Yet the other day, I listened to Signals (1982), an album I first heard the day it came out, an album which I hated when I first heard it—then was intrigued by—then was stunned by—then worshipped. I had hear it countless times before, but hadn’t heard it in a while, when I put it on.
As I listened to it, all of a sudden, I noticed a guitar line in the song “Digital Man”. There are only eight songs on the album—I knew them all by heart. Yet all of a sudden, I noticed this guitar line which had always been there, but which I simply hadn’t noticed before, even after almost 30 years of listening to it.
And as I listened to that guitar line more closely—repetitively—almost compulsively—I suddenly realized that much of my reaction to the song over the last nearly 30 years of listening to it was because of that subtle guitar line, seemingly tossed into the mix. I had never noticed it before—but now it was practically all that I heard. I listened to the song—entranced—a half dozen times, listening to that delicate, seemingly spontaneous guitar line.
That’s why Rush fans love Rush: We hate every album the first time we hear it, yet every album offers a riot of sounds that ultimately capture its listeners as completely as a fly trap.
2. Everyone focusses on Neil Peart, but Alex Lifeson is the key.
Peart is a great drummer—but Lifeson’s sound has dictated the direction of Rush over the years. Peart is like a metronome: His sound, his genius, changes as slowly as a glacier.
But Lifeson? Listen to the first eponymous album in 1974—then listen to 2112 a mere two years later. Then listen to Hemispheres two years after that.
Lifeson’s artistic development has dominated Rush. His sound was the band’s sound—Peart and Geddy Lee, though astonishing musicians, never progressed, or developed, or evolved the way Lifeson did. They got better, but they never grew.
Technically, Lifeson peaked with Hemispheres (and by the way, is there any guitar solo more beautiful, more sexy, more intense and dynamic than “Lerxst in Wonderland”?), but artistically, he peaked in the trilogy of albums, Permanent Waves (1980), Moving Pictures (1981) and Signals (1982).
But after that, Lifeson took a nosedive with 1984’s Grace Under Pressure. There were spots that were good—the solo on “Kid Gloves”, the guitar work on “Red Sector A”.
Lifeson suffered the most painful fate an artist can ever face: He defeated his instrument. He clearly got bored playing guitar. The tragedy of Lifeson is, he was so good, he burned through his medium, and discovered that there was nothing: It was just an instrument.
Peart and Lee are great musicians, monsters the both of them. But Lifeson was the true genius of Rush.
3. We hate every Rush album until we begin to understand it. Then once we begin to understand it, we find ourselves listening to other music differently.
Like Harold Bloom said: Great art changes you. That’s what Rush does—it doesn’t pander to the listener: It makes demands of the listener, and thereby changes him.
4. Selina Martin’s acoustic cover of “The Spirit of Radio”:
5. How could a trio of 24 year-old boys create something as complex and profound as 2112? Must’ve been the drugs.
6. Jacob Moon’s live cover of “Subdivisions”: