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Rush - Permanent Waves CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.28 | 2115 ratings

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4 stars As soon as they master a style, they wave it goodbye, permanently.

In this case, they wave goodbye to progressive hard rock that relies heavily on their roots, to punching deep into almost symphonic territory. It seems as if they are hell bent on not completely pleasing anyone on this record, which means they pleased me.

Culling resources and musical adventures form their last few albums, they culminate in one of Rush's most powerful releases. Even the supposed radio hits bark ferociously. Spirit of Radio has such a talented and catching introduction. The writing seems very much more carefully crafted, and the band has grown even better at working together. Where previous efforts had them at times going off to "noodle around" without adherence to their fellow performers, which led to a weak and disjointed affair. Here, they coalesce firmly and signal that this is indeed the product of a considerate and meticulously thought out performing band. Spirit Of Radio rocks hard, and the ending solo is quite enjoyable.

Freewill is perhaps a dip in quality, and the keyboard effects aren't brilliant, but it is all solid and cohesive, making for a strong and terse atmosphere adding deftly to the album's flow. This is just too simplistic and shallow for Rush to do more than score a radio hit, though. I like the song, but it is a marked drop in quality over the biting opener.

One thing I enjoy, is the overall darker tone (oh, it is still bright and shiny) but things seem to be different. They seem to want a victory, and Alex's playing is absolutely vicious in its coordinated vitriol. That doesn't save the more plain and shallow moments from being just that, but it does add bite to a barking dog like Rush have been. They prove the size of their teeth match well with the size of their minds.

Jacob's Ladder is the darkest song Rush ever made. It plods along slowly, and uses well of the keyboard effects. The emotional resonance is powerful, and the boys cull a wide range of musical ideas for it. Certainly a career highlight, those dangerous and hateful guitar lines that Lifeson strangles you with. Still, too much "down time" where nothing seems to be happening plagues them. The keyboards need room to breath, but when they are performed admittedly weakly by Rush, I'd prefer them to be smothering it. This is a microcosm of Rush, itself. A highly talented band, and one who works hard to craft their ideas, but ultimately fall to the wayside in terms of compositional reference.

Entre Nous feels like more of the same, and that is a normal occurrence for Rush, but here it is a bit more tolerable. Here, where they are biting hard while other top name progressive bands were toning down their voice, it seems Rush were slowly ascending to venomous spitfire and hard edged fierceness. Still, this is perhaps the worst song on here. It doesn't go anywhere, and adds nothing to the sound. A simple and weak track that makes a stark monolith in a sea of very high quality work. Mediocre. Different Strings wants to dip even farther. I hate this, because if Rush could keep up the consistency, this record could have been mammoth in its release. The downtrodden sound falls short of reaching the gargantuan heights set by Jacob's Ladder.

The finale is left to Natural Science. It builds up well, but fails to interest me for the most part. Geddy reaches to his vocal history the most, here, so I can see why classic Rush fans would enjoy it, but the songwriting is no stronger than say Cygnus or Xanadu, which is to say quite good. The riff bores me, honestly, but the band building up and gaining momentum is only offset by their reliance on the "Rush" sound. The keyboards add a fine touch, and they implement the instrument skillfully into their repertoire, but the song just doesn't have the emotional edge other songs do, nor does the songwriting reach more than a longer version of one of their more rock oriented songs. The guitar wailing at the end is some of the best you'll here from these folks, and that makes up for some of the meandering.

Definitely their most complete and focused release, and a testament to their tenacity. Small filler moments pop up, and a couple songs just don't feel like anything but filler (Entre Nous and Different Strings), but it is competent filler, and certainly isn't pleasant. Too many seemingly mindless drifts in the longer songs also seek to bloat and otherwise maim an undeniably strong release. All that being said, this is Rush at their creative and coherent peak.

Best Moment - Jacob's Ladder

Worst Moment - Entre Nous/Different Strings, but they aren't offensive.

****1/2 Permanent Stars

Alitare | 4/5 |


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