“The Big Money” crashes out of the silence, full of percolating bass and suspended guitar chords, and a mid-section that could almost be mistaken for U2. Lyrically it’s not the most adventurous, but the cyclical patterns make it memorable. “Grand Designs” starts okay but doesn’t break much ground, though we really like that high-speed piano run about halfway through. While it seems a little forced these days, “Manhattan Project” is about the creation of the atomic bomb—a big topic of the era—swinging between a plaintive melody and a more urgent chorus, with a string arrangement by Anne Dudley, best known for her work with Trevor Horn and Art of Noise. “Marathon” is a more upbeat anthem to bring side one to a close, metaphors aplenty, and featuring an actual choir.
Side two doesn’t always catch fire. “Territories” is a pretty blatant (for them) commentary on world politics, stuck to a mildly Eastern rhythm and Far Eastern melodies. “Middletown Dreams” is something of an extension of the suburban setting of “Subdivisions”; the chorus is the best part, and since practically every state in the U.S. has a Middletown, concertgoers could always cheer for theirs. “Emotion Detector” sounds like elements of other songs on the album, so it doesn’t really go anywhere, but at least “Mystic Rhythms” does a better job with “exotic” sounds and would allow Neil to play around his electronic kit onstage.
While they still weren’t exactly mainstream, Power Windows finds the band even further from their prog-metal roots. The down side of the bargain was that their “big arena sound” was making many of their songs sound indistinguishable from each other. And while the sidelong epic seemed to be well in their past, none of the tracks is shorter than five minutes, adding to the density. It works, but only just. And perhaps the only dated thing about the album is the haircut of the kid on the cover, who still looks surprisingly like Anthony Michael Hall.
Rush Power Windows (1985)—3