Friday, September 18, 2020

Rush 20: Test For Echo

Three years was the longest hiatus for Rush yet, but once they reconvened for another album, they pretty much picked up where they left off. Test For Echo built on the guitar-centric sound that made Counterparts so refreshing, but missed some subtleties. Maybe Alex Lifeson’s experiments on Victor were still ringing in everyone’s ears.
The title track is a successful groove, nicely balanced between the players, while the lyrics bemoan the barrage of media already starting to affect society in the ‘90s. “Driven” is built upon multiple bass tracks; apparently Geddy Lee felt it was his turn to drive. Several tricky rhythms throw off the listener, who might not realize how few lyrics there actually are. A similar tendency to use a list as the basis for lyrics dogs “Half The World”, which still manages to be catchy, and we hear echoes of Pearl Jam in the arrangement (but definitely not the vocals). “The Color Of Right” is another good mesh of music and lyrics, this time provoking thought over legal terms. “Time And Motion” manages to mix Rush prog with current alt-metal, with a completely anachronistic keyboard throwing a wrench into everything. The social commentary continues on “Totem”, a litany of deities and religious icons, traditional and imagined.
By Neil Peart’s own admission, the lyrics to “Dog Years” were written during a post-celebratory hangover, which could be why he pushes the metaphors and puns as far as possible. (Photos of the boys as children with their new instruments illustrate the words in the CD booklet.) “Virtuality” almost sounds quaint today, decades after a time when the possibilities of the Internet still seemed like science fiction. The album’s sound finally shifts with “Resist”, based around a piano pattern that’s been the hallmark of the Atlantic era thus far along with a pleasing acoustic breakdown. It’s welcome, almost an anthem. “Limbo” is the album’s requisite instrumental, but unlike their previous successes, this seems more like a track that never got vocals, save the disembodied samples and some wordless moaning. (Apparently it was pieced together, Frankenstein-style, from various ideas that had been “in limbo” for some time. And as much as “Rush Limbo” suggests a certain narcissistic radio host, that wasn’t the intention.) With its references to Sisyphus, “Carve Away The Stone” aims to be profound amid more complicated rhythms.
Test For Echo isn’t classic Rush, but it is impressive for coming together as quickly as it did. They would tour, of course, but little did anyone know that they were about to take an even longer break.

Rush Test For Echo (1996)—3

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