Rush - Permanent Waves
When the single from this album was released, for the first time since probably Whispering Bob Harris had played "Finding My Way" off the first album on the OGWT all those years ago, Auntie Beeb noticed Rush. As usual, the record companies had the radio stations under their thumbs and were beginning to re-exert their continued authority over it after being caught on the wrong foot by punk. So what was a Rush track doing on the UK's number one radio station.
Well the song was "Spirit of Radio", a good solid rocker with a message (ironically critical of the record companies and radio). This was Rush's most commercial release, hence the record companies in their arrogance finally deemed Rush worthy of a place on UK National Radio.
Permanent Waves marked another change of direction for Rush. After the prog rock excesses of Hemispheres, Rush were back to a more organic style of music. Okay, on "Jacob's Ladder" for example they still did the prog stuff and together with "Natural Science" could have found a place on any of the previous three Rush albums. But this album had a different feel to it. This was not the Rush we had come to love (or loathe, depending on your viewpoint). Keyboards are more in evidence and the guitar is more often to be found as part of the rhythm section than at any time before. The lyrics were, by and large, rooted in the real world and it is no surprise that Neal Peart had given way to Geddy Lee on the writing of some of the lyrics. It is as if Rush had woken up to the fact that they were becoming over-indulgent and pretentious and decidced to get back to their roots.
By-Tor had been slain and the Snow Dog had rid the world of evil; the Necromancer had disappeared into the night; the tyrant Priests of Syrinx had been overthrown and music restored to the people; the world of the Olympian Gods had been restored to a perfect unity by Don Quixote's worn out old horse. The world was at peace, so Rush could now slag off the record company, sing about freewill and go back to simple songs and simple melodies.
Many people I knew at the time of this release were seriously disappointed. They had been expecting another prog rock epic and were disappointed that Permanent Waves was nothing of the sort. Yes it did mark a change in direction, but a welcome one. It was as if Rush had realised that the days of the overblown pompous prog epic had passed. Hell, even Yes were trying to go commercial by bringing in the Buggle boys as their producers. Rush needed to move on and this was their attempt to do so.
Ironically, this was the last Rush album I bought for nearly thirty years. I had finally tired of the prog rock they had pursued. When they tried their hand at the real world, I would instantly compare them with the punks and post punks. Rush were not as convincing when it came to providing an immediate and socially pertinent source of musical inspiration to my life. As a consequence, I find this album hard to listen to. I had essentially grown out of Rush. However, listening to it some years later I can finally begin to appreciate it more. As you would expect, it is technically flawless. The band had lost none of their ability and this is what carries the album. This album marks a move back towards rock, but by now I had lost interest.
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