RUSH: Accepting the mantle of middle age with dignity
The trouble with life, the universe and everything is that nothing is getting any younger. I recognise this as I get up every morning and look in the mirror; Rush recognise it whenever they come to record a new album.
Neil Peart is no longer the naïve, young idealist who scripted the epic fantasies of 'By-Tor And The Snow Dog' and '2112'. While his politics may not have shifted any closer to liberalism he has found a whole new set of preoccupations with which to concern himself - notably the isolatory effect of 'hi-tech' on the human psyche and the increasing realisation that he is growing older, mellower and, he feels, not particularly wiser. The result, as John Osborne discovered before him, is not a growing enlightenment but rather confusion:
"Thirty years ago, how the words would flow/With passion and precision/But now his mind is dark and dulled/By sickness and indecision" ('Losing It').
The aftermath of this philosophising is an album that, while lyrically possibly Peart's finest and musically finding Rush extending their boundaries to incorporate reggae, I fear may ultimately disappoint long-standing fans.
It would be stretching the terminology of the genre even to describe this as 'hard rock'; only the final track 'Countdown' with its overdubbed NASA commentaries and soaring helicopters, could realistically be referred to as 'heavy'. Indeed, Lifeson's guitars periodically take second place in the mix, to Lee's increasingly dominant keyboards. Lee's voice, meanwhile, though something of an acquired taste, proves particularly adept on 'Digital Man' and manages to tug every last iota of poignancy from the superb 'Losing It'.
Highlights are the child-like romance of 'The Analog Kid', the Police-style white-reggae of the new single 'New World Man' and the touching desperation of the afore mentioned 'Losing It'. The production and musicianship are customarily immaculate, though, there are one or two down-spots, like the plagiarising of Manfred Mann's 'No Guarantee' on 'The Weapon'.
Approach this album with an open mind and you'll appreciate the beauty of Rush's acceptance of the mantle of middle-age. But if you're expecting another volume of high-flying Metal then I'm afraid you'll be sorely disappointed.