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Rush - Moving Pictures CD (album) cover

MOVING PICTURES

Rush

 

Heavy Prog

4.41 | 2001 ratings

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Ambient Hurricanes
5 stars Moving Pictures is not Rush's best album.

Yes, it's the highest rated here on PA. Song by song, however, it doesn't match up to the heights of say, Hemispheres, Grace Under Pressure, or Vapor Trails. Musically, it's fairly simple, as far as Rush albums go. There's a lot of guitar-bass unison playing, a lot of scalar melodies, a lot of simple chords and riffs. Even thematically, it's not as conceptually unified as any of the albums immediately following it. Emotionally, although the album is far from dry, it doesn't have the immanent passion of many of Rush's other albums; the gut-wrenching soul-searching of Vapor Trails, for instance, the bleak cry of Grace Under Pressure, the suicidal frenzy of 2112, the self-discovery of Caress of Steel, the relationship issues of Counterparts, on and on, et cetera, ad infinitum. Compared with other albums, it's rather tame and unadventurous, actually. They found a style that worked on Permanent Waves, refined it for the next album, and BOOM! - the band has their breakout album. So why in the world is Moving Pictures considered by thousands of fans to be their finest? And why is Moving Pictures, though inferior to other Rush albums in many ways, almost certainly the band's absolute masterpiece?

It is simply because no album, before or since, has captured the sound and the spirit of Rush the way Moving Pictures did. Moving Pictures defines Rush. Moving Pictures is Rush.

It is for good reason that Alex Lifeson claimed that Moving Pictures was the album that "we became us." Think about it - if you want to show some one what Rush sounds like using a single album, you would show them Moving Pictures. Not one of the early albums with the sprawling arrangements that the band later eschewed. Not the 80's albums with all the synths that were discarded as time went on. Not the 90's and 00's albums with the alt-rock influences. Of all of the albums in Rush's prolific and diverse catalog, none can fully embody what it means to be Rush - except for Moving Pictures. It bridges the "proggy" and the accessible, the complex and the simple, the serious and the fun, the cult and the mainstream, the power and the finesse - in short, it is what Rush is, a progressive straightforward thinking man's working man's album for a progressive straightforward thinking man's working man's band. With Moving Pictures, Rush managed to encapsulate everything that made them the multifaceted juggernaut of a band they are.

It helps that Moving Pictures is absolutely flawless. Although other albums may carry their peak songs, Moving Pictures is special in that is has no weak material. At all. Everything from "Tom Sawyer" to "Vital Signs" is essential and perfect. Nothing is dispensable, nothing is excessive; instead it is all critical to the feel and flow of the album. Moving Pictures is a mature album; it contrasts the brilliant, raw enthusiasm of the band's earlier efforts with a concise, refined, and balanced sound, tightly and masterfully composed with not even one unnecessary note. I said earlier that Moving Pictures did not have the same raw emotional appeal as many other Rush albums, and yet this difference is anything but a flaw, for Moving Pictures is not an album that can be listened to for emotional fulfillment alone; it is an album for the attentive listener, the one who appreciates not only the primal, raw scream of passion but also the careful, loving, calm work of a master. By this time, Rush were truly masters of their craft, and appreciation of their mastery necessarily leads to appreciation of the more subtle emotion behind their work.

Peart's lyrics also deserve special mention; in my opinion, Moving Pictures has the finest lyrics Neil has ever written. "Limelight," for instance, is a beautiful piece of work, able to stand on its own as poetry apart from its context in the song. Insightful and profound, it is brilliantly expressive of both the self and of human nature in general. Each lyric perfectly matches its music: the bursting excitement of "The Camera Eye," the scientific imagery of "Vital Signs," and the ominous warning of "Witch Hunt." By leaving behind partisan political rants, objectivist theory, and lofty philosophizing, Peart manages to bring his lyrics closer to human nature, and therefore, "closer to the heart" of his listeners.

As a whole, the album flows beautifully. Though not thematically or conceptually arranged, the songs complement each other perfectly, creating a cohesive unity achieved by musical flow and not merely by the narrative of a concept. Moving Pictures winds through a full and coherent exploration of the essence of Rush, and, finally, with the cryptic, reggae-infused closer "Vital Signs," leads onward into the future of the band - on to the next album and to musical and stylistic adventure, endlessly rocking.

Ambient Hurricanes | 5/5 |

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