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Rush - Signals CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.95 | 1509 ratings

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4 stars Over the course of the last few albums before "Signals", Rush had been making changes slowly, mostly unnoticed by it's audience, which by now had grown quite large. In my opinion, "Signals" signaled the biggest step in their new direction, and suddenly people were taking notice. The biggest change here was to the importance of synthesizers in the music which were utilized more now in this album than ever before. Unfortunately, the synths were being added while Lifeson's guitar was being used less. It would have been better not to have one thing at the expense of another, but, it was also the beginning of the 80's, and that was where the mainstream of rock was heading. Since The Police had seen a lot of success with more atmospheric guitars and a reggae sound, Rush also adopted that sound, but added in the layers of synths on top of that.

So, in the case of Signals, it worked to a certain extent. The band worked off of their successes with their previous hits "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight", and fashioned their new songs off of that sound, but also toning down their heaviness by making the guitar more of a supporting instrument rather than a leading one. Sure Lifeson still got some solos in there, but nothing like before.

Rush still hit the mark with their fans with great songs like "Subdivisions", "The Analog Kid" and "New World Man" and this showed in the sales of their singles. It wasn't yet a complete wash out, but it was getting closer to that. The more streamlined and hook-less sound of "Chemistry" proved that, and the fact that the album ended on a weaker track ("Countdown") left many fans downhearted. "Chemistry" and "Digital Man" were the obvious links to the sound of The Police, and by the time Side One was over, I remember the first time I listened to it, I realized the sound had changed and that there was not going to be anything as awesome as "La Villa Strangiata" or "Xanadu" on this album. The sound was getting more like a wall of sound where no single instrument seemed to stand out, plus, no hooks in the music. On top of that, the mixing had no dynamic in it. It was just flat.

As time went on, I was able to appreciate the album a bit more, and even though it never reached the heights of previous albums, it was a failure either. I couldn't say that for later albums as enthusiastically, no matter how many listens or how much time I gave them. To me, there wouldn't be a great album until the release of "Presto", but then, I know I am pretty much outside the norm for that one.

I find that I like the first two tracks on both sides of the album better than the last two. And I like them enough to be able to boost this album above an average score. But I dislike the last two tracks on both sides enough not give it a perfect score, in fact, they are more like average fare. "The Weapon" at least holds some level of progressive sound, being more complex than the average rock song especially in the early 80s. The guitar atmospherics are quite tasteful here, and at the time, were something you didn't hear very often, or at least, not done as well. "New World Man" has always been a favorite Rush track of mine mostly because of its infectious bass and changing tempos.

I admire the fact that they utilized the violin in "Losing It" but I find the track devoid of any emotion other than that. I always have a hard time even remembering the song even right after I hear it. It just never sticks with me, and has too much of an 80s sound to it other than the violin, which is even still underutilized, drowned by the synth layers. "Countdown" to me is just an utter failure, and always has been the biggest disappointment out of all of Rush's output. It almost caused me to throw my newly purchased copy (again back in the day) out of the window of my car.

I had hopes back in the day, that Rush would find their feet again and return to the sound that I loved them for. Much to my dismay, they would only digress on their next album and it would be awhile before they won back my respect. But they did, and I took the time to go back and review the albums that I had ignored. It took quite a few years though. No doubt that this was a risky move that they made, but I think they hoped that their popularity would eventually increase as they tried to adjust their sound to the 80s sound. It just didn't work for them, especially with their level of creativity in both music and in lyrics. However, before anyone gets upset, I will say I have come to respect the band again, and have even brought myself to become more familiar with their later output, and much to my delight, have found some excellent albums in the process. In the meantime, this one at least now manages to rank as a 4 star, though I wouldn't have even been able to do that when it first came out.

TCat | 4/5 |


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