Signals (1983)


1.Subdivisions
2.The Analog Kid
3.Chemistry
4.Digital Man
5.The Weapon
6.New World Man
7.Losing It
8.Countdown

 

Now that Rush had finally "made it", so to speak, they shocked a lot of people by doing something that they had actually done – and still do. They shook things up a bit in the studio in an effort to make this release a bit different. It's a bit hard to understand why, since they just released their biggest and best album yet in Moving Pictures. Why not just make a carbon copy? Well, as stated, this was never much in the cards for Rush. They were always seeking ways to modify their sound, always listening to new influences, and always trying to keep themselves a bit fresh.

The biggest change in this record is that Alex Lifeson's guitar is drastically toned down. There are very few rip-roaring, axe-shredding solos, and when they do appear, the intention was to bury them deep down in the mix. Lifeson would joke in later years that when listening to the cuts in the studio during recording, he was always trying to sneak his hand on the dials that would make the guitar sound more prominent, only to have his hand slapped by producer Terry Brown. Instead, the band features Geddy Lee's throbbing, pulsating synth sounds to be front and center. This was the beginning of Rush's "keyboard" sound that was crucial for the band's development and growth, but not necessarily looked upon with great favor by many of the fans, nor the band members themselves.

The leadoff track Subdivisions is a perfect example of what to expect on this record. The intro to the song has the above mentioned synthesizer throb leading off the track, before the band rips into one of their best songs ever, and arguably the best song here. You mainly hear synthesizer and drums, along with Geddy singing about being a teenage outcast growing up in "suburbia". Yes, there are bass and guitars, but one must strain to hear them in most places. Fortunately, the band proves on this song that such an experiment can work, and it does work for most of the record.

They go beyond the synth heavy sound in terms of experimentation. Witness the leadoff track on side 2 The Weapon. This song seems to incorporate a sort of danceable rhythm, that has aged well with most fans, although it was pretty strange upon first hearing. Also in this category is Digital Man which seems to incorporate a ska/reggae feel to it that seems so far from anything the band has ever done. Again, though, Rush has always managed to make these style shifts somehow work, even though it may take the faithful awhile to warm up to them.

Sometimes, though, to be fair, the experimentations do seem a bit much, and whereas the experimentation never really fails, it sometimes comes across as only "pretty good". Witness the ballad (yes, ballad) Losing It. This is probably the slowest thing the band had ever done to date, and there are so many things being thrown into the mix of this song (including and electric violin solo), that some tend to think "OK…um….that's sounds pretty good. But what else d'ya got??". Same might be said for the closing track Countdown, which was inspired from the band witnessing the launching of the (then new) Space Shuttle Columbia lifting off for an orbital travel. Again, the song sounds good, but to be frank, it comes off almost a bit like a five minute commercial for the space program.

Strangely, this album features the only top 40 Rush song ever, yet many aren't aware of the fact, nor really aware of the song itself. New World Man managed to get the highest chart position ever, but those in the know feel this is because Rush, on their last album, finally made themselves a household name, not because this track is really anything spectacular. It's good, just not great. The band manages to feature it maybe once every five or six tours.

Also in the "very good" category is the song The Analog Kid, which is without a doubt, the most rock oriented piece on the record. It's a favorite amongst the faithful as well.

So good album? Yes. Really good album? Yes. As good as the last two or three? No. Still, though, Rush had now cemented themselves into the hearts and minds of many fans, and unknown to anyone at the time, they would still be going strong more than three decades later.


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