Simpler, cleaner, more accessible--yet still deep and complex,
This review is from: Permanent Waves (Audio CD)As far as albums go, 'Permanent Waves' is short at 35 minutes. That's almost an EP by today's standards. That was something that disappointed me when it first came out, but now I realize that they have managed to pack a whole lot of material into that slim 35 minutes.
The title of the album is a statement of defiance against the New Wave--ironic, considering how much it embraces the music, sounds, and lyrical style of that genre.
As a group they decided to focus on achieving in 4 to 5 minutes what had taken them 8 to 11 minutes previously.
'Permanent Waves' opens with one of the coolest opens in Rock. "The Spirit of Radio" really captures that joy of heading down the road listening to a good radio station. Does that happen for anybody anymore?
To my ear, musically, the song is almost like a pop rock version of "Circumstances" from 'Hemispheres'. It is a very fast tempo song compared to most of their previous work.
"Freewill" also has a flavour of 'Hemispheres', but it is lighter and has a distinct 80's feel about it. This song is probably one of the most important in the Rush catalog in terms of defining the philosophy of the band. They are about that is about personal drive, ambition, and the obsession with doing the best job one can possibly do. "Freewill" is about the broader choice in life. It is about the choice of how one lives one's life. Does one accept the blame for one's own mistakes and the accolades for one's own triumphs, or does one put it all on the shoulders of an imaginary being or a belief in the supernatural? Are we victims of circustance or are we the makers of our own destiny? The answer probably lies somewhere in between. "Freewill" is about being accountable for one's self.
I have tried really hard to like "Jacob's Ladder", but it is too long and plodding and repetitive. It could use some economy in its arrangement. Even though the band claims it is a tone poem, I never saw it that way. I always felt that it was about the triumph of reason over the darkness of superstition--especially since it is juxtaposed with "Freewill".
"Entre Nous" is a fun pop rock song. It is almost a love song! It is not overly complex the way many Rush tunes of the time were. I think that if it were more danceable, it would have been a hit single for them.
In stark contrast to the rest of the album, there is the brilliant "Different Strings". The song is beautifully unique. It forms a counterpart to "Madrigal" from 'A Farewell to Kings'. I love all the parts that float in and out, Geddy's clean, warm bass, the cold snap of Neil's drums and cymbals, and Alex's deadly guitar outro.
The album closes with one of the best songs in the entire Rush catalog, "Natural Science". It is in long form like many earlier compositions, but it is not so concentrated on Metal. You could almost
call this Progressive New Wave.
Unlike earlier long form compositions, the lyrics to this one deal with something concrete and relevant. It is not fanciful. The lines are all short and easy to sing, much like the New Wave songs of the time. To my mind, this is very close to a perfect song.
Both Geddy and Alex point to "Natural Science" as their favourite from the album and one of their all time favourites to play live.