a real 'looker' with a 'rawkin bod'

At this point Mrs L has demanded I apologise for what she sees in the last sentence as a 'crass, vulgar and sexist attack on feminine sensibilities'.

"There... happy now?

"Mm....and do you think you might be able to get through a whole review without using the word bowel for once?"

No, not now thanks.

The music press generally gave prog in any of its manifestations a rough ride, and particularly so in Rush's case, where they often inferred a covert and sinister right wing ideology in much of their output. Why this should be so is certainly not revealed by even a casual glance at their lyrics, which apart from a brief flirtation with the libertarian ideas of Ayn Rand (restricted to Anthem) and the ambiguous 'starman' graphic that adorned their sleeves, there is really no case to answer. I suspect that this antipathy was that ingrained 'lefty' opposition to any band embracing the entrepreneurial opportunities afforded by their immersion in what is any capitalist's wet dream (the music industry)

This album was certainly a pivotal point for Rush's career representing their highest level of popularity and also a departure place for many of their older fans who grew disenchanted with the band's subsequent forays into more mainstream pop areas.

"Why are the pictures moving Exit?

"Relax hun, it's just Atlas shrugging."

ExittheLemming | 4/5 |


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