4. Moving Pictures
Number 4 was a hard choice for me. Shit, this whole list has proven difficult. When you’re dealing with one of rock’s most consistent discography, the phrase “personal favorite” kind of becomes an understatement. I mean, shit, there’s Permanent Waves, A Farewell to Kings, 2112, Hemispheres…so, this time, get ready for Rush’s more influential — meaning, famous — 1981 record, Moving Pictures.
At this point in their careers, the holy trinity already dropped four progressive juggernauts, and their sound threatened to be at its peak. There’s no way three guys could possibly top “2112” or “Cygnus” or even crank out a single anywhere close to “Spirit of Radio.” And then, pewwwwwwwwwww!
Yeah, you Rush fans and classic rock radio listeners know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re probably air drumming right now just thinking about the intro to “Tom Sawyer,” the bands goldmine. What’s there not to love? The track pushed the boundaries of contemporary — for the time — mainstream music, throwing instrumental complexities straight at the average listener with Canadian fury.
Okay, maybe that was an oxymoron, but you get the idea. Geddy throws down a solid bass groove, complemented nicely by layered synths. Before Pictures, Rush hinted towards more electronic influences, but “Tom Sawyer,” brings the element to the forefront in a tasteful, even kickass fashion. An album achievement, for sure, but later, this synthesizer obsession invited electronic drums and diminished guitars. But, that’s another story entirely.
Moving Pictures prides itself on melody over complexity without reaching too far into the pop realm. Sure, there’s an instrumental, a cult instrumental at that, “YYZ,” and an epic, but the songwriting never indulges in itself. That’s what separates Moving Pictures from the rest of Rush’s discography. It is a complete, balanced sound, where all the gears click and have purpose. Hard rockers will apppreciate the more direct sound of “Limelight.” Shit, drummers still can’t get over Peart’s solo in “Tom Sawyer,” and I don’t blame them. Either way, each song stands on its own and moves forward in a seamless, well paced fashion. This, my friends, is what a mature sound is supposed to sound like. I won’t be the first to admit that Rush has their fair share of wanky moments. For those alien to the word:
Wankery – verb, adjective, noun – someone who partakes in playing for the self rather than the music, usually playing scales really damn fast just for the sake of playing them. Example: I can’t stand that Malmsteen guy! All he does is wank!
That’s not to say the album doesn’t have its experimental numbers. The closer, “Vital Signs,” ejects a simple but sweet Reggae riff, while Geddy’s bass blazes in the background. Geddy’s voice carries at a tolerable level throughout the track, adding some soul to his otherwise wailing vocal chords. I’ve always appreciated the man’s lower register due to its clarity and beautiful tone. This tone especially comes out in the track’s repeated final lyric:
Everybody got to deviate from the norm.
– Neil Peirt, “Vital Signs,” Moving Pictures (1981)
Geddy’s voice in “Tom Sawyer,” brings forth the wail we all know and love, but “Vital Signs” feels more personal, melancholic, beautiful with its slowed down tempo and emotional lyrics. “Red Barchetta,” on the other end, adopts the slow intro, driving — pardon the pun — verse and chorus style of songwriting, with creative harmonics throughout.
Oh complaints, my least and favorite part of reviews, depending on the album. Unlike Clockwork Angels, Moving Pictures has excellent production so that critique goes out the window. But, there’s no such thing as a perfect work of art. If you find one, please play it or show it to me so I can write an easy review for once. I know I just complimented the pacing of the album’s tracks, but unfortunately, some of the songs tend to drag. “The Camera Eye,” for instance, could’ve been reduced to 9 minutes, instead of 11, but that’s neither here nor there. Also, the synths, in all their spacey glory, tend to distract the listener rather than engage them, taking away from the album’s impact.
Overall, excellent musicianship, strong flow, and beautiful melodies bring Moving Pictures lower on Reviews From the Other Side’s 5 Days of Rush.
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