Rush - Signals

Year of Release: 1997
Label: Mercury
Catalog Number: 534633
Format: CD
Total Time: 40:18:00

The thing that has always attracted me about Rush has been their ability to mix meaningful lyrics (all written by drummer Neil Peart) with attractive, accessible, yet complex arrangements. Even at their heaviest, the band had something more than chunky, heavy rhythms and screaming vocals to offer. Vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee doesn't scream at all here, making Signals an overall softer release. That's not to say that the band had abandoned their muscular sound - the only song that has a more lyrical quality to it - I don't want to say ballad, but it would fill the spot a ballad would - is "Losing It."

Signals is a product of 1982 and very synth heavy. Not like the new wave artists of the period, of course; this is not perky, poppy synthetic rock. But incorporated into the band's arrangements was the synthesizer, though this wasn't the first Rush album to do so, maybe the first where it was so prevalent. What it does here is gives the whole album a smooth patina? a bit of a haze. This may be due production or to arrangement, but something gauzy nonetheless. And this is most certainly true of the opening track "Subdivisions." Keyboards open the track and play a dominant role throughout, such that when Lifeson does play his guitar solo, it sounds more like a synth than guitar. "The Analog Kid" is, like "Red Barchetta" on 1981's Moving Pictures, a freewheeling piece, a song that feels like it's in constant motion, scooping you up and carrying you along, halting your journey only briefly for a moment of reflection. Technology is also present in the lyrics of "Digital Man," which, anachronistic though it may be, made me think of something akin to The Matrix. There is that line, "he'd love to spend the night in Zion" after all.

All of which brings up another point about Rush - the music reflected the times they and we were and are living in. While the computer revolution wouldn't really take hold until a year or two later - really when Apple introduced the Macintosh in 1984 (holding attention with their 1984 inspired commercials), personal computers were on their way of becoming less of a novelty? and certainly computer games had come of age. Rather than the arcade to play the pinball machine, American youths went to play video games. All this Rush was able to reference, even abstractly, on this album. There are many other parallels one can find in Peart's lyrics to the state of the world - or of North America at least - in 1982.

If "Subdivisions," and "The Analog Kid" were about the "restless dreams of youth," then "Losing It" is the opposite - a melancholic look at getting older and being unable to live our dreams - the dancer who can no longer dance, the writer who can no longer write. The writer is a Hemingway-like figure if not Hemingway himself (there are two references that suggest this). Guest Ben Mink on electric violins only adds to the bittersweet feel of the piece.

And, if "Subdivisions" and "The Analog Kid" is about wishing one were somewhere else, "Countdown" is that fulfillment of the dream - exploring space. There is now, listening to this twenty years on, an added subext, one that adds a bit of melancholy. The NASA chatter that is heard in the backdrop all relates to the launch of the Columbia space shuttle? which, as you know, exploded over the Western US this past February. And yet, this song loses none of the adventurous spirit that reflected and can even serve as a tribute to those who died. Not forgetting, of course, those who died in 1986 in Challenger explosion.

In between all this, we get the punchy "Chemistry," an example of Peart's clever lyric writing, this one is about the connection between people. But it isn't until the last line that people are actually mentioned, as he is talking about chemistry - interaction between molecules, elements, compounds, etc. And aren't we made up that stuff? It is a manner in which some of the 17th Century metaphysical poets wrote - John Donne, for example. While many of Donne's works had a religious connotation, and many were straight love poems, a few were a bit wily, "The Flea" being a good example? though unlike Donne in "The Flea," Peart is not being coy, and not trying to convince a woman into intimate relations? "Chemistry" is on a broader level?

What else can one say? The songs flow smoothly from one to the other, a credit to both Rush and producer Terry Brown. I do think a bit of remastering is in order, because the sound isn't as crisp as I would like. This edition I'm reviewing is the 1990 CD release; Signals was released in a remastered version in 1997. So, this last bit is only true if you buy used. In either version, of course, the performances are tight, with little, if any, excess. There is a section during "The Weapon," just before the final repetition of the "pre-chorus" (if you will) that is maybe a little long? But all in all, it's a solid Rush album.

Originally released in 1982 by Mercury and by Anthem (ANMD1038) in Canada. Re-reissued in 2009 by Warner Bros. (13480)

Subdivisions (5:33) / The Analog Kid (4:46) / Chemistry (4:56) / Digital Man (6:20) / The Weapon (6:22) / New World Man (3:41) / Losing It (4:51) / Countdown (5:49)

Geddy Lee - bass, synthesizers, vocals
Alex Lifeson - electric and acoustic guitars and Taurus pedals
Neil Peart - drums and percussion


Ben Mink - electric violins (7)

Rush (1974)
Fly By Night (1975)
Caress Of Steel (1975)
2112 (1976)
All The World's A Stage (1976)
A Farewell To Kings (1977)
Hemispheres (1978)
Archives (1978)
Permanent Waves (1980)
Moving Pictures (1981)
Exit ... Stage Left (1981)
Signals (1982)
Grace Under Pressure (1984)
Power Windows (1985)
Hold Your Fire (1987)
A Show Of Hands (1989)
Presto (1989)
Chronicles (1990)
Roll The Bones (1991)
Counterparts (1993)
Test For Echo (1996)
Different Stages (1998)
Vapor Trails (2003)
Rush In Rio (2003)
Feedback (2004)
R30 (2005)
Gold (2006)
Snakes And Arrows (2007)
Snakes And Arrows Live (2008)
Retrospective III (2009)
Working Men (2009)
Grace Under Pressure: 1984 Tour (2009)
Icon (2010)
Time Stand Still: The Collection (2010)
Icon 2 (2011)
Rush ABC 1974: The First American Broadcast (2011)
Sector 1 (2011)
Sector 2 (2011)
Sector 3 (2011)
Moving Pictures: Live 2011 (2011)
Time Machine 2011: Live In Cleveland (2011)
Clockwork Angels (2012)
The Studio Albums 1989-2007 (2013) (boxset) Clockwork Angels Tour (2013)

Exit-Stage Left (VHS) (1982)
Through The Camera Eye (VHS) (1984)
Grace Under Pressure Tour 1984 (VHS) (1986)
A Show Of Hands (VHS) (1988)
Chronicles (VHS/DVD) (1990/2001)
Rush In Rio (DVD/VID) (2003)
R30 (DVD) (2005)
Music In Review 1974-1981 (2006)
Replay X3 (DVD) (2006)
Snakes And Arrows Live (DVD) (2008)
Working Men (DVD) (2009)
Beyond The Lighted Stage (DVD) (2010)
Classic Albums: 2012 - Moving Pictures (2010)
Time Machine 2011: Live In Cleveland (2011)
Clockwork Angels Tour (2013)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin CA

Added: October 5th 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 533
Language: english


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