Rush - Signals
Mercury Records
Progressive 80s Rock
8 songs (42:29)
Release year: 1982
Rush, Mercury Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

The first step in the ‘80s Rush appreciation’ program is getting over the fact that the band would never again be as good as they were in the 70s. No, nothing released from then to now stands up to 2112, A Farewell To Kings or Hemispheres, and whilst Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures are classics, they’re simply not as good as 2112. Still, despite the oceans of keyboards that the band would introduce, there’s much to like in the period that started with Signals. You have to have patience, though; whilst Moving Pictures speaks to everyone on the first listen, Signals takes time.

Despite the vast amount of keyboards present on this album, there’s much to recommend it. First and foremost, Neil Peart fans will love it. Opening song Subdivisions alone features some ridiculously complex playing, ending with a cymbal-crashing crescendo that makes it pretty darn obvious where Meshuggah got their shtick. I know I rub it in each time I mention Rush, but the amount of influence that they’ve had on the modern Metal scene is rarely acknowledged. Secondly, these songs are as warm, loving and humane as Rush ever are. Perhaps it’s just the warm caress of the marshmellowy synth sound, but there’s a note of real regret for the loss of youth in Geddy’s voice as he sings unwieldy lyrics like ‘drawn like moths we drift into the city/the timeless old attraction’ that keeps you coming back.

Of course, what’s likely to keep you away is the lack of guitar on the album. Alex Lifeson is in many ways my favourite member of Rush, and when his input is limited to the occasional solo, his playing otherwise nearly buried under the synths, it’s understandable that Signals might not be my favourite album from the Canadians. Yet give it a chance, and there’s much to like. A paean to life itself, from regret for pathways unexplored (The Analog Kid, which being fair has an excellent solo) to using chemical reactions as a metaphor for human relationships in Chemistry (not for nothing is Rush known as the quintessential nerd band!).

It’s not as good as it sounds, however. Elsewhere, there are the now expected forays into white reggae with Digital Man and New World Man, and a fun neo-proggy jam in The Weapon, part two of the band’s ‘Fear’ series, stops the slightly repetitive central melody from cloying. Losing It is an utterly miserable song about failed dreams and lost youth, featuring violins from one Ben Mink, and album closer Countdown is about a rocket launch, with several voiceovers. It’s slightly cheesy, but works well enough as a song.

You could say much the same for the entire album, really. Even the cover art, with that ridiculous artsy logo, tries to speak volumes but succeeds only in confusing: a dog and a fire hydrant. ‘Signals’. Hmm... If you’ve got the best from Rush and have patience, you would do well to give Signals a chance, but lower your expectations a little, and be prepared for a more introspective, keyboardy band than the Rock powerhouse that we got in the seventies. Rush released some amazing albums in the eighties and some poor ones; this is between the two.

Killing Songs :
Subdivisions, The Analog Kid, The Weapon, Digital Man
Goat quoted 72 / 100
Aleksie quoted 81 / 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
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