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Rush - Permanent Waves CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.28 | 2123 ratings

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The T
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 4.5 STARS.

This album marks an important point in the canadian trio's career, and, for my particular point of view, in prog's history, for a reason I will explain later.

this is the first album Rush released in the 80's. As such, it also draws a line between what was before and what was to come. Why? I think for two main reasons:

- the "short song" era of rush has begun. After a period when (for me) Rush knew how to write excellent long, 10+minute songs (even some close to 20), but weaker regular- length ones, in Permanent Waves that chaneges completely: in this album, the solid tracks are the short, more radio-friendly (maybe less prog, too) ones, mostly the two openers, while the two longer songs, (neither of them really long, 7 and 9 minutes respectively) don't quite reach the same level as older pieces like Xanadu, CygnusX-1 or 2112 (which is more of a "suite" than a single work). Thus, this is the point when Rush begins to release albums made up of almost exclusively short tracks, which become the band's focus (only a few exceptions like The Camera Eye from Moving Pictures are yet to be created after this 80's release), and also the band's most effective songs (Tom Sawyer, Limelight, Subdivisions, Red Sector A). So, I think it's safe to say that Rush learned how to compose brilliant short songs but at the same time they forgot how good near-epics were created.

- Geddy Lee's voice suddenly becomes more "normal", or, for lack of a better word, more human. Yes, the high-shrieking, at times scary halloween-like voice he used in such a talented way in 2112, Kings and Hemispheres starts to leave its place to a more ear-friendly, we can say more mainstream-radio-friendly quiet tone, with less (or almost no) yelling and more actual melody singing.

- Even though they used Synths a couple of times in the past, the trio's music from now on would get an additional voice, that of synthezisers, which will become an integral, at times imposing, part of the band's sound.

And what's the result?

The Spirit of Radio (9/10), a brilliant short song. Don't let the prog-purists scare you away from this and other short Rush tracks, for they are amazing, too, and, for my particular taste, actually better than their longer ones. This apparently mundane track is a pure delight for a true rock-lover prog-lover. It starts with a twirling figure in guitar, then we get to a more pure-hard-rock riff, which suddenly fades in favor of the song's main verse, a melodic, wonderful section with clean guitars and great, not complicated yet effective drumming by Neil Peart with amazing use of the ride cymbal. The chorus has the return of the song's opening guitar figure. A short song with a lot of variation, syncopated cymbal-china-playing by Peart (Portnoy listened to this, I can tell). Then, when the main verse is coming to a point of exhaustion, the hard rock riff appears again, followed by, what I think is the song's only weak moment: a few measures in reggae-like rhythm adorned by the cheesy use of a sampler of a theater audience. After a brief solo by Lifeson, the track ends. Great.

Freewill (9/10), another amazing short track, this one even less complicated that the preceding one (this one in common verse-prechorus-chorus form), the main riff in odd time (again, Dream Theater listened to this), and the first INFECTIOUS chorus by the canadians, an outstanding chorus. Catchy? You bet. Is that bad, anti-prog? Not at all, it's MUSICAL. When you have simple, standard-structure-songs, you want to have a great chorus that makes up for the lack of innovation in the structure department. This song has it. Weak point? The return, for just a few measures, of Lee's shrieking-witch- like voice before the final chorus.

Jacob's Ladder (7/10), this one is longer and illustrates my point: while the short ones were getting better, the long ones were getting weaker. A boring track, starts slowly, in low tempo, with no life; the song up to this point is slowly drowning into oblivion; a calmer, quieter part saves this from complete insomnia-medicine level. Not awful by other group's standards but nothing to do with marvels like Xanadu or Villa Strangiato.

Entre nous (6/10), this one is a weak short track ala older Rush. That the title is in french while not a single verse is sung in that language just adds to the lameness factor. Even pen-master Peart had troubles here writing good lyrics. This one is actually poor.

Different strings, (8/10), this is another new for Rush: a pure, total ballad. There's no attempt to disguise this as hard-prog rock, this is a hard-rock ballad.... but a good one at that. Don't let the "only long, serious tracks" purists take you away from music like this: it may be simple, it may be a little bit cheesy, but when it's done with craft and mastery, it's an enjoyable and irrepleaceble part of this art form, for we all need a moment of rest and reflexion in one's more sentimental side. Also, this one is Geddy Lee's best performance in vocals. Good track.

Natural Science, (8/10), an actually incoherent, boring at times track that is saved by a consideration more historical than musical (or better yet, musical-historical): It's my theory that this song actually contains the first progressive-metal section in all of rock. Yes, the middle section in this track has all the elements, the rhythym, the sound, the edge, the heavyness of prog-metal in the purest Dream Theater way. I can almost swear the New York greats (DT) listened more than 100 times this song before embarking into the Images And Words and the When Dream and Day Unite experiences. A fast, lightning speed solo by Lifeson only supports my position. Not the best track but a relevant one and, also, Geddy Lee's best bass- playing in the album.

All in all, a good, very good album that clears the path for the Rush I prefer and the one I fell in love with. Surely, songs like Xanadu, La Villa Strangiato and CygnusX-1 I remain as some of this band's best (if not THE BEST) tracks ever. But outside of those marvelous near-epics, the rest of the earlier albums was mostly filler material. When Rush learned how to write great short songs, they found their sound. And don't forget: now (well, then, in 1980 onwards) we got a better singer, too.

What do I say about those "rush got worse 'cause they didn't write long songs ever again" comments? Well, I like, I LOVE epics, log songs, but not for the sake of length, but for the sake of music. If the music is great, I would love not to have to quit listening to it 5 minutes after it starts....but Rush's epics were flawed, they were not perfect examples of this kind of composition....

On the other hand, Rush's short tracks were nothing short of amazing (pun intended)....

So, for longer, 20+ tracks, please, give me Yes, give me Genesis, or nowadays, give me The Flower Kings....

For short, great songs, GIVE ME RUSH.


The T | 4/5 |


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