Rush – Permanent Waves (1980): Review

permanent

Produced by Terry Brown and Rush
Label – Anthem/Mercury

With the benefit of hindsight and bearing in mind the context, the juxtaposition of being the biggest and most avidly followed progressive rock band of the time, “Permanent Waves” is an immensely courageous release. For up until that time Rush had built their global powers on the back of their intense and sometimes fantastically complex music, arrangements and fantasy lyrical parables of celestial and science fiction characters and unearthly landscapes. Having seen their peers of the prog rock world (Yes, Genesis, ELP etc) either wilt, water down, or die, under the indirectly inextricable rise of new wave, Rush were possibly the only true top level band of their type that remained at that time. And yet, the trio seemed to understand that a shift in musical structure was necessary; to firstly shorten the experimental passages, then take traditional song structures of verse, chorus, bridge and mould their undeniable musical talents into bite sized chunks of top notch Rock with only the merest hint of a progressive diversification. Interestingly, bass/vocalist Geddy Lee’s vocal pitch seems to have dropped an octave to a more accessibly derivative tone and drummer Neil Peart’s lyrics seem to take on a more cerebral note. It all fits together and the culmination creates one of the best performances of the Canadians career.

rush

The magnificent “The Spirit Of Radio” underlines every facet of change that had taken place; a charging dramatic celebration of Toronto Radio station CFNY, it contains Guitarist Alex Lifeson’s memorable rapid riff, and a genuinely powerful vocal performance from Lee. “Freewill” continues with an almost illuminating exuberance yet seen on a Rush recording, and a superb Lifeson solo. The band were now beginning to use Moog and Oberheim synthesizers to further increase the dramatic crescendos, and the severely underrated “Entre Nous” is a perfect example of a band taking a radio friendly rock song and “beefing it up” to something truly memorable. The traditional fan base wouldn’t be let down either, and “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Natural Science” easily rival the quality of earlier recordings, of which “Jacob’s Ladder” is just slightly the more superior. If there is a criticism, it’s with the ballad “Different Strings”, which lyrically takes a step backwards and musically seems to drift on without a goal, and seems a poor fit to an album of such quality. “Permanent Waves” is not Rush’s finest hour; they would save that for next time, but for an introduction to their immense back catalogue I couldn’t pick a better starting point.

If ever you were under the misguided impression that Rush were just another limp, out dated prog rock outfit, then “Permanent Waves” will make you think again, and again, and again, until you realize that these Canadians REALLY had something going on.

8/10

Track Listing
1. “The Spirit of Radio” 4:57
2. “Freewill” 5:24
3. “Jacob’s Ladder” 7:26
4. “Entre Nous” 4:36
5. “Different Strings” 3:48
6. “Natural Science” 9:17

The Spirit Of Radio

Jacob’s Ladder

Entre Nous

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