Rush - Power Windows
As the Canadian trio known as Rush continued to evolve in the middle of the evolving musical scenes of the 1980's, the overlying decision to focus more on electronic elements and less on the core 3-piece rock outfit they had won their modest fame and fortune with was perhaps denying a sect of fans their fix. To be fair, evolution in Rush's dictionary has never quite been the same as the generic definition. Power Windows is, compared to earlier, synth-laden prodctions, an even further leap into dangerous territory. And while it lacks the revolutionary and/or genre-defining aspects of earlier works, it definitely makes a case for respect and the occasional moment of pristine songwriting.
"The Big Money" was quick to highlight the record, and a video (which has not aged well) was circulated on MTV, a reflection on the pop leanings Power Windows was shacked up with. As cohesive a band Rush has always been, Geddy Lee was, intentionally or not, taking up much more space than usual. Between his synth arrangements and more hyperactive and up-in-the-mix bass work, it was Alex Lifeson whose solid and oft-underappreciated guitar work that is sadly left home alone. "Grand Designs" is fairly standard, and is a strong indication of how lackluster and uninspired Lifeson's contributions were at the time. His solo falls flat as Geddy's hyperactive bass attempts to pick up the slack. "Manhatton Project" is also fairly unsurprising, but the lyrical subject matter regarding the atomic bombs and their usage during WWII is at least on level with some of Neil Peart's best works as a writer. "Marathon" is really only noteworthy for Lifeson stepping out of the shadow briefly for some emotive guitar runs midway through, a rare moment of the band flowing as one. The more upbeat and energetic "Territories" has always made it stand out more to my ears, surrounded by more mid-paced groovers. It has an especially well-made chorus that sticks in your ears as well, something Power Windows mostly lacks. "Middletown Dreams" is a too-late re-envisioning of the subject matter an older track, "Subdivions", already nailed perfectly. "Emotion Detector" has a ballad feel to it and isn't all that bad, but doesn't hold the weight it teases us with. The best was saved for last, however, as "Mystic Rhythms" is a carefully crafted, percussion-driven brooder of a track, expertly penned to briskly ride a tempo down into the depths of a foreign land of mystery and imagination. It both harkens back to the overactive imaginings of their classic rock days and forward to the modern rock core they'd come to find within their sound once again.
While it pains me to say it, Power Windows is a major miss for a band with too much in the way of technical and emotional know-how to let happen. Every band, especially those with a track record rivaling the best of their respective niches, is allowed their moments of puffed-up self-gratification. Whether or not you can chalk Power Windows up as such is certainly debatable, but it's always how I've taken it in. The addition of an actual 30-piece symphony and large choir for certain sections was ambitious to be sure, but hindered what was an established method of crafting music. It took Rush a period of intense experimentation to realize that, and while the fans may have suffered for it, there's still a certain level of satifaction to be had at rare moments throughout this era of the electronic bleeps and blips.
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on 2011-12-06 CharlesMartel Said:
This album was a huge disappointment. It may as well have been a Geddy lee solo album. Lifeson was not well around this time and it shows.