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Permanent Waves

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Average Rating
★★★★½
(182 Reviews)

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  • Permanent Waves photographs Rush at the perfect moment–still young and hard-rocking but, six years after their recording debut and the requisite dues-paying of long tours, wielding razor sharp progressive songwriting experience melded with tremendous technical skills.Yes, this album “only” has six tunes, but they are all richly crafted. There’s no filler to be found on this album. Rush at this point had evolved beyond doing space-rock concept albums, but while they were admittedly moving to mildly more radio friendly songwriting, they still liked fairly long songs. Even these, however, were skillfully pared down to the essentials, centered around cohesive lyrical ideas that allowed for stretching-out musically. Cases in point: Freewill, Jacob’s Ladder, and especially the intense “Natural Science” (don’t let the bland title dissuade you from enjoying the full force of the trio wash over you). Even the most commercial tune on the album, “The Spirit Of Radio,” is an instrumental workout that also radiates the sincerity of redoubtable musicians who are hardly “selling out.”This album resembles Hemispheres in the mind-boggling *huge* sound conjured up by only three people on the traditional guitar/bass/drums. Part of this is because Geddy’s bass and Neil’s drums are equally kinetic but more importantly synced up so deeply on rhythmically difficult passages. It’s also because Alex chased down some of the hugest analog guitar sounds I’ve ever heard, a real benchmark even today. Synths are usually relegated to background pedal points and uncluttered atmospherics that subtly fill out the upper sonic reaches. The guest piano added by long-time album cover artist Hugh Syme on the ballad “Different Strings” is a perfect counterpoint in texture, a respite before the force of “Natural Science,” and an example of how deft use of space paradoxically adds density. Not to mention the fact that the tune–lyrics and all–is a bit of a rarity, written by Geddy in a display of matured sophistication (usually it’s Neil who writes the lyrics while the other two concentrate on the music).Moving Pictures, the other “peak” Rush album in the Hemispheres-Permanent Waves-MP period, is considerably darker by comparison to this bittersweet yet warm, probing, mature masterpiece. And it is a welcome example of the remasters, which have generally greatly improved the presence and warmth of all the Rush catalog, where applied. To me, Permanent Waves is the perfect “summer” album (welcome any time of year!), with a great overall groove and blend of musicianship that can’t help but get the blood flowing, or make a road trip pulse just a little bit faster. As a refined, yet powerful and intriguing harder rock that not only stays with you past adolescence but also helps you reminisce with energetic warmth, this is it.

    Posted on March 6, 2010