The last album that I listened to as a fan was 1996's Test for Echo. This was the last album before the band's hiatus due to the tragic events in Neil's life. When the band returned in 2002 with Vapour Trails, they completely lost me. The album seemed lifeless, noisy and uninteresting to my ears. Not much on Snakes and Arrows changed my opinion aside from the instrumentals, Far Cry, and We Hold On (the tiresome proselytization of Faithless didn't help!). I also found Caravan to lack direction and any melody whatsoever.
So, I wasn't expecting to buy this album....until I kept reading four to five star reviews. Could this album be that good? The answer is yes! By Gosh, who would have thought that they could sound so tight, melodic, and textured after all this time!! There really isn't a bad song on the CD - something that I haven't been able to say about a Rush album since....1980??? To be perfectly fair, I'm not sure whether I lost my interest in Rush at the turn of the century or whether those 21st century albums were really as bad as I thought they were, because I do like Caravan now. However, all the songs flow from start to finish....and at the end of the 66 plus minutes, I am ready to listen again! That hasn't happened for me for a Rush album since 1982's Signals!
To say that I am surprised and delighted is an understatement. I am 48 years old now, listening more to Yo-Yo Ma, Murray Perahia, Miles Davis, and Radiohead than Rush, but this album has reawakened my love for Rush. I disagree with the reviewer who warns listeners to listen to the album first, because the album gets better on repeated listens. I've heard the album four times now and I hear something completely different each time. The arrangements are very thick, so if you're not paying attention, it can come across as noise. There is a lot going on at the same time, but the layers reveal themselves each time you listen.
That said, I'm not convinced that the band will gain any new fans with this album. They will win back old fans, they will delight their current audience, but this is all RUSH! Most people have heard them and have made up their minds as to whether they love them or hate them. The band sounds like they always have but are playing and writing better than they have in the last 30 years.
I am going to see them live again for the first time in ten years! Welcome back, boys! An old man has rediscovered your music and I am thankful for this album. I know that I'm not the only former fan who has been won back. Given its theme of time, experience, forgiveness, and life cycle, it's appropriate that Rush is winning back its old fans. It's almost a masterful stroke their part....or on the part of the watchmaker....