Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Rush 8: Permanent Waves

Even though it was written and recorded in 1979, Permanent Waves began the decade strongly for Rush. Sci-fi epics were out, and tight power trio interplay took over. Geddy Lee’s voice is less silly but still out of reach for detractors, but his real contribution is his growing prowess on keyboards, used more as enhancements than effects.
That’s not to say that budding suburban guitarists had nothing to copy. “The Spirit Of Radio” and “Freewill”, back to back, gave spotty teens reason to compete and impress each other at parties. The former is a celebration of a time when FM radio meant something, and whoever though these guys would find a way to combine reggae and Paul Simon? “Freewill” provides another anthem for the individual, a big deal in high school, though Geddy’s screeching on the final verse will divide the lovers and the haters. “Jacob’s Ladder” is something of an echo of those old epics, particularly with the flanged vocal section, except that the marching tempo driving the first part leads to only clouds preparing for battle, making the song nothing more than a description of the sky. (Heavy, man.)
There are a lot of tricky tempo changes on this album, and many of them are in “Entre Nous”, which delivers something of a hope for the future should those who have chosen freewill manage to cooperate. “Different Strings” hearkens back to some of the quieter moments on side two of 2112, based around a complicated guitar part and accented by an out-of-character piano accompaniment. It even fades right when you think we’re in for a lengthy solo. Instead, we’re plunged into nine minutes of “Natural Science”. Divided into three titled parts lyrically if not musically, it’s a challenging song to enjoy with all its insistence. In hindsight, it does seem something of an ancestor to an instrumental we’ll discuss soon enough.
Even with metaphorical lyrics, Permanent Waves is a very “direct” album, and if not simple, certainly simpler that where they’d been so far. They had figured out how to challenge themselves and their audience without complicating things too much, and in the process grew that audience. They even got some airplay out of it, since American deejays loved to play songs written about themselves. (The album was duly expanded for its fortieth anniversary, this time with an extra disc’s worth of tunes recorded live at three shows on the tour that supported the album and new cover art. Those who sprung for the Super Deluxe Edition got all that plus all the music on six sides of vinyl, various replicas of our ephemera, and other bells and whistles.)

Rush Permanent Waves (1980)—
2020 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition: same as 1980, plus 11 extra tracks

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