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Rush - Presto CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.16 | 787 ratings

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3 stars Maybe the band wouldn't have admitted it at the time, but I can't shake the feeling that the band members themselves felt like HYF was a bit of a dead-end, as this album is very little like the previous few. The most fundamental change is that, with this album, Rush basically abandoned any pretense of "artsiness" in the sound. There are still some synthesizers (along some piano), but they're largely shoved into the background and function just as window-dressing; the focus of the sound is definitely back on the power-trio core. Instead of hard synth-prog, the band presents us with "mature" pop-rock, with continued focus on Peart's various messages (and honestly, the lyrics are mostly fine on this album). As you can see from the rating, I'm not terribly impressed by this album, though I do like it much more than I used to. One thing I do respect about the album is that this album shows Rush, for almost the entire album, showing a great deal of restraint in its instrumental approach, as they largely try to let the songs speak for themselves and only use their arrangements for embellishment. Unfortunately, in doing so, they end up revealing that the songs aren't that great (particularly in the second half). A lot of the maturity on this album, to me, feels just as close to adult-contemporary as did some of my less favorite songs on the last two albums, and these don't even have the excessively dense arrangements that made those songs so notable for their goofiness. The thing is, this is the kind of album a band makes that can only be fully appreciated by a heavy fan of the band. You know, the kind of album where a fan raves about all of the little subtle touches, and the general feeling of maturity, and how it's an understated, underrated gem. I don't say this in a bad way; goodness knows I do that myself for lots of late-period albums of a lot of bands I enjoy. Unfortunately, this is also the kind of album that inevitably bores those who only like a band on a casual level, and who like a band's best stuff but could take or leave the rest.

I do generally like the first half, though. The arrangements are nothing special, and the style is almost totally unoriginal, but there are some decent riffs and melodies here. One song that totally eluded me my first few listens, but that I now really like, is "The Pass," a touching song about somebody contemplating suicide and how it's really not worth it. I don't get really moved by a lot of Geddy's singing or Neil's lyrics, but I definitely feel something in hearing Geddy sing, "Don't turn your back and slam the door on me" and other lines here. I'm also fond of the opening "rocker" "Show Don't Tell" (my former choice for the album's best), which has a very good chorus that easily sticks in my head.

Despite some of the silliness in the lyrics, I find "Chain Lightning" very memorable, and Lifeson has some effective uses of his standard arpeggiation throuighout. The title track is a little dippy lyrically, but only a little, and it has a mildly entertaining melody. And, well, "Scars" has a pretty strong hook in its chorus. "War Paint" isn't that notable to me, but it's still ok, and I don't mind when it's on. If the first half of the album (through the title track) falls on the level of "moderately above average," though, the second half definitely falls on the level of "moderately below average." None of the songs (except the really dippy "Superconductor," one of the dumbest "rockers" I've ever heard from Rush) are clearly awful, but he melodies are really non-descript, and the lack of hooks ends up emphasizing the adult-contemporary aspects all the more. It's just boring, and a band like Rush really has to entertain me for me to care much.

Let me stress again that I'm glad that the band abandoned the synth-heavy sound (largely for good), I really am. The thing is, Rush was never really meant to be a regular, conventional pop band (albeit with lyrics that are more sophisticated than those of a normal pop band); pop hooks, absent of hard riffs or bizarre synth parts, never were the band's main forte. I hear some good songwriting on here, but there's just not that much, and there's not a lot to make up the deficit. Fans will definitely want this, but I don't know about the rest of us.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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