1980; Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec
1982; Le Studio, Morin Heights, Quebec; Mercury
(NOTE: I considered titling this article "Rushing On My Run", but the idea of putting Rush next to the Velvet Underground in any context made me want to die. My stomach kind of hurt even while I was writing the above sentence.)
As many of you may know, I hate Rush. I hate them a Goddamn lot. It's not really my fault, either, because they seem to go out of their way to make themselves as unlikable as possible. Take this quotation from an interview with Neil Peart, and keep in mind that he's talking about the band's logo:
"All it means is the abstract man against the masses. The red star symbolizes any collectivist mentality."
Christ, forget Geddy Lee, even their logo is obnoxious and shrill.
Still, there are a couple of Rush songs I actually enjoy, if only because they're entwined in my mind with my childhood, listening to 107.7 The Bone with my dad as we drove around town-those songs being "Limelight" and "Spirit Of The Radio". So I said to myself a couple nights ago, "Maybe I haven't given these dudes a fair shake." So I did the unthinkable: I made myself listen to not one, but TWO Rush albums. One I picked, Signals, because I hadn't heard much about it but it seemed to be generally pretty well liked, and the other, Permanent Waves, because it had the aforementioned "Spirit Of The Radio" on it. It's also worth noting that I had previously listened to little snippits of each on iTunes and neither made me shit my pants with rage, which is not something that can be said of Hemispheres or 2112, those albums can go die in a coal mine.
Permanent Waves. My favorite song was first, so with that little bit of nostalgia out of the way, I can pretty accurately say that it was all downhill after "Spirit Of The Radio". "Freewill" is the second song and it's the same obnoxious shit I mentioned with that quote about the logo-that kind of condescending, Rand-fingering drivel that makes you want to put your foot through the monitor. The chorus of this song is, and I'm not making this up, "You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice/If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice/You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill/I will choose a path that's clear, I will choose free will."
You know what? Fuck you. That sort of shit is worse than when Slayer tries to tell me that I should become an atheist, because they're at least not pretending they're better than me. I don't give a shit how many times you've read "Atlas Shrugged", that doesn't give you the right to condescend to me about believing in God and buying things from Target. You dumbfucks have sold 25 million albums, you're no more a beacon of individuality than Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and you're ugly as hogs dressed in fetish gear to boot, so get off your high horses.
That's the only other standout song-the only thing I really noticed throughout the rest of the album was how hilarious Geddy Lee's vocals were(which I expected) alongside how fucking corny the lyrics are-you get shit like "Follow men's eyes as they look up to the skies/The shifting shafts of shining weaves the fabric of their dreams" and "We are secrets to each other, each one's life a novel no one else has read". I've heard less fruity lyrics come out of Gloria Gaynor songs-I'd almost prefer the Libertarian space-operas(that's actually what 2112 is about, I wish to God I was making that up), but that's a pretty fucking big "almost". Otherwise, the synths are cheesy and the sound effects are hammy, which is, once again, pretty much exactly what I was expecting from Rush, which did not please me, even if it did make me chuckle a few times.
As to Signals, there's less to talk about because they pretty much wrote the same song eight times. "Subdivisions" starts out kind of interesting and then you think "Wait, is the whole song going to be like this?" and it turns out that yes, it is, and by the time you've heard the same vaguely-uplifting-but-actually-kinda-dry keyboard riff for the 72nd time throughout the course of three songs, you're pretty much just waiting for the whole thing to end. It's pretty different from the previous album-it's definitely poppier, and in Rush's case I actually consider that to be a good thing. It would be hard to say that I liked it better...
...except that there was one song I actually came away with enjoying, which I hadn't hard before. "New World Man" is a sincerely good piece of music, with relatable lines like "He's old enough to know what's right but young enough not to choose it/He's noble enough to win the world but weak enough to lose it". It's nice and compact at 3:45, and I'm a little surprised it didn't become a bigger hit than it turned out to be. "The Weapon" also has a nice groove and it's well-paced and well constructed, but it looses points for having the subtitle of being "Part II of Fear", a quartet of songs that...doesn't begin until a few albums later. And that Neil Peart didn't even think of making until a few years after this album came out.
I mean, yeah, making a concept out of four songs spread across different albums, with Part II coming before Part I, and it didn't even really exist until the early 90's...yeah, that's sort of the kind of thing that you expect out of Rush, but I mean, Jesus. Take a few of those dicks out of your mouth and write a fucking love song, guys. You ain't George Lucas and George Lucas barely got away with pulling that off, and George Lucas didn't have the handicap of being a shitty progressive rock band.
Overall...Jesus, I don't really know what I was expecting out of this endeavor. I was looking for some hope that Rush could be redeemed-I love progressive rock and arguably the most successful progressive rock band of all time had to have something to offer everyone who enjoyed the genre, right? Sadly, that doesn't look to be the case. I can see what they're trying to do-there's a certain magic that the music of Rush is trying to capture, but there's a wall of pretension, snottiness and self-seriousness that they keep bumping into before they get anywhere close to it. The vocals are hilarious when they're not unbearable and while the instrumentation isn't as overwrought as it is during their most egregious offenses, the lyrics are still chillingly bad for the most part.
It's just...artless. It's like somebody booked a theater on Broadway and then forgot to hire a director. If there's any kind of appeal to this kind of music, I can't find it.