Dusting 'Em Off
Revisiting an album, a film, or an event on its anniversary

Dusting ‘Em Off: Rush – Power Windows

on November 15, 2009, 8:00am

Attacking the Canadian band Rush is like attacking ’80s pop music, which is akin to stabbing bodies in a morgue. In 1985, the progressive-metal band’s 11th album, Power Windows, delivered its brazen sound to both Rush connoisseurs and less metal-oriented pop fans. Although the songs’ subject matter coincides with Rush’s usual, and welcomed, social commentary, the album takes the band in a completely new direction. From the song lengths to the delivery, “Power Windows” invites a larger audience to push past complaints of 20-minute epics and singer Geddy Lee’s usual banshee-like wailing to appreciate Rush.

A shining example of familiarity among Rush fans is “Emotion Detector”. The socially-driven track stirs memories of the electronic rhythm game, Simon. This creates a wonderful juxtaposition between distant electronic sounds and intimate lyrics such as, “We must throw ourselves wide open/And start acting like a fool/If we need too much approval/Then the cuts can seem too cruel.” Rush doesn’t need anyone’s approval.

The appeal of brief songs immediately blankets the listener in the opening track, “The Big Money”. The song manages to retain its epic power, despite the relatively short (for Rush) song length, which clocks in at 5:37. As echoed guitars burst and synths resembling video game sound effects play along with the masterful instrumental work of Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer Neil Peart, the music is held together by the commentary on big money in the ‘80s. “Big money pull a million strings /Big money hold the prize /Big money weave a mighty web /Big money draw the flies,” perfectly describes a decade in which image and money were the driving force for many musicians, due in large part to the birth of MTV in 1981.

Lee’s new vocal direction also offers a comforting and encompassing feeling, as he strays from his normal helium-induced screeching and resembles a more trained artist. Like Lee’s voice, the album assents to the popular style of radio, complete with big choruses.

This transformation is showcased in the instant single, “Grand Designs”. It opens with the same anticipation-building synth line so adeptly executed by the Australian band Moving Pictures. Like Moving Pictures’ 1984 single “Never” from the Footloose soundtrack (Kevin Bacon’s warehouse scene), “Grand Designs” is the perfect backbeat to accompany you while you’re punch-dancing out your rage.

Why stop there? Get gritty. Strike a blow to corporate America while Lee sings, “So much style without substance/So much stuff without style/It’s hard to recognize the real thing/It comes along once in a while.” Fret not: This album is the real thing, and this track will have you on the edge of your seat like teenagers watching an illegal game of tractor chicken (via Footloose).

The ‘80s-centric album is the ideal combination of Rush’s best qualities, paired with a pop sensibility.

Check Out:

Power Windows

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