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Rush - Grace Under Pressure CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.69 | 1121 ratings

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5 stars As I said before in my review for PERMANENT WAVES, this is right up there with that album and COUNTERPARTS, vying for my favorite RUSH album. I see this as the perfect of influences they brought in for their '80s sound. However, it also unfortunately continues the trend of Rush albums starting in SIGNALS of having a throwaway track.

"Distant Early Warning" feels like a song lifted from the MOVING PICTURES writing sessions updated with sparkling synths, darker lyrics, and much stronger vocals. On the vocals, I'd like to point out that it is this album that GEDDY LEE finally abandons his high pitched wails as his primary means of vocalization, instead settling into his middle range. This is part of what makes the album so great to me; his voice sounds pained and yearning and profound, like great U2 records. He really lets out the great voice he had inside him all along.

"Afterimage" became a profound song for me after a close friend killed himself. It continues the apocalyptic tone with ruminations on death and loss and features, once more, those New Wave and reggae elements that had let in, only merged much more closely with a prog rock kind of intensity. Nevermind people who say this isn't progressive; this is closer to MARILLION at their fiercest than THE POLICE at their poppiest (though I would argue that, at times, STEWART COPELAND's prog background with CURVED AIR gave some darkness and proggy flourishes to some Police record, particularly REGGATTA DE BLANC, but that's for another time). The lines "I feel your presence. / I remember" are one of the most powerful parts of any Rush song I've ever heard. The way they are sung and the music they are paired with feels precisely, to me, what it is like to lose someone you love.

"Red Sector A" is a song about the Holocaust and was one of the first Rush songs I ever got into. I made a mix CD as a kid featuring a bunch of prog that I would listen to while I mowed the lawn and when it got to this track, I'd normally leave it on repeat because of the primal energy of this song. It turns dance music into a kind of deathly, funereal dirge. It feels like TALKING HEADS circa-REMAIN IN LIGHT painted pitch black and sonically, I hear bits from "Another Brick int he Wall, Pt. 2" in its synthesized bassline.

The next two songs, "The Enemy Within" and "The Body Electric" are a bit lighter in tone, but are still incredibly bleak. "Kid Gloves" continues this assault with a rumination on how the kind will get crushed underfoot by the wicked, paired with the best guitar work of the album. "red lenses", properly stylized in all-lowercase, is the throwaway track I referred to before, being a mash-up of various sounds it seems they found while digging through the built in samples of their new electronic drums. I skip it. "Between the Wheels" is another intense, fiery song of apocalypse, death, and defeat paired with what feels like a song that could have fit perfectly on the first half of Moving Pictures, just like "Distant Early Warning". It closes out the album in a really bleak place, which I find adds great color to this album. Never before had they been so intensely focused on the darkness of the world around us, and when they finally turned to it for a full album, they really brought it to bear quite heavily. It makes this album feel somewhat unique in their canon; though they would touch on these themes again, they would never be quite this potent, I feel.

A note on the synthesized and electronic sound of this album: While some people are turned off because of how it took away the warmth of their organic instruments, I find it fitting that they took the music and even genres used to make stereotypical upbeat, cold, inhuman '80s pop and turned it against itself, fashioning these sounds and these genres into a big, bleak, yet still cold and inhuman slice of prog rock, with enough pop rock influences to infiltrate the radio. It offers an interesting commentary on these sounds and the vapidity of the Reagan/Thatcher era.

A perfect album, not just of the genre but in general. Five stars.

Gorloche | 5/5 |


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