April 2008

Rush - Permanent Waves
Mercury/Mobile Fidelity MFSL 1-302
Format: LP
Originally released: 1980
Reissue released: 2008

by Marc Mickelson

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ***

Yes, some of the lyrics read as though they were written by a sophomore philosophy major who watches too much Dr. Phil, and the abrupt changes in tempo occasionally seem more artificial than artful, but that's what you get when you stake out the high ground of hard rock, as Rush has done. It works, sounding utterly original. Geddy Lee's warble is an apt counterpoint to Alex Lifeson's searing power chords, and Neil Peart is one of rock's greatest drummers.

Permanent Waves, Rush's seventh studio release, shows a power-pop inclination, the influence of the New Wave music popular in the early 1980s. "The Spirit of Radio," a tribute to a Toronto radio station, was an instant hit, and "Freewill" defied its 5:24 running time to get airplay alongside shorter songs from the Police and Duran Duran. The LP's sound is detailed and nuanced -- as good as possible given the recording's lack of immediacy and low-end impact. You can't tell for most of the album -- the music is just too loud and busy -- but Mobile Fidelity's pressing is as quiet as any. The tranquil beginning of "Natural Sciences," one of Rush's trademark sprawling epics, reveals this.

Moving Pictures, which Mobile Fidelity will release later this year, is worth whatever it costs just for "Red Barchetta," a story of futuristic fugitivity during which Neil Peart tries to break a few skins. It's the high point of these Canadians' output. Permanent Waves, on the other hand, is a reminder that it's better to adapt than become predictable -- or in the words of another Canadian, better to burn out than to fade away.