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Rush - Signals CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.95 | 1231 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars "Signals" is the Rush album that was sandwiched in between two incredible Rush albums and as a followup to the masterpiece "Moving Pictures", perhaps Rush's finest hour, this was a tough album to appreciate. The album tends to be a transition to the synthesized 80s domination. The power trio were always a compelling listen during the 70s, with lengthy progressive classics, and lyrical beauty, but in the 80s the sound changed. Gone are the epics and weirdness to make way for the new 80s sound. In 1982 the top prog albums were 4 - Peter Gabriel, Time To Turn ? Eloy, Fact and Fiction ? Twelfth Night, Five Miles Out ? Mike Oldfield, Enter K ? Peter Hammill, Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch ? Frank Zappa, Eye In The Sky ? Alan Parsons Project, The Broadsword and the Beast ? Jethro Tull. So amidst this slew of albums Rush produced something very special and really cemented their reputation as one of the greatest bands in rock history, proving they could use a current sound and still produce high quality songs. Rush use synthesizers in droves on this but still remain progressive which is a feat in itself. They remain true to the odd time sig changes that have made them so endearing over the years.

The first track 'Subdivisions' has a crystal clear sound, strong synths and the time sig definitely is unusual. The melody is pleasant to the ears, and tends to grow on you over time. I must admit when I first heard this album I was not all that impressed as I prefer the heavier side of Rush and this felt very safe. However, over the years I have really been enamoured with the new sound of Rush on "Signals".

'The Analog Kid' is another synth soaked track with a quick cadence and complex structure. Geddy Lee is wonderful on vocals effortlessly ploughing through the octaves on every track. He was at the peak of his skills at this stage.

The guitar work of Alex Lifeson is always jangly and at the same modulation as the synths. There are no brilliant riffs to speak of rather he holds back and simply carries the songs along on strong melodic rhythms. The sound on songs such as 'Chemistry' is rather radio friendly but it is still one of the better albums in the 80s as far as prog is concerned, as the 80s were the most difficult era for prog. Rush survived on albums such as "Signals" due to the consistent quality. Every song has a strong melody, Lifeson's continuous guitar embellishments and the powerful percussive work of Neil Peart, particularly impressive on 'Digital Man' with its half time feel and time changes. This track also includes one of Lifeson's best lead breaks.

Surprisingly of all the prog 80s albums of 1982, Rush were still able to produce an album rated the most highly on many prog album lists, including on progarchives. It is little wonder with treasures such as the incredible 'The Weapon'. The lyrics here are powerful on the topic of a soldier's thoughts in nuclear war time, or it could be a terrorist planning a crime; "The knowledge that they fear is a weapon to be used against them, he's not afraid of the judgement, he's a little bit afraid of dying, and the thing that he fears is the weapon to be held against him." The instrumental break is a darker sound, layers of synth and phased guitar lead break, with sporadic drumming accents.

'New World Man' is a fan favourite with catchy hooks and some strong melodies that are memorable. The track appeared on many live sets over the years. This is followed by a lesser known song, exclusive to this album alone I believe, 'Losing It'. One of the interesting components of the music is the use of a violin by guest maestro Ben Mink. The slow pace of the song is alarming after all the rock and I will admit it is not a high point of the album. However the violin trading off with Lifeson's pitchy harmonics is a treat.

The album concludes with 'Countdown' featuring radio controller voice overs "T Minus 20 seconds and counting", and supersonic space shuttle effects. It was written in honour of Space Shuttle Columbia where the band were invited to the launch. Given the disaster of Challenger the song has taken on an added potency. Geddy Lee's voice is crystalline echoing over the steady beat with compelling lyrics; "Circling choppers slash the night, With roving searchlight beams, This magic day when super-science, Mingles with the bright stuff of dreams." Later as the song builds to the actual lift off the lyrics are rather portentous, taking on a darker aspect in context of the fateful Challenger launch; "The air is charged, A humid, motionless mass, The crowds and the cameras, The cars full of spectators pass, Excitement so thick you could cut it with a knife, Technology, high, on the leading edge of life, The earth beneath us starts to tremble, With the spreading of a low black cloud, A thunderous roar shakes the air, Like the whole world exploding, Scorching blast of golden fire, As it slowly leaves the ground, Tears away with a mighty force, The air is shattered by the awesome sound, Like a pillar of cloud, The smoke lingers high in the air, In fascination, With the eyes of the world, We stare." The whole song now brings to mind the disaster of Challenger exploding and the people staring up in disbelief at the white billows of smoke; an image that has been ingrained on the world. When the radio controller counts down to the engines starting up, and the shuttle lifts off, it brings a lump to my throat and of course this was written before the Challenger exploded 73 seconds into flight, which occurred January 28, 1986. For me this last song is an underrated Rush classic rarely heard and criminally never included on the plethora of best of Rush compilations. This song, along with 'New World Man', 'The Weapon', 'The Analog Kid', 'Subdivisions', and 'Digital Man' are excellent additions to the Rush catalogue and make this an album that is very worthwhile.

So in conclusion while this may not be the greatest Rush album by a long stretch there is still a lot to savour on "Signals". It took a while for me to appreciate the importance of the album in context of the mediocre music churning out of the 80s but the album stands up as a testimony to the incredible skills of the band who demonstrated they could be a dominant force in the 80s, building on the legacy left behind in the 70s.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |


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