Thursday, October 9, 2014

In Defense of Signals by Rush

Once again reality has to kick me in the ass – hard – with steel toe doc martens – to push me to finish an article.  I lost a really good friend on October 2 – his name was Kevin and he was a huge Rush fan.  In fact that's how I met him – a friend and I walked into a bar and there was Kevin at the end of the bar like the mayor, he clocked my friends Rush shirt and we've all been friends ever since.  This isn't going to be a eulogy, but in Kevin's honor I'm going to finish this article.  This is for you – my lobster bitch. 

Rush are one of those bands that have hard rock fans divided.  There are those who consider Rush GODS – untouchable – and how do you say anything negative about the Canadian deities?  Then there is the faction that consider Rush over-rated, overplaying hacks better left to fans of Dungeons and Dragons and Sci-Fi trivia.  I fall in the first category – and now that I'm slowly starting to learn to play bass, I can appreciate the band even more (and yes I like Sci-fi – read my Doctor Who article on this very site!!!)

Just like Rush themselves divide music fans, the albums the band released after 1981's breakthrough “Moving Pictures” can cause heated discussions among even the most die-hard Rush-heads.  “Signals” - released  1982 - was the first in Rush's series of keyboard heavy records.

The album kicks off with the now classic-rock friendly “Subdivisions” - with it's all to familiar keyboard riff.  Uh oh – this is where Rush are headed?  It's a solid rock song with a good guitar solo by Alex Lifeson.  Neil Peart's lyrics seem to tell the biography of the stereotypical Rush fan – the outcast, the “uncool” one.  Or was that how Neil saw the band themselves? In an interview, Neil Peart has said the song was about himself – how he was always “uncool” - he couldn't even play hockey which in suburban Canada must have been a cause for shunning!!  Most die-hard “Rushians” who say the band is the soundtrack to their lives, say this is the first track of that soundtrack.

The next track, “Analog kid” starts off right out of the gate with a nice riff and then – at about a minute in – SYNTHESIZERS.  “OH GOD!” Rush fans of the day must have thought, “There they fucking are again!!  This isn't Bastille Day!!” Again, like Subdivisions it's a solid rock song with a killer Lifeson solo.  Did I mention Geddy Lee yet? The poor boy had his arms and legs busy between vocals, bass and Taurus pedals, in addition to the ubiquitous keyboards.

“Chemistry” is next and right away you could tell this was a new sound.  While the band have always utilized keys in their prog-rock past, this was the first time it was prominent on every track. 

Side 1 ends with “Digital Man” which features the band venturing into reggae territory.  According to Wikipedia, the middle section of this song has been compared to “Walking on the Moon” by the Police.  Whether this is complimentary or not is subjective. I really like the bass line to this song and one day when I progress past scales and “Courageous Cat” I'll..oh who am I kidding...let's move on to side 2.

"The Weapon (Part II of "Fear")" is our introduction to side 2 with a nice drum riff by Peart, then Lifeson's guitar, then Lee's bass kicks in with the keyboards taking more of a back seat, at least until the bridge.  This is by far my favorite track on the album just for the lyrics alone. 

“Can any part of life -- be larger than life?
Even love must be limited by time
And those who push us down that they might climb --
Is any killer worth more than his crime?”

“New World Man” - keyboards out of the gate – the band kicks in to a nice steady syncopated rhythm.  To say this song is atypical of the band is a misnomer.  Rush are so diverse there is no such thing as a “typical” Rush song.  Maybe that's why it's such a thorn in my side when people write off this and their other albums of the 80's.  You want a band who's been putting out the same album since 1980? Listen to AC/DC (which I do – ALL THE TIME!)

“Losing It” is a beautiful melancholy song all about losing one's touch.  The dancer who can't dance anymore, the writer who has no inspiration..."for you the blind who once could see/ the bell tells for thee”.  For those of you keeping score – this track is drenched in keyboards – and features Ben Mink from the band FM on violins.

The album closes with “Countdown” written about when the band were invited to watch the launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia.  According to Wikipedia the speech heard at the end of the track was radio recorded during the maiden flight. But I remember reading somewhere it's the members of the band ad-libbing the dialogue. 

So there you have it – Rush's Signals.  To this date one of my favorite albums – in my opinion no “skippable tracks” but have a listen to it yourself.  I hope I was able to open some people's eyes (and ears) about how enjoyable it is.

Big thanks to one of the biggest Rush fans I know, Abe S – for his help with “fact-checking” this article.  

- Rys

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...