Rush - Permanent Waves
Mercury Records
Progressive Rock
6 songs (35:37)
Release year: 1980
Rush, Mercury Records
Reviewed by Goat

Once you’ve moved past Rush’s early, Classic Rock albums, and are not yet at the point where the band embraced the evils of eighties music by incorporating unbelievable amounts of keyboards into their sound, you’ll find a perfect time, the band balancing their progressive talents with excellent songwriting skills, resulting in 1980’s Permanent Waves and 1981’s Moving Pictures. I heard Moving Pictures first and so it holds a special place in my heart for being the album that introduced me to this fantastic band, but its predecessor is a damn good listen. Who can criticise the songs here, after all? Opening with the band’s best song and one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, The Spirit Of Radio is simply amazing. Moving between Progressive Rock, Pop and Reggae, this song more than any other in the Rush canon is what the band are all about: catchy, technical, oddly beautiful music that is guaranteed to lift you out of any black moods from the first bars alone. Little touches such as the sparingly-used electronics and the sampled applause are great additions, but the song would still be excellent without them.

The album continues with atheist anthem Free Will, making a more typical use of keyboards, but the song is still driven by the guitar. Despite the rather soulless production (the one negative point here) there’s enough energy to keep things interesting, and more moody and progressive tracks like Jacob’s Ladder work well because of it. Speaking of that, this album’s epic piece, the nine-minute Natural Science, is simply breathtaking, mixing catchy parts with such Prog clichés as sampled nature sounds and even some technical riffage that would later evolve into such Tech-Metal masterpieces as YYZ. You can hear the mechanical precision that would be such an inspiration to later, more Metallic bands such as Dream Theater and Meshuggah.

It really shouldn’t need to be said, but all three members of the band are at their best instrumentally, as ever; Neil typically complex and rock-solid, Geddy’s vocals becoming more restrained and melodic, his basswork interesting and varied, and Alex being, as usual, the best guitar player ever. His solos on Freewill and Jacob’s Ladder are the highlights of already excellent songs, and it speaks volumes that the band grew less interesting in the 80s as his guitar input was limited. It’s fascinating, too, how intense and together the band are, complimenting each other without relegating a single instrument to the background. Never does one member play at the expense of another, even Geddy’s bass snaking around the music rather than plodding aimlessly.

If any songs here can be described as weak – a difficult argument to make! – it’d have to be Entre Nous and Different Strings, but only in comparison to the others. The latter especially, a laid-back acoustic ballad, is worth listening to on its own merits, and even if you dislike the slightly bland Entre Nous, it’s impossible to deny the professionalism shown, all three members, again, complimenting each other, playing to their strengths and playing the music for its own sake.

It’s hard to think of a better compliment for the album, overall; the love that Rush bear for music for its own sake has always been clear, but never as obvious as on Permanent Waves. The band’s fans come in all shapes and sizes, but if there’s one constant it’s their love for music, the sheer enjoyment that one can get from an album; and if there ever was an album that returned the love, it’s this. The catchy parts will draw you in, the technicality and progressiveness will keep you listening, and when taken along with Moving Pictures, form two massive landmarks that Rush have yet to beat in their pretty fantastic career. Permanent Waves is necessary, a great introduction to Prog for those wanting a first step as well as an advanced lesson for the expert. Everyone should own this.

Killing Songs :
All!
Goat quoted CLASSIC
Thomas quoted 89 / 100
Other albums by Rush that we have reviewed:
Rush - Clockwork Angels reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 90 / 100
Rush - Beyond The Lighted Stage reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Rush - Test For Echo reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
Rush - Counterparts reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
Rush - Roll The Bones reviewed by Goat and quoted 87 / 100
To see all 26 reviews click here
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