Rush - Roll The Bones
Pop-Rock, Hard Rock
10 songs (49:49)
Release year: 1991
Rush, Atlantic Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Following on more or less directly from Presto, Roll The Bones doesn’t take huge steps towards reinstating the guitar as the lead instrument, with lots of keyboards here and there. Whilst the focus of the album is on chance, gambling, and so on, Rush hardly took any musical risks – this is about as commercial as they would get in the 90s before adding Grunge and Alternate influences for 1993’s Counterparts. There’s a bit, but not a great deal, of rocking, with plenty of emphasis on atmosphere and a very thin guitar sound. Still, it’s a very enjoyable album, with lots of excellent songs that were clearly the work of some master songwriters.

Opener Dreamline is Rush’s response to Bon Jovi’s godawful Living On A Prayer, and is so much better than that dreadful tripe that it’s hard to believe. It has such an air of wistful restlessness that it can’t help but make you want to drop everything and hit the road. In addition, yes, I’ll admit it; the lyrics are excellent, too. Finally, Neil Peart has managed to write genuinely affecting lyrics that don’t make you want to throw a book at his pompous head; I could quote the whole song, but my favourite lines are in the chorus: ‘We are young, wandering the face of the earth/wondering what our dreams might be worth/learning that we’re only immortal for a limited time.’ Geddy’s spirited performance turns the song into an anthem, and one of Rush’s all-time best songs.

Bravado follows, a much more typically ballad-y song, and again, it all comes together, lyrics, musicianship, Geddy’s voice. As ever, it’s impossible to criticise this band’s playing, and even on a keyboard-heavy track like this (man, if Rush’s 80s output was of this quality I’d have loved it so much more...) it’s stellar. The title track is insanely catchy if slightly long, and whilst arguments rage over Geddy’s rapping – a naive yet genuine attempt to experiment with musical boundaries, or a tongue-in-cheek mockery of that maligned movement? – I’ll admit to loving it, and leaning towards the latter explanation. The acoustic sections help to elevate the song to the heavenly standards of the band’s pre-80s dip, and the lyrics again are great, for once offering a philosophy that doesn’t border on the offensive - why does it happen? Because it happens, now move on – something quite similar to my own personal outlook.

Face Up rocks a little more, with a great solo and chorus. The instrumental Where’s My Thing? is great, the shade of YYZ watching with approval as the band lock in and play off each other’s strengths. Personal favourite The Big Wheel mixes a Country vibe in, and although Heresy’s lyrics are some of the most pretentious and grating ever written, dealing with the aftermath of the fall of the USSR, the song itself isn’t as bad, although a huge step down in quality from the rest of the album. I guess we have to be forgiving, even whilst wondering quite how the band’s lives were at risk from Communist nukes – Canada would hardly have been first on Moscow’s strike list, after all.

It’s probably the only real poor song on the album, although I have to be in the mood for Ghost Of A Chance, a sort of Freewill m.k. II about finding true love, and Neurotica has a great solo, a great chorus, but the lyrics border on the demented. Being generous, that was probably the impression that Peart was going for, but it makes for annoying listening. Thankfully, You Bet Your Life comes along to close the album with another great song.

Looking at Roll The Bones as a whole, it’s hard to deny that it’s a pretty great album. It might not be up there with the classics, but when you have such consistent quality throughout, the album theme actually working for the band instead of against them, then you have to wonder why it’s not better known in the band’s canon. Whatever the reason (I suspect people care a little too much about that rap section) this is not an album a self-respecting Rushian can pass by.

Killing Songs :
All bar Heresy
Goat quoted 87 / 100
Thomas quoted 92 / 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 - A Show Of Hands reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
To see all 26 reviews click here
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