Rush – 40 Years Of Permanent Waves

Commemorating the 40th anniversary of Rush’s seventh album serves also as a fitting and timely tribute to the Canadian band’s drummer and chief lyricist, who succumbed to cancer on January 7, 2020.

Formed in 1968, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Rush consisted of Geddy Lee (bass, vocals, keyboards, synthesizers), Alex Lifeson (guitars), and the late Neil Peart (drums/percussion). In their staggering 50-year activity, the power trio left a legacy of 19 studio albums—from 1974’s self-titled debut to 2012’s final opus, Clockwork Angels. And among this impressive discography, Permanent Waves remains one of the best and most accessible. It was actually the first of a series of New Wave–inspired albums that Rush came up with in the 1980s, which included Moving Pictures (1981), Signals (1982), Grace Under Pressure (1984), and Power Windows (1985).

Originally released on January 14, 1980, via Anthem Records, Permanent Waves opened with the almighty “The Spirit of Radio,” with which, under only five minutes, Rush was able to capture the essence of Progressive Rock—multiple time-signature changes, diverse instrumentation, Reggae riffs, and radio-friendly lyrics. The ensuing “Freewill” was simply a sonic continuation of the first track; albeit deeper and less commercial in context and contained a lengthy guitar ad-lib, it was still brimming with melodies and an infectious chorus. And then there was the fan favorite “Jacob’s Ladder”—one of the album’s highlights, as well as its second longest track; sonically, it may be regarded as the postlude to the previous album’s instrumental masterpiece “La Villa Strangiato”; with its symphonic shots and distorted guitars and lyrical concept that talked of sunlight, storm clouds, and heaven, it served also as a template to what has become Progressive Metal; the initiated would have realized that this song must have been an influence to the likes of Metallica (“Jump in the Fire”), Dream Theater (“Lie”), and Rage against the Machine (“Killing in the Name”).

With “Entre Nous,” Rush turned sunny, upbeat, and friendly again—a rockin’ stomper with an acoustic-oriented, Art Rock–flavored chorus. “Different Strings” was a change of mood and pace—slow, dark, ominous, and could pass as a Power/Glam ballad. Lee, Lifeson, and Peart then concluded Permanent Waves grandly with their brand of simple-complex Progressive Rock—the three-part “Natural Science,” which was divided into “Tide Pools,” “Hyperspace,” and “Permanent Waves.”

With Permanent Waves, Rush was able to blend the technicalities of Progressive Rock and the melodic catchiness of Pop in majestic precision. At 35 minutes and 35 seconds, it was a crash course in Progressive Rock, or the genre in a nutshell—something that only the legendary band was able to pull off not once but for the majority of their musical legacy—a feat that launched a thousand other bands.

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