Rush were the true ‘find’ of this year for me. No other band or composer has succeeded in moving me so completely and so consistently as Rush. It just so happens that 2020 is the 40th anniversary of the release of this album, which adds some meaningless pomp to the occasion. Geddy Lee himself stated “I’ll be honest, I’m fed up that every time I turn around that it’s the fortieth anniversary of something we’ve done.”. Oh to have been alive in the heyday of Rush. As this album comprises of six tracks only, I shall discuss each in turn below.

– Alex Lifeson / 6- & 12-strings electric & acoustic guitars, Taurus bass pedals
– Geddy Lee / basses, bass pedals, synthesizers (Oberheim polyphonic, OB-1, Minimoog), vocals
– Neil Peart / drums, tympani, orchestral & tubular bells, timbales, wind chimes, crotales, triangle

 

(Speaking of Hemispheres, the preceding album) “We were falling into these patterns of writing — the repetition of these thematic things that occur over a 20-minute span,” bassist Geddy Lee told Rolling Stone in 2018. “They were starting to feel too comfortably organized in a way, like we weren’t thinking originally enough. That’s kind of a prog pattern. People associate prog-rock with a challenging style of music, and it certainly can be that. But if you’re starting to fall into past habits and develop a methodology that’s too comfortable, it’s not progressive. I think we started to feel that way by the time we finished that record.”

So for their seventh LP, Permanent Waves, the Canadian power-trio — Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, drummer Neil Peart — consciously trimmed their track lengths, embraced more personal subject matter and nodded to the sleeker sounds of the New Wave scene. (The album title is, fittingly, a playful “poke” at the genre, as Peart told the Chicago Tribune. “There are many New Wave groups we enjoy and respect, like Talking Heads and Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson,” he said. “Really, the joke was aimed more at the press, especially the English rock press that is inclined to write off any band that was around last week and go for whatever’s happening this week.”) Ultimate Classic Rock

The Spirit of Radio

My father and I were discussing this recently and he told me he was first introduced to Rush while listening to this track on the radio which I can only imagine must have been electrifying. This was his first purchase. I’ve had this album on vinyl since I inherited father’s collection when I was 14 but did not fully appreciate it’s beauty until now.

One likes to believe in the freedom of music
But glittering prizes and endless compromises
Shatter the illusion of integrity, yeah
Invisible airwaves crackle with life
Bright antenna bristle with the energy
Emotional feedback on timeless wavelength
Bearing a gift beyond price, almost free
The above lyrics, written by Neil Peart as a love letter to the magic of radio, have and continue to give me goosebumps whenever I listen to this record. The track itself crackles with life and energy. The late great Neil Peart’s drumming and lyricism skills are on fine form here. The track moves from jazzy drumming and cymbals to reggae and back to prog rock effortlessly. The snippet of the live show after the lyric “concert halls” is electrifying. The Geddy Lee guitar solo is absolutely show stopping. And this is just the first track.
Freewill
 This track is humanist and anti organised religion. While I disagree philosophically with the lyrics, I often find myself humming them to Matthew’s annoyance. This track is one of the strongest on the album and the symbiosis between the “three virtuosos” as Nick calls them, is as evident as ever. Lee, Lifeson and Peart are as one in this track and the result is staggering. The guitar and bass solos give me goosebumps. The drumming is mathematical and precise and the whole track is a phenomenon.
You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that’s clear;

I will choose free will

Jacob’s Ladder
The bass at the beginning of this track is foreboding. The symbiosis between Peart and Lifeson is exemplary. Geddy Lee’s entry and early solo – just superb. The low ebb towards the middle of the track followed by a staggering final phase made me feel as though I were climbing the ladder with Jacob. The transitions between phases of this song are excellent.
Entres Nous
Translated from the actual French as ‘between us’, this wonderful track is about individuality, loneliness and isolation which has spoken to me in this tumultuous year. The virtuoso trio (quote, St Nick) have wowed me again with the French Canadian connection, first showed in Circumstances on their previous album. The lyrics are just great:
We are planets to each other
Drifting in our orbits
To a brief eclipse
Each of us a world apart
Alone and yet together
Like two passing ships
Just between us
I think it’s time for us to recognize
The differences we sometimes feared to show
Just between us
I think it’s time for us to realize
The spaces in between
Leave room
For you and I to grow
The riffs throughout are exceptional and I was particularly impressed by the bass around the 2.44 mark.
Different Strings 

This is my favourite Rush track. Out of their prolific catalogue this stands out as one of the most finely arranged, musically perfect and deeply felt tracks. I would say this is one of their crowning masterpieces. The symbiosis again is so clear here. The isolated guitar work at the beginning gives goosebumps, followed by the drums and piano, heard for the first time in the album. It speaks to unity and solitude in a deeply moving lyrical feast.

All there really is
The two of us
And we both know why we’ve come along
Nothing to explain
It’s a part of us
To be found within a song
What happened to our innocence
Did it go out of style?
Along with our naivety?
No longer a child
Different eyes see different things
Different hearts
Beat on different strings
Natural Science
After Different Strings, one is bound to be disappointed. The beginning of this track, I argue, panders to this theory. The beginning is intentionally weaker for you to recover somewhat from the previous track. But then, from the guitar solo 2 minutes in, it picks up beautifully. There are clear movements, for what of a better expression, in this track.
Wheel within wheels in a spiral array
A pattern so grand and complex
Time after time we lose sight of the way
Our causes can’t see their effects
The most endangered species, the honest man
Will still survive annihilation
Forming a world, a state of integrity
Sensitive, open, and strong
This track sums up the brilliance of this album very well, showing the three virtuosos on top form and displaying a musicianship bordering on the divine.
A seminal bit of Rushness – Pater
My overall impressions of Permanent Waves are as follows:
  1. Three uniquely talented virtuosos
  2. Symbiotic and united musicianship displayed at all times
  3. I could listen to the isolated tracks for each instrument at any point in this album and be as impressed
This is a staggering album which has its correct place in my personal pantheon of perfect albums. I hope it will find its way to yours.