RUSH — Moving Pictures (review)

RUSH — Moving Pictures album cover Album · 1981 · Hard Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Raff
Though I would be hard put to call it a 'metal' masterpiece, "Moving Pictures" is indeed Rush's finest hour - from the intriguing, red-and-black cover (nice pun on the title, too) to the magnificent music within. With this album, the mighty Canadians managed to produce something which is at the same time complex and accessible, richly textured and never predictable. The more explicitly metallic leanings of its predecessor, the excellent "Permanent Waves", are here replaced by a more typically progressive feel, with rich layers of keyboards, intricate rhythms and a guitar sound that is more atmospheric than biting.

The seven tracks on the album are so well-known that it would almost seem pointless to mention any of them. Anyway, MP boasts one of the best opening tracks ever, the intense, multilayered "Tom Sawyer". Introduced by simple but elegant synth playing courtesy of the incomparable Geddy Lee (very busy on this album in his triple role as singer, bassist and keyboardist), the song is bolstered by Lee and Peart's stellar interplay. The following "Red Barchetta", though an excellent track with intriguing, sci-fi lyrics set in a world where cars have been banned, has never been a favourite of mine. Then the first part gets to a close with the double whammy of the magnificent (if a trifle overplayed) instrumental "YYZ" and Rush's take on the joys and pains of fame, the deceptively catchy "Limelight".

The remaining three tracks do not feature in live albums and collections as often as the others, which is a pity, as they are every bit as good and even (strictly speaking) more typically 'progressive'. The 10-minute-plus "The Camera Eye" is a streamlined epic about city life which showcases Lifeson's brilliant guitar work and Lee's vastly improved vocal abilities. In fact, this is probably the first Rush album in which Geddy shows unbelievers he can actually SING. The following song, "Witch Hunt", starts off with a brooding atmosphere punctuated by angry voices and ominous tolling of bells. Its lyrics are among my all-time favourites from the band, with its marvellous, all too true closing lines: "Quick to judge, quick to anger/ Slow to understand/ Ignorance and prejudice and fear/ Walk hand in hand". Here keyboards, drums and guitar complement each other perfectly, and Geddy's lower-register vocals add to the sense of menace. Finally, in the closing track, "Vital Signs", we see the shape of things to come - that is, the reggae influence that would come to the fore in the two following Rush albums, "Signals" and "Grace Under Pressure". Even though some people may turn up their noses at finding reggae rhythms on a progressive rock album, The Police were without a doubt one of the best and most influential bands of the '80s, and Rush proved their skill and intelligence when they chose to integrate those rhythms in their sound.

MP definitely deserves its place as Rush's masterpiece. It also stands to prove that the Eighties were a far better decade for music than they are given credit for. Highly recommended.
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