So, as the mercury is rising (says the National Midnight Star ), it seems it has to always be re-pointed out to so many Rush fans every time a new Rush album is released: due to the fact that Rush, like the Elder Race who left our solar system long ago, are always changing and growing and don’t want to record the same album twice, new Rush albums have to grow on a lot of fans every time.
Even in their Early Period (’75 through ’81) when it was in some ways easier for Rush to develop a consistent fan base because they always had an essential hard rock or even metallic core with every album as well as a consistent tendency toward progressive rock (which was at its height in the ’70s), Rush had harsh criticisms levied at them. The critics would say Geddy is a “squealer”; Neil’s drumming is too bombastic; Alex’s guitar riffs are pretentious; they got no soul…same old blah, same old blah. Do you know I actually had one guy, a musician himself, tell me that while he respects Rush’s technical abilities he doesn’t like them because he “couldn’t imagine them doing ‘Sex Machine'” (this was a white guy with hair as long as Geddy’s, mind you)? Get real, man!
Another thing that made new Rush albums easier for core fans, or even just hard rock fans, to take to right away in the Early Period was the Broon factor. Terry Brown was their co-producer for every album, studio and live, for their first 10 albums (I am one of those people that counts the first Rush album as being FBN–that’s ‘Fly By Night’ in Rushspeak). When Rush wanted to mirror some of the elements of the emerging synthesizer sounds of the early ’80s, ‘Signals’ proved to them that Broon wasn’t the man to take them into that new direction. And ever since then, Rush hasn’t stayed with a co-producer for more than two albums, I believe. Rush have always made it clear that their co-producers become somewhat of a fourth songwriter for them (which is partially what they want).
Rush also write more carefully now than they did (or even could, because of the rigors and time constraints of touring and being a newer band that needed to establish its presence in those dim and distant days) before. As thoughtful as “Xanadu” or “Jacob’s Ladder” might be, their newer songs (that is, songs recorded and written after 1982) are more thought-out than those. Thus, they take more time to develop more new ideas and new techniques now than they did (or could) in the Early Period. I feel strongly that many Rush fans often fall short of appreciating this fact about our trio of heroes.
So Rush have lived up to the dictum, “changes aren’t permanent–but change is” and “for strangers and arrangers constant change is here to stay”. They have been consistent in their inconsistency, and aye there’s the true rub of why fans get so rabidly negative when they don’t hear what they expected to hear on a new release. Of late (that is, since the turn of the century, and even beginning somewhat with TFE–that’s the album ‘Test for Echo’ in Rushspeak), Rush have been interested in re-cultivating parts of their earlier, more raw sound and style while still striving to be contemporary. Take that into consideration when listening, if you don’t already.
Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose!