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Rush - Power Windows CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.54 | 940 ratings

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3 stars This is one of the most frustrating albums I've ever heard in my life; it is extremely rare for me to simultaneously like and dislike so many things about a single album. On the one hand, while I was iffy about it at first, I've come to really like the general sound of the album. The way the powerful and simultaneously precise mix of solid production, interesting guitar lines (Alex is really at the top of his game here, both in ambience and in riffage), GREAT basslines (even by Geddy's standards), aggressive drumming (Peart's drums are heavily electronically enhanced, but they produce a lot of cool rhythms) and dated-as-hell mid-80's synths (that took me aback the first few times but which don't seem overdone at all now) makes this album almost sound like it was done by a machine, and I mean that as a compliment. If ever there was a Rush album that deserved to have "Power" in the title, this was it.

On the other hand, the songwriting starts falling off a cliff on this album. The more up- tempo/rhythmic songs (and parts of songs) sound great with this new approach, but the style of a few of the songs has creeped into the land of generic adult pop, and no amount of busy arrangements can really save them. The one I like the least is the fan favorite "Manhattan Project;" I no longer consider it the worst song they'd done to this point, and I've actually grown to like the up- tempo parts with the "big bang came and shook the world ..." vocal melody, but oh man I hate the main portion of that song. I'm sorry, but I just cannot see the appeal of a generic adult contemporary melody singing hackish lyrics about WWII and the atomic bomb. I just can't buy the idea that singing about a "serious" topic makes a song with such a weak musical skeleton better; to me, it can only make it worse. The ending orchestration definitely only makes things worse.

Switching gears, I have to say that, after many, many listens, I still have trouble finding much to praise in "Grand Designs," "Middletown Dreams" or "Emotion Detector." Ok, "Grand Designs" has a really intricate arrangement of interlocking synths and guitars, and one mildly ok hook, but I can barely keep my attention focused on it when I'm listening to the song, so retaining much more from it once it's done is a nearly impossible task. "Emotion Detector" has a decent up-tempo chorus, and "Middletown Dreams" has some passion in its more "heavenly" moments, but that's largely all I retain from these two tracks. The sound is still cool, but the hooks are largely absent, and that strongly matters to me.

The other four tracks, though, are freaking amazing, and because they've impressed me more and more over the years, I've boosted the album's rating a good deal above where it was. The opener, "The Big Money," demonstrates all of the album's strengths in ample form (with amusing lyrics to boot). I mean, you have the amazing opening barrage of riff-interplay from the guitars, drums and synths; you have a fun vocal melody; you have a great mid-song jam, with all of Lifeson's skills on display. I know some who consider it one of Rush's cheeziest singles, and they may be right, but it's still extremely entertaining. As is the first-half closer, "Marathon," a rousing anthemic pop song with a nice vocal melody and a chorus that may be based in cheezy 80's pop but is still extremely well-written (and so much fun to sing along with). The synths are way too quintessentially mid-80's, and the lyrics are a bit silly, but I find the song great despite these two small flaws.

The second half starts off with "Territories," a track that sounded impressive the first couple of times I heard it, then became less so (once I realized how similar the main guitar line was to guitar lines in the title track of King Crimson's Discipline album), then became more interesting as I realized it had other cool aspects as well. The lyrics are a decent jab at the concept of nationalism, and the way the music alternates between the "hypnotic" main guitar line and more aggressive parts is quite impressive. It's a little overlong at 6+ minutes, but it's a nice song. It pales in comparison, though, to the concluding track, "Mystic Rhythms," which I simply adore and so should you. It's extremely different from anything the band would ever try again in their career, but there are just so many great things about this song - that simple yet catchy "African" beat throughout, the "mystical" lyrics, the FANTASTIC chorus (with terrific guitar and synth interplay) ... I mean, I don't even mind the lengthy fadeout! As far as mid-80's Rush goes, music does not get much better than this.

After all is said and done, if you're really desperate for mid-80's-style Rush, you'd be much better off getting Signals. But if you've consumed that album as much as possible, then this should be the next stop. At the very least, I can say this - for what's largely a generic mid-80's album, this sure has a unique sound, and that's enough for me.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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