This is The Spirit of Radio
Most people that know me, know the shortlist of obsessions and my passion for them. Sure, most people are deep rooted in their own, but I go well beyond that sometimes. Not everyone will relate, and that’s fine. In this installment, I’m focused on RUSH, the 3 Prog Rock musicians from Canada, and why I consider them so great. Not to argue that they are the greatest of all time (everyone will have their opinion). But since they’ve been a large musical influence for me most of my life, how each of us [fans] will have many different reasons as to why it is. From favorite song, to favorite album, to most influential, to most technical, to favorite band member, or to favorite moment(s) for THAT particular fan… it’s all different, and subjective, and arguable… for an obsessed RUSH fan.
For non-RUSH fans, this may not be interesting at all.
But, recently a friend (not really much of a RUSH fan) posed the question: What is the Best RUSH Album?
Or more to the point: Is Permanant Waves the best RUSH album?
Many people [fans] might consider that out of left field. Especially considering all 20 albums, and that you might get 20 different answers. Others might understand the reasoning why that could be true. My friends involved in this discussion saw it different ways, of course. But right or wrong, the following could (and was) argued by my friend (Rick):
1) Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures define ground zero in terms of the Rush musical style
– sonically dense with virtuoso musicality
– highly melodic bass
– often intellectual (vs. emotional), metaphoric lyrical themes
– odd and changing time signatures
– long or multi-part movements (compared to traditional pop radio) without being side-length
– loose coupling of songs on an album around a non-explicit theme
So if you believe that Rush’s music is mostly defined as those things, there’s the argument that they achieve perfection of those things are those two albums, with Moving Pictures generally considered the more refined. The albums are back-to-back in their discography.
2) those two albums mark the transition “out” of their increasingly byzantine and side-length (and sometimes album-spanning) song cycles, while simultaneously proving that Rush’s musical style could be condensed into approximately radio-length songs without sacrificing the intent, and thereby increasing listen accessibility.
It’s funny that the band members (in the documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage) explicitly call out that they hit a wall at the end of the album before Permanent Waves when they wrote a song (La Villa Strangiato) that was too long and complex for them to successfully record live in one take, which is a principle they were long committed to. That informed them that a change was necessary
3) the template on Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures has pretty much (for good or ill depending on if you like Rush) been the template for all Rush music going forward. They notably proceeded heavily down a synthesizer+pastel guitar+almost jazz fusion route until around 1991, but then reversed it pretty much completely
To me Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures are very much companion albums versus one being a refinement of the other. My other favorite Rush album (and probably #1 if I have to pick just one) is 2112, obviously, mainly because they pissed in the record company’s face with that one because they were expecting to be dropped and their career to end so they made the most “Rush-like”, fuck-you album they could imagine. In the process they made one of the best-regarded prog rock albums of all time, sold a billion copies, jettisoned the band to a super-stardom, and made a living monument to the sentiment of “you want us to do this? we’re going to do the opposite, knowing it will destroy us; fuck you”, and won.
So, what’s your favorite Rush album? What’s your favorite song? (assuming you like them AT ALL). It’s ok if you don’t.
I know around our office, whether you like it or not, you’re gonna hear ’em. At the very least, as we’ve crowned YYZ our site launch song (along with Skyline Chili theme song), you get a taste from time to time.
And check out The Spirit of Radio LIVE from my iPhone in Charlotte 2012.
And Campy’s YYZ in Greenville: