RUSH — Grace Under Pressure (review)

RUSH — Grace Under Pressure album cover Album · 1984 · Non-Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Modrigue
Second signal

Let's make it simple: "Grace Under Pressure" can be described as "Signals" bis, with a little more guitars and a slightly inferior quality. Pursuing the 'synthetic reggae-rock' approach of its predecessor, the band ventures again into new musical territories for them on some tracks, such as new-wave and ska. The keyboards and drums also sound colder, robotic, dehumanized, however this time Alex Lifeson plays a larger role: his interventions are more nervous and punchy than on the previous opus. Furthermore, and most important, the inspiration is still present.

The album title comes from the general theme of the songs: people's reactions when they're under pressure. The science-fiction and heroic fantasy stories of the 70's are now replaced by cold war, nuclear weapon and technology problematics. "Grace Under Pressure" can also reflect the particular conditions in which the disc was composed and produced, as the musicians separated from their historic producer Terry Brown, nicknamed 'Broon', before the recording.

The first side is very good. The powerful opener "Distant Early Warning" is the best track of the record. Referring a nuclear alert system, this reggae-rock song in the style of THE POLICE evolves into a true hard-rock piece, with ferocious guitar passages and an heroic finale. Great! Dedicated to one of the band's friend who had just passed away, "Afterimage" is a touching and melancholic synthesizer reggae-rock track with a cool solo from Lifeson. Inspired by Geddy Lee's mother experience during the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen camp, "Red Sector A"'s topic is the concentration camps and the Holocaust. Despite cheesy keyboards, it offers a nice alternation of electronic, rocking, epic and touching ambiances, even sounding new-wave. The Canadians made a ska incursion with "The Enemy Within", featuring different atmospheres and rhythms. Original and having its moments, but finally a bit uneven.

The second side is unfortunately less inspired. "The Body Electric" narrates the story of an android attempting to escape its programming. Despite its mysterious surprising opening, this electronic song is rather average. "Kid Gloves" contains an excellent guitar solo but the track itself sounds overall flat. As one of the oddest RUSH composition ever, "Red Lenses" is quite irritating as well as the only true weak passage of the record. One the contrary, "Between The Wheels" is the best song of Side 2 with its oppressive ambiance and icy heroic rock.

"Grace Under Pressure" is the continuation of "Signals", a little bit more unequal and 80's sounding. Like its predecessor, 'electronic reggae-rock' could be an attempt to describe the style of this album. Although it features dated synthesizers, the first side and the last track really rock. By incorporating a few new musical elements, the band proves they were still creative and daring.

This tenth studio offering from the Canadians will be the last truly good RUSH album of the 20th century. If you didn't enjoy "Signals", this one is not for you either. Otherwise, go for it without hesitation. Recommended to fans of "Signals", THE POLICE, or even reggae-rock.
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