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Rush - Signals CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.94 | 1424 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars [4.5 stars, if we must nitpick.]

Rush always moved with the times, equally inspired by younger acts and inspiring to even younger upstarts. 'Subdivisions' holds up the largest mirror to the era it was released than any of their other albums. While it's one of the most hotly-debated albums in their discography, I find it remains one of their tighest and most focused works. Though I normally detest the production and arrangement de-evolution that prog went through in the '80s, 'Signals' finds Rush comfortable and convincing in their new (wave) mold. There are clear references to then-current bands like The Police, The Fixx, Ultravox and even fellow Canadians FM. Elements of reggae and electro-pop aren't subtle this time (as they were on 'Moving Pictures' track "Vital Signs").

I can understand how people wouldn't take to 'Signals' easily, because it trims (or totally snips off) several elements that made Rush so appealing. The spacious grand-hall productions are now replaced by compressed little rooms of sound. The extended arrangements of "The Camera Eye" and "Natural Science" are supplanted by shorter, leaner songs like "The Analog Kid", "Losing It" and the shockingly short 3:42 of "New World Man". Geddy Lee's wild shriek is now a mature, contemplative mid-range. And Alex Lifeson appears to have sat this one out. (Actually, he's quite present, just mixed low and playing incredibly subtle parts.) It is to Rush's great credit that despite all the hair-cutting (figuratively and literally) that 'Signals' achieves its aim and marks a high point in the band's ever-active development.

So what if they changed? Hadn't they always? Anyone listening closely to 'Permanent Waves' and 'Moving Pictures' could see the signals. It's the emotional impact of the material that really seals the deal: "The Analog Kid" reflects the long- gone carefree days of youth; "Subdivisions" steps one foot in fear/paranoia/alienation and the other in hopeful escape; "Losing It" displays an hypnotic melancholy pull; "Countdown", despite the hot/cold reaction from fans, gets a hot thumbs-up from me. It thrills with anxious drama and conveys the pride of technological innovation, all swirled within an arrangement of unpredictable, unusual melodic shifts and key changes.

No doubt, Rush can still play like gods. Neil Peart's rhythmic complexity shapes "The Weapon" into a thing of wonder. Geddy's nimble bass work in "The Analog Kid" is some of his best. Together with his often ghostly vocals and memorable synth lines (esp. "Subdivisions" and "Countdown"), 'Signals' is one of his overall strongest performances ever. And it's fun to pick out Lifeson's stealth guitar work, an admirable approach considering how front-and-center he was in their sound in the 10 years previous.

I can't give this album perfect marks, because I feel that "New World Man" is a pop/reggae-infected weak link, and "Digital Man" is a little too reminiscent of the younger bands Rush took inspiration from at this time. All else is perfection. The positive change the band took on 'Signals' would unfortunately turn out all wrong by the end of the decade, but that's another review and just my personal opinion. I know some crazy people who think 'Hold Your Fire' is one of their best albums...and even delusional schizophrenics are entitled to their opinion.

slipperman | 4/5 |


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