Rush - Grace Under Pressure
Mercury Records
Hard Rock
8 songs (39:23)
Release year: 1984
Rush, Mercury Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Members of Rush being unhappy with the production on previous album Signals, the Canadian trio self-produced Grace Under Pressure with assistance from Peter Henderson, who had previously manned the controls for Supertramp, Frank Zappa and King Crimson. If you’ve been following the band chronologically so far, the change in pace from Signals is sudden and shocking. Although you still have to listen to the songs a few times to understand them (this is Rush, after all) the more commercial aspects of the band’s sound are much more obvious. Songs take a very structured approach, and choruses are common. Ironically, Grace Under Pressure is as artsy a concept album as you could want, dealing with Cold War paranoia, from the artwork to the lyrics.

Unlike Signals, the band have gotten their obsession with technology under control, and the usage of synths on this album is much more considered – you can hear Alex Lifeson much better, although if you want to hear more of his Classic Rock lead playing, then look elsewhere; here the guitars are more influenced by Reggae and so take more of a textured, atmospheric style. Geddy Lee is a demon on the bass and keyboards, swirling backing echoes of electronica as well as more straightforward melodies. Neil Peart is Neil Peart, and that’s all you need to know, although his drums could have been a little louder in the production. Overall though, the three are as balanced as ever, and the new sounds they are creating are pretty great. Grace Under Pressure was one of the first Rush albums I purchased, and whilst back then the dated-sounding synths put me off a little, the quality of the songwriting shined through, and it still does.

From opening mid-pacer and cold war anthem Distant Early Warning that features a Tom Sawyer-esque synth melody before dropping to minimalist Reggae, through energetic paean to loss Afterimage (with a really excellent instrumental section) the band are on fire. I always loved the less chaotic and shrieking style of vocals that Geddy adopted in the early 80s, too, the emotional content coming over much better, and this is no exception, the haunting Holocaust-inspired Red Sector A especially. There really are no weak tracks present (yes, even Red Lenses, those percussive sections are amazing) from the defiant and Ska-infused The Enemy Within (part I of the Fear trilogy) to the more guitar-y Kid Gloves. A personal favourite is The Body Electric, telling of a runaway android, a binary chorus impossible to forget, but it’s album closer Between The Wheels that’s the best song. It may be keyboard-dominated, but the guitars are only a step behind, and the lyrics are dark and pessimistic indeed.

Overall, Grace Under Pressure (or p/g as fans call it) is a great album. The 80s were a rough time for commercial music, let’s face it, but Rush weathered them spectacularly, and although it may not be as good as the band’s Prog Rock classics, it survives as a collection of intelligent songs that should please most fans of the band and of well-thought-out music in general.

Killing Songs :
All are great, especially Afterimage, The Body Electric and Between The Wheels
Goat quoted 89 / 100
Aleksie quoted 88 / 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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