Rush - Moving Pictures
I used to be a big fan of Rush. During the early and mid-seventies they were up there among my favourites. However, as the seventies progressed and punk began to have an effect on my musical tastes, I rather fell out of love with them. It is hard to identify why, but their gradual descent in prog rock virtuosity certainly had something to do with it. "By-Tor and the Snow Dog" was undoubtedly a great track, and the "2112" suite had some sublime moments, but Hemispheres as an album rather missed the point as far as I was concerned. Then there were the other issues I had with the direction the band's music was taking. I grew disillusioned with their fondness for Ayn Rand, which began to creep increasingly into the sub-text of some of their songs. Finally, they gradually abandoned a guitar led musical structure and increasingly relied on synthesisers - always difficult for a three piece. The last album I bought was Permanent Waves when it came out in the eighties. Thereafter, Rush disappeared from my radar.
It was only when I started searching the internet for new music to listen to that I picked up the Rush story from where I left off over twenty years earlier. Rush had aged: Geddy now wore glasses; Alex had cut his hair and started to go fat; and Neil had shaved his ‘tache and started to look like Kevin Spacey. I was amazed to discover that the album issued immediately after I stopped buying Rush albums, Moving Pictures, was rated as the best of all their albums in many people's view. Indeed, across the board, critics generally, professional, amateur and rank amateur alike, considered Moving Pictures to be the best Rush album. Eventually I succumbed. I bought another Rush album.
Well, if this is the best Rush album, all I can say is, that this band must be a different one to the band I knew as Rush. The trend which had begun with Permanent Waves continued with this album. Mostly gone were the sometimes daft lyrics of Neil Peart; gone were the extended guitar solos of Alex Lifeson; gone were the pseudo-metaphysical meanderings (also known as "pub philosophy") and contests between good and evil which had characterised so many of their albums in the seventies. Only Geddy Lee's voice, like it or loathe it, remained - and he'd stopped screeching. This was a new Rush, an almost commercial Rush. It was like Rush had stopped taking LSD and become normal everyday guys you might meet in the queue at the chip shop.
The album opener, "Tom Sawyer", sets the tone. It is Rush's biggest commercial success and is not a bad song, although if Rush are going to do commercial songs I far and away prefer "The Spirit of Radio". In some ways it marks a transition, the point at which Neil Peart stops writing cryptically daft lyrics and heads down the path of writing songs almost about ordinary events. Almost. But you can still tell, this is Rush - whatever Neil Peart is or is not, he is a talented drummer and is always ready to put in some tricky-to-execute drum patterns, as he does here. But for all the commercial success and all the plaudits this track gets, it is far from Rush's best work.
And so it continues, even though Rush cannot avoid crossing timelines like some demented Katherine Janeway. "Red Barchetta" is set in 2031 (give or take a few years) where the narrator discovers a red sports car in his uncle's barn. His reaction, in the apparently post-petroleum world of the fourth decade of the twenty first century, is reminiscent of the narrator of 2112 on discovering a guitar. I must confess some admiration for Peart's lyrics here. Given that Fiat did not make the Barchetta until 1995, he either displays a quite stunning degree of prescience or is a lucky lucky bastard.
I am not so sure about the next track, which is an instrumental about Toronto airport, or so it would seem. Rush instrumentals were always hit-and-miss affairs and this one is decidedly miss. From this point onwards, however, the album tries to mark out the path for the new Rush, while occasionally reminding the listener that the old Rush still hangs around in the wings. So "The Camera Eye" is the closest Rush get on the album to the extended-proggy stuff of the late seventies, while "Witch Hunt" is reminiscent of "The Trees" on A Farewell to Kings only this time dealing with irrational, paranoid fear rather than bigotry.
Moving Pictures is not a bad album. But it is far from Rush's best. It takes a few listens to get into it and when you finally do, you discover that the Rush you knew and loved in the seventies, has been replaced by an impostor. But they don't fool me. I know that Giddy Lea, Alec Livesen and Neal Parte are not the real Rush. Somewhere out there the band I loved in the seventies still exits, perhaps imprisoned in the castle of Prince By-Tor, as slaves in the Temple of Syrinx, or perhaps caught in a cosmic time loop when the Rocinante ran out of fuel on the way back.
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on 2011-09-17 SolitaryMan Said:
Somewhat harsh, but I can understand the personal disappointment. I figure many fans just couldn't follow along with the branching-off Rush took in the early 80's, and frankly, I still find their best work in the 70's, but I also cannot see much fault in this album. I feel like it has less to do with the quality of the music (something that, in whatever template they decide to PLAY it, Rush has never really lacked in terms of songwriting), and more to do with preference. I've been able to enjoy bits and pieces from every album, but the only ones I'd put on a pedestal and claim to be above the rest...include Moving Pictures. That's not just me, but it doesn't matter that it's consensus. It just strikes me as a wonderful record. Having the chance to see it played live during their Time Machine Tour was, frankly, a monumental moment in my life.