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Rush

Signals

Review by Greg Olma

If you want to set a “ground zero” for when Rush lost their prog sound, then 1982’s Signals was the album. The band had been slowly moving towards more concise and basic song structures starting with Permanent Waves but they still threw in a couple of tunes that would give a nod to their older prog fanbase. On this release, Rush abandoned all the remnants of that 70’s progressive sound and set their sights on the 80’s and its new wave leanings. Let me state for the record (to alleviate any stress that the Rush fanatics out here may have) that I love this CD. I chose to grow along with the band and explore new music. Sure, I missed the prog metal grooves on A Farewell To Kings but I also appreciated the fact that the band needed to explore new directions and sounds. Ultimately, Lee, Lifeson, and Peart had to enjoy themselves for the band to continue. Keyboards have been a big part of the Rush sound since 1977 but on Signals, they take a front seat and really feature predominantly in the mix. There are plenty of guitars here to keep Lifeson busy but the keyboards really stand out. Peart’s lyrics again capture the more “human” aspects of life and “temple priest,” “Cygnus” and “Kubla Khan” are all left in the past. This was Rush in 1982 and they were making a statement. I just recently pulled this CD out to listen to it for this review and I was surprised at how well it still holds up today. I guess they really were onto something back then.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Subdivisions
The album opens up in new wave fashion with a very keyboard heavy sound. A little bit of guitar does creep in but the keyboards pretty much take over the whole song. This was the second single from the record and as such it has a very commercial sound. The band continues to produce tunes that have more of a “verse, verse, chorus” structure. Peart does a great job here by lyrically capturing the essence of suburbia. Overall, it’s a great tune but you have to be open minded to “get” the new Rush.
The Analog Kid
Lifeson finally makes a strong appearance on this fast paced rock tune. Lyrically and musically, this cut could have easily fit on Moving Pictures. It has more of a rock feel than the other material on this record. It also ends with an uncharacteristically fast lead solo from Lifeson. It is a good cut but does not quite fit in with the others.
Chemistry
The guitar sound on “Chemistry” resembles the work done on Permanent Waves. Even though the guitar sound comes through, the keyboards try to take over. I quite like the quirky lyrics on this one because Peart doesn’t always go for the obvious.
Digital Man
Of all the cuts on offer here, I think this is the one that is most overlooked. It starts with a Hemispheres feel but gets a bit jazzy during the chorus. Add to that a bridge that is new wave and you get a hodge podge of styles that somehow works. Lifeson also puts in his best performance here with a guitar solo that fits just perfectly.
The Weapon
Starting the “Fear” trilogy (or ending it really) on Moving Pictures, here we get part 2. This is the longest song on the CD and for my money, it could have been a little shorter. I do like the guitar sound which hearkens back to the previous record but some of the music goes nowhere. If they had shortened it by a minute, the overall track would have been better.
New World Man
This was the first single and it was kind of a brave choice at the time. Continuing the reggae sound from “Vital Signs,” this little tune was so far removed from what the band was famous for that I’m sure some fans were put off. It has a bounce-y feel that does rock at times but it really would not have been my choice for a single.
Losing It
Peart puts in his most depressing lyrics on this ballad that will make you feel sad. The music and words fit the overall mood perfectly. The song is mainly a keyboard track but Lifeson does put his stamp on it. We also get a guest appearance by Ben Mink (who later worked with Geddy Lee on My Favorite Headache) on electric violin.
Countdown
The closer starts out with launch sequence sound effects but quickly builds into a tune that contains parts that remind me of “Camera Eye.” For a longer cut, there are not many lyrics (which by the way were inspired by the band’s visit to a shuttle launch). This was also released as a single (3rd one) and I find this track a better choice than “New World Man.”
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