on 11 October 2010
Signals is so iconic to me because listening to it immediately transports me back to a great time in my life. I had just completed my A levels, took a year out and simply had a fantastic time working part time, messing about and enjoying myself. Signals was playing in my bedroom most mornings and evenings when I was home. It was on my walkman when I spent hot summer days fishing and my best mate always had it on when I was round his. It was the soundtrack to my year off.
Signals definitely seemed to be a line in the sand that Rush had drawn from their past. They had evolved over a succession of albums and now their heady days of 2112 and Farewell To Kings were behind them to the point that live performances of the older material was limited to excerpts from just 4 or 5 tracks merged into a 10 minute medley. Signals is quite simply a fantastic album and is probably only bettered by Power Windows as a complete piece of work. I struggle to pick a favourite track from Signals as they are all that good but Analog Kid and Countdown do spring immediately to mind. This album is worth every penny it will cost you. Signals is all about the writing and less about the technicalities of the guitar work. Alex Lifeson steps back and acts more like the thread that weaves this album together rather than his previous roles as the icing on a very elaborate cake. Its is an accomplished piece of work and proved to be the spring board to a series of great albums. The 1983 Signals tour was my first taste of Rush live and quite frankly no other band has even come remotely close to eclipsing these three gods on stage.
I have yet to meet anyone who thinks Signals is a poor album ... although most Rush fans tend to be a little bit biased and protective about the band. Trust me its an album you will play again and again.
on 4 January 2010
I rate this album as one of their very best ever. Right up there with Moving Pictures, Permanent Waves, A Farewell to Kings.
I had just got into Rush and had really liked Moving Pictures.
I then heard this and was blown away.
Whereas many Rush fans stayed stuck in the past and moaned at the "reggae" on the album, I embraced it.
This album was when Rush proved they would continue to be a continuing force in rock music beyond their hard rock roots.
I can't really understand much of the criticism of this album.
Most of it centres around the sound. The guitar is "drowned out".
However, for me this misses the point. People are comapring this with their later work where they hit new heights with synth technology.
This was their first foray into it so was never going to have the same crispness as the others.
Whilst I agree the sound quality is not their best, being obsessive about this is missing the truly superb songs that are on this album.
First, there is one of the greatest Rush songs of all time - Subdivisions. Being a typical 16 year old at the time, the lyrics struck an absolute raw nerve with me and still make the hairs on the back of my neck stick up. They are amongst Neil Peart's very best and could not fit better with the music.
Both Analog Kid and Chemistry are also great efforts.
But then the truly superb Digital Man. This is another outstanding rush song and I was delighted to see it got recognition by being included in their track list for their latest tour.
The Weapon is another clever and imaginative effort and swiftly followed by New World Man. This song epitomises everything that is good about Rush. Superb lyrics, catchy music - all fitting together perfectly.
Losing it is for me one of the most underrated Rush tracks. Some of their best lyrics and music that manages to combine sad and beautiful at the same time.
Countdown is for me not the strongest song on the album. The tune is ok but no more and the lyrics start to verge on the pretentious.
However, it is my only slight criticism.
A truly great album that should get more recognition than it has done.
on 22 March 2001
Although not quite as musically challenging or complex as some of their earlier albums, Signals remains one of my own personal favourites. The lyrics are incredibly descriptive and heartfelt. Who can fail to relate to the deeply personal feelings expressed in "losing it" and the pressure felt by all teenagers to conform and loose their individuality in "Subdivisions" and the "Analog Kid". Thankfully some of us never do entirely. So sit back, close your eyes and soar into the heavens hitching a ride on "Space Shuttle Columbia", if this doesn't send a chill down your spine I suggest you check the mirror to make sure you're not dead!
on 9 June 2010
I still **** my pants every time I listen to this album, I really think it's that good. I remember listening to Countdown when it was in the charts (yes it was people!), this being the first song I had ever heard by the band - I was mesmerised by the lyrics, and story telling of the song, and the way the song just builds and builds, carrying me with it. When I heard the album 5 years later, I had just found out Rush were a 3 piece and was amazed that 3 people could produce such a big sound.
Subdivisions still ranks as one of my favoutite Rush tracks, showcasing Neil Peart's drumming in particular (especially in the closing bars of the song).
As a bass player, I reveled in learing how ton play the bass part in Analog Kid - from the start, this is a tour de force for both bass and guitar. I cannot understand why people complain about the guitars on this album - the solo on Analog Kid is one of Lifeson's best ever, and even now I can hear the passion and rawness of that solo that would leave many guitarist's going back to the drawing board.
Chemistry has Lee, Lifeson and Peart on an equall footing, but, again, I have to say, listen to Lifeson's guitar in this - the playing is full of emotion.
Digital Man - listen to this, then listen to The Police's Walking On The Moon, and you can tell who and what Rush were listening too at the time (I love the police too, and Peart could have done much worse than study the playing of Stewart Copeland...but anyway, this isn't a Police review).
The Weapon starts with an evil disco drum and synth part, and has some of the darkest lyrics Neil Peart has ever written...which might have indicated his mood at the time, I don't know. There are many layers too this song, and you really feel (again) like you are being taken on a music journey...left hanging (until The Enemy Within finishes of the Fear trilogy on Grace Under Pressure, the next album - another must have).
New World Man is not my favourite on the album, but is still a well crafted song with Lee, Lifeson and Peart contributing in equal measure...the upside of this track are the lyrics, which are thought provoking.
Losing It...the one and only Rush track to feature a (wonderful) violin solo - joind by Lifeson at the end. This song still has the ability to make me feel sad and reflective, and when you read the lyrics you are transported into three different stories of 3 people 'losing it'...the end of this song will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
...and back to Countdown again...the Columbia maiden voyage set to a Rush soundtrack, and the first Rush song I heard, when I thought they were a 4 piece band.
Really...whether you like Rush, or are just looking out of curiosity, this album has the capacity to stay with you through your life, and still have the same powerful effect each time you listen to it.
There's your recommendation :)
The follow up to their best album (Moving pictures) and to be honest,this is almost as good,with only the throwaway final track 'Countdown' letting the side down.As with the previous disc the first 4 tracks(side 1 on vinyl) are absolutely superb,the instantly likeable insistent throbbing pulsating 'Subdivisions',the upbeat(for Rush)'Analog Kid' with Geddy's Bass bubbling away,the excellent 'Chemistry' and the dynamic 'Digital Man', a personal favourite,the 3 members combine on these tracks to absolute perfection.
The rest,well its hard to follow those 4 but 'The Weapon' succeeds and who hasnt had a shiver up the spine moment when the electric violin of Ben Mink soars out of the speakers during the sublime 'Losin It' whilst 'New World Man' bounces around trying to be a hit single.This was the last Rush album for years that i had a real connection too,sadly the machine would take over and Alex would be shut out quite a bit while Geddy's keyboards would take over.
on 10 August 2007
Once again Rush have produced a truly stunning collection of songs. My favourate. Always hear something new every time I listen. If you haven't heard Rush before then this is the album to introduce you to their endlessly innovative music.
on 5 February 2011
Sprawling, dense and timeless, Signals remains as an absolute Rush classic. It is, for me, one of the most interesting and unusual albums that they ever recorded. Controversial upon release with its radical change in sound and direction, it is strong on synthesizer focus, yet nonetheless it features some of Alex Lifeson's very best guitar work; The Analog Kid, Chemistry and Digital Man shine with emotion and technical brilliance, especially during the solo sections, they also have me scratching my head every time I hear "the guitar really took a back seat on Signals..." Subdivisions, The Weapon and Losing It show Lifeson as an extraordinarily innovative, original and experimental guitarist.
The lyrics, in places, are almost abstract and I often wish Rush (or rather drummer Neil Peart) had pursued this avenue of writing further as it enables the listener to interpret the imagery of the words on a more personal, intellectual level. Chemistry (one of those rare and fascinating ocassions where all three band members shared lyrical input) and Digital Man are possibly the best examples of this 'abstract' writing style.
As one would expect, the music is truly progressive. Rush blended elements of reggae and electronics into heavily technical rock whilst still retaining their own identity. This simply illustrated just how singulary unique and individual a band they were at that time and arguably still are. The Weapon still remains as one of the most powerful, dark and complex compositions they ever recorded. Losing It displayed a softly melancholic side to Rush, a song which builds and builds with dazzling musical complexities that are almost jazz-like in terms of the fusion of instrumentation and time changes.
Subdivisions, with its almost scientific, musical precision, remains infused with a million memories of the isolation and loneliness of feeling like such an outsider during high-school years, of 'lighted streets on quiet nights' and being aware that you were in fact not alone, because there were bands like Rush with people who felt just the same as you and somehow, magically, knew how to paint those almost unbearable feelings into moving pictures of music and words.
Rush's moment finally arrived with Moving Pictures in 1981. The late seventies saw the band steadily becoming one the more commercial prog acts. Permanent Waves had a major radio hit in "The Spirit Of Radio". Things were heading in a good direction. Moving Pictures saw at least three classic songs ("Tom Sawyer", "Red Barchetta" and "Limelight") and the rest of the album was full of great songs too, bar one- "Vital Signs", a misguided reggae-lite affair with electro drums. Ironically, this worst song would indicate the direction the band would head for this, their next album, which happens to be as far as I'm concerned their finest hour until 2002's Vapor Trails.
Signals just doesn't have a weak track on it. Having said that, it's important to mention that this is the beginning of the period that split Rush fans right down the middle. There are more synths on here than any previous album. So if you like your rock with guitar, bass and drums only, turn away now.
But if you DO like 'em, Signals is a feast. From the opener, the driving "Subdivisions", they're out in full force. The song features lyrics that seem to deal with the tribulations of youth ("conform or be cast out"), somewhat strange coming from an established group of older musicians. But whatever. The song is as catchy as they come, an anthem of sorts, and the first of many radio-friendly numbers on the album. As the band moves on, "The Analog Kid" starts with a lively pace, perhaps to make up for "Subdivisions"' brooding. By the time "Chemistry" begins you realise that unlike the previous albums, Signals doesn't really follow the 'one-for-you-, one-for-us' balance of short tunes and prog epics. I'm happy enough with this. Rush are talented and confident enough to pull this off. "Digital Man" harkens back to the reggae mess that closed Moving Pictures, but by this stage the band was aware of what makes a good use of this style. The song is an absolute delight, from it's hi-hat driven beat to it's off-time struck guitar chords in the chorus. A marvellous song.
"The Weapon" is a slower track, a sequel to "Subdivisions" in it's constant pace at least. It's longer running time allows the band some instrumental frivolity later on, a kind of in-the-distance mesh of wailing guitar and keys. It too has a killer chorus with slightly off-kilter notes and vocal pattern. "New World Man" represents the band's highest commercial success, their 'one hit' if you will, and is ironically the album's worst offering. It's by no means bad, but it's the most saccharine track on an otherwise quite dark album. Killer bassline though, and a great beat. The album closes with the tandem of "Losing It" and "Countdown", beautiful tracks both and a fitting conclusion to proceedings. The former makes great use of electric violin, produced to perfection into one of the most sublime sounds ever recorded. It's something of a melancholy wonder, wandering dazed through standard song structure before an amazing breakdown into showoffy soloing perfection at the end. "Countdown" is like a curious mix of songs; the tredipation of the verses mimics that of the astronauts referenced, the bouncy choruses perhaps their elation, and a proggy-as-hell rock breakdown that also closes the album.
One of Signals' best features is that everything fits. It works as both a collection of great songs, and as a consistent album, in terms both of themes and musical style. It seems to me redundant to mention the playing, as no one Rush album has anything less than terrific work from all three men. The production is crystal clear and heavily focused on the artificial sounds, part of the reason the band's long-term producer Terry Brown would leave. Apparently he was as unhappy with the new direction as many longtime fans were. Still, if you appreciate this sort of music, this is arguably Rush's peak, a perfect transition from their roots into the overkill of subsequent albums.
on 1 August 2009
If you expect that a band demonstrates progress over a 40 year career, particularly a prog rock band, then they can't make the same album over and over again.
This is the missing link between their late 70s/early 80s stuff and the late 80s. Rush seemed to have a pattern of evolving a sound over 4 albums, making a live album and then starting a new sound, and so it is with Signals. This was the direction they would take for the rest of the decade, no side-long intergalactic space opera or instrumental riff-a-thons. Fans of 2112 and Hemispheres have those albums anyway, but this led the way for Grace Under Pressure and Power Windows and so forth. In fact it still connects well with the "second side" of Permanent Waves. Despite shorter songs and shorter hair, there wouldn't be a lot of radio play, so it was still a brave departure for them.
If you want to succeed then you have to try and if you try sometimes you will fail, but the real failure is in not trying again. Regardless of what long term fans up to that point thought of this record, there were great songs, rhythms and ideas on it. It is still a joy to hear Countdown, Subdivisions and especially Losing It.
Poorly received by critics and a lot of fans on its release, Signals remains one of my favourite Rush albums. There have been many songs about disaffected youth over the years but 'Subdivisions' is one of the most heartfelt. 'The Analogue Kid' also paints a vivid picture not only of the seemingly endless spare time of youth but of how short lived it really is. 'The Weapon' is a slow burning track with a catchy guitar part and clever drum inter-play which really gets under your skin. 'Losing It' is a beautifully constructed track, unusually (for Rush) dominated by a sorrowful electric violin. 'Countdown' is one of those slightly clunky efforts that Rush occasionally produce which doesn't sound quite right ("excitement so thick, you can cut it with a knife") but still manages to be entertaining. Although the Police influences are discernable, overall this album is so original you can't really compare it to anything else. Rush are (or at least were) unique.