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Hold Your Fire

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  • To a certain degree, Rush has always personified the battle between passion and reason. The theme even illustrated the cover of their 1978 opus, “Hemispheres.” Led by bassist-singer’s Geddy Lee’s love it or hate it falsetto vocal style, “Hold Your Fire” is a fitting bookmark to what was perhaps the most productive and musically-rich chapter in the band’s history. Drummer Neil Peart’s pensive lyrics provide the plot for what turns out to be the end of the musical journey begun with 1980’s “Permanent Waves.” As the title suggests, the theme of the album is the human struggle to temper instinct and passion with intellect and restraint.The songs explore several variations of the theme: honoring the sacrifices we sometimes must make to hold true to our dreams (“Mission”); warning us of the dangers of giving in (“Lock and Key”); or exploring the side effects of progress (“Second Nature”). Peart’s lyrics have always been among the most literate and thought-provoking in rock and, when all is said and done, it’s hard to disagree with them. The reason for this is that, rather than beat you over the head with his point of view, he chooses to explore the many shades of gray that illustrate one of the core struggles at the heart of human understanding.The irony is that, while the lyrics provide a well-balanced view of the passion vs. reason struggle, the music falls squarely on the side of reason. In choosing to push the power trio format to the limit, Rush chose to play heavily with the use of sequencers which, in turn, makes one feel that, with everything that is going on musically, the band never really cuts loose. Even Peart’s snare drum is not the powerful firecracker heard in, say, “Moving Pictures.”This is not to say, however, that “Hold Your Fire” is a sterile album. On the contrary, Lee’s vocals are at their most accessible and his bass and keyboard work is nothing short of amazing. Guitarist Alex Lifeson continues to play with phrasing with an inventiveness absent from most of the “guitar god” alumni of the time. And, of course, Peart is his usual self: one of the most inventive drummers in rock, equal parts power, precision, and intelligence. Adding first-rate production by the band and Peter Collins, “Hold Your Fire” is a terrific exercise, lyrically, musically, sonically and philosophically.

    Posted on December 22, 2009