Rush - Presto
Atlantic
Pop-Rock, Hard Rock
11 songs (52:11)
Release year: 1989
Rush, Atlantic Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

As the Rasputin-like corpse of the eighties finally slipped beneath the icy waters of indifference, battered, bruised, and shot to hell, the world collectively sighed a breath of relief. The stage was set for a new era; free of the bloated commercialism of that horrific decade, music would go back to being pure and free... right? Well, as we know, that never quite happened, although for a while things were looking up. Rush, a band in particular never afraid to tinker with their sound, marked the death of the decade by stripping things down a little, and the result is a great album, although not without flaws.

You’ll notice from the outset that the guitar is back at the front, and those layers of annoyingly dated-sounding keyboards are... gone? Alas, they’re not gone completely, and are still a lead instrument in songs like Red Tide, but other moments are different, relegating the foul machine to a much more subtle position, if indeed noticeable at all. Opening track Show Don’t Tell is structurally from one of the band’s past four or so albums, but with guitars in the place of synths, now reduced to backing sound. What’s also noticeable is a return to a more technical sound like that of the early eighties, first notable on Chain Lightning, with a bit of that mid-to-late 80s drum sound. Don’t expect Prog, though, as whilst the Rock here is as Artsy as someone following the band so far will expect, there’s still Poppiness a-plenty.

This may be the best collection of Rush ballads around, actually. The Pass and War Paint are just two examples of great songs that in the hands of many others would be dreadful. Scars is a particular example: on first listens it’s more or less Disco! the increased synths and deceptively simple beats suggesting a step back for the band. Actually, a bit of research and careful re-listens reveal a complex mixture of electronic and acoustic drums (Peart as masterful as usual, really, take it for granted) taken from a tribal rhythm he heard whilst on his bicycle trip in Africa (see his book The Masked Rider). It gets more interesting the more time and space you give it, and is a perfect example of my first and only rule for listening to later Rush: keep listening, and give it time.

Superconductor, one of single/hits from the album, is as light-hearted a Pop song as anyone could wish for. This being Rush, of course, ‘Pop’ is something of a misnomer, but compared to more complex fare from the Canadian heroes, it’s Pop. The title track steps towards Folk, album finale Available Light is a piano-driven ballad that sounds great, if a little unRushy. Ironically, it’s very eighties in style, and yet manages to work as a song despite that. It’s hard not to like Presto, really. A gentle album in more ways than one, it was the first of the band’s modern era, concerned with great songs rather than great playing, and whilst not as good as the albums to follow, it’s still pretty darn good, although the last few songs do drop in quality a little.

Some like to criticise the band from here onwards for an apparent lack of heart, a ‘going-through-the-motions’ feel to albums. This is nonsense, of course – if anything, Rush would sound revitalised on Presto and its successor, Roll The Bones. It’s a stepping-stone album rather than an absolutely vital one, but worth the time and patience for fans.

Killing Songs :
Chain Lightning, The Pass, Scars, Presto, Superconductor, Available Light
Goat quoted 76 / 100
Aleksie quoted 87 / 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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