Published on June 24th, 2019 | by Justin G.
35th Anniversary Spotlight – Rush: Grace Under Pressure
By guest contributor Jason Myers
Thirty-five years after its release, Rush’s (mostly) self-produced tenth studio album Grace Under Pressure still sounds fresh and, somehow, futuristic.
Lush synth pads that seemed cutting edge at the time feel warm, human and vintage in retrospect. Geddy Lee’s bass still drives and pulses yet with more sophistication and restraint than on previous overtly prog outings. He even delves into a bit of funky slapping and popping which was another sign of the times (and a sign that this band could adapt and make trends their own). Lee’s voice was peaking at this stage of his career as he settled into each nuance of his unique range.
The drums are smart, bustling, creative and well-tracked (naturally). Yet Neil Peart’s shining contribution to this LP is his cinematic lyrical pastiche that paints a portrait of a dark modern society, ideally suited for its 1984 debut near the peak of Cold War tensions.
Alex Lifeson shows once again why he’s one of rock’s most enigmatic yet undersung guitar gods. With tasty clean passages, occasional reggae-infused six-string stabs (ala The Police), and thoughtful delay textures decorating these tight muscular arrangements, when Mr. Lifeson does open the throttle and let the tubes scream it has a sharper impact.
Grace Under Pressure has aged, well, with grace. Hugh Syme’s cover portrait is as artful and thought-provoking as the music it represents. Elegant songs like “Red Sector A,” “Distant Early Warning” and “The Body Electric” give this distinctive record a distinctly cold, sci-fi vibe while flirting with shades of the stylish new wave of ‘80s pop that was infiltrating the MTV rotation (Planet P, The Fixx, Flock of Seagulls…). Yet you only have to wade slightly deeper into cuts like “Between the Wheels” to feel that proto-metal strength which anchored this seminal Canadian power trio forever into the hearts of hard rock aficionados worldwide.
Jason Myers is the founder and bassist of Icarus Witch.