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Rush - Grace Under Pressure CD (album) cover




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3.69 | 1121 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Review 65, Grace Under Pressure, Rush, 1984


This reviewer, whose Rush discography is somewhat sketchy after Moving Pictures, and who considers Caress of Steel a timeless classic, but the acclaimed MP mostly mediocre, might not be expected to come out in favour of Grace Under Pressure. However, I admit to liking the album, and there are only a couple of weak spots in the otherwise solid synth-pop/rock we have on offer. Peart's lyrics are up to scratch, mostly, and feel quite natural in a lot of places, while the artsy edges are in place throughout the album. The first four tracks, at least, are pretty strong cuts, and while the second side trails off a bit, it is generally listenable, with a good closer, and all in all, it leaves a positive impression.

Distant Early Warning opens the album quite tensely, with some spacious work from the synths and guitars, as well as a clever bass part working away in the background. Geddy Lee delivers with surprising verve an enjoyable set of lyrics, and his bass is a highlight throughout the song, as even in the bright chorus, it adds something deeper in. The drum part is well-incorporated, leaving plenty of space as well as accomplishing fills. My only small criticism is that the synth-led sections sometimes seem a little feeble in comparison with the guitar-based ones with a nice synth ditty in the background.

Afterimage is another solid song, this time drawing a little more on Alex Lifeson's guitar, though the synths also add in more ideas, including growly noises, standard hums and piano-ish tones. Peart gives a good AOR beat without losing sight of inventive choices and a set of wistful lyrics. Much as the song itself is tolerable, the real highlight is the surprisingly atmospheric instrumental section, complete with an interesting guitar solo.

Even stronger, however, is Red Sector A, which combines some mesmerising rhythms with some damn fine lyrical lines ('shouting guards and smoking guns... will cut down the unlucky ones'). The percussion, the guitar riffs, the vocals... they simply rock. Oddly, the lead synths seem appropriate, and never pompous. The instrumental break, combining a weird but wonderful guitar tone with building synths, is well-handled. It is sad that the line 'I must help my mother to stand up straight' slightly damages the mood, but otherwise a damn fine song.

The Enemy Within is an utterly kitschy bass-driven song with synth paps and light guitar additions in the chorus, and yet, it is great fun. Geddy Lee's slightly screechy voice again hits the spot excellently, as do the percussion parts. Far too catchy, and I love it.

The Body Electric's sci-fiish themes without any mystery or real catch. The lyrics aren't irritating, just not nearly as interesting as I'd like them to be. Nevermind, onto the music. Again, it's quite non-distinctive, with a fairly repetitive drum part and a mix that simply feels like everything is playing loud, but not a lot goes on. The vocals also don't seem to match (erk, especially on '1-0-0, 1-0-0, 1-0-0-1 SOS', though Lifeson's quirky solo is up to scratch, as is the superb bass playing accompanying that. It's not really a terrible song, it just eludes the attention span completely.

Kid Gloves, however, does edge on the nerves a little, with its rhythm simply not catching like The Enemy Within, though the musical premise is pretty similar, and the lyrics, even I admit there's some merit in there somewhere, repeat too much, and has a catchphrase that simply feels off to me. Even the solo isn't very redeeming, just squeaky and technical. Again, I get the whole, everything loud, but not a lot going on, vibe, probably unfairly.

The tenser Red Lenses, carefully using sharp guitar lines and bass jabs, as well as a very quirky percussion part and a totally redundant synth (in the main part of the song at least). The lyrics and vocals have shaped up a little, and of especial note is an interesting instrumental section with tympani notes and a slightly more valid synth, even if I feel the song could have dropped them without hurting. Peart holds up a drum riff under a vocal quite well, and the song's overall mystery vibe works well enough. Overall a good piece, but it simply didn't need to bother with the synths at all, and they drag it down a bit.

The surprisingly dark Between The Wheels starts with an insistent synth riff and a killer guitar soloish that reminds me a bit of some of Howe's work on Drama (Machine Messiah, in particular, I think). Geddy Lee appears to have re-adapted himself much better to the tenser atmospheric vocals, and, despite what is a mixed set of lyrics, carries the song excellently. The instrumental work is excellent, and the mix again feels quite balanced, giving everything the space to shine. Peart in particular stands out, and the piece as a whole has a darkened vibe that lends the album a slightly greater credibility after a frail middle. Great ending.

So, a synth pop album, I admit, but a good synth pop album. Recommended for fans of Rush, or anyone interested in exploring some of the band's work after the obvious classics and Moving Pictures. I also have to confess that I genuinely like a lot of Peart's drumming on this album, while I'm more indifferent to lots of his more well-reputed part, so, something else to recommend there. Three well-earned stars from me

Rating: Three stars

Favourite Track: Red Sector A

TGM: Orb | 3/5 |


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