That said, I think the songwriting is outstanding. Initially I have to admit all the songs kind of bled together indistinguishably and it was a difficult album to listen to. However, as I began to dissect the music, I found I liked it quite a bit! Complex textures abound on this album, as Alex Lifeson explores textural washes with his guitar. Lifeson sounds more energized than he's sounded in years, and with NO keyboards, his space in the mix is huge. Back is the determined interplay between guitar & bass, and the grooves are endless. Geddy Lee is experimenting with his voice a little more too. He takes a few opportunities to sing at the highest ranges he has in years. No screaming, but high nonetheless.
I've only had this album for a little while now, and I'm pretty excited about it. I've been listening to it a lot, and I see where the songs are going to get their lasting appeal. At face value, everything is pretty rocking and there's great riffs on just about every song. Complexity is revealed over the course of many listens. Your ear will be initially hooked by a catchy riff or a slick bass line. Further listening reveals plenty of guitar overdubs, intricate syncopations, complex counterpoints, and great drumming. Neil Peart is awesome on this album -- his monster grooves are everywhere. Some of his lyrics are markedly more personal this time around, which is an interesting change.
My only problem lies in the distortion on Lifeson's guitar. On Vapor Trails he has essentially changed into a textural player. Some of the chord structures are just too complex to be played out with the buzzing distortion effects he has here, and some textures degenerate into little more than noise.
The songs are excellent: "One Little Victory" is a riff-monster, hard and aggressive; "Vapor Trail" moves between an clean electric sheen and a distorted frenzy; "Earthshine" is mysterious, ethereal and heavy; "Ghost Rider", is built on an incredible groove with coruscating guitar textures, detailed arrangements, and inspiring melodies. "How It Is" begins with guitar chords recalling a lullaby, then it twists into a crisp groove of ringing guitars and humming bass. Also interesting is "Peacable Kingdom", a very complex piece musically. Lyrically, it has been called a response to September 11, but since it was written before that fateful day, it seems more eerily prophetic. Look at these lines:
"All this time we're shuffling and laying out our cards
While a billion other dealers are slipping past our guards
And all this time we're hoping and praying that we might learn
While a billion other teachers are teaching them how to burn"
The song is also clever because of how it works in metaphors of Tarot (?) cards into the subject matter. Peart's still a great lyricist.
In the end, I'd say this is Rush's best album in many years. As Peart writes in "Out of the Cradle", "Here we come out of the cradle, endlessly rocking." Since that's the last song, I hope this is a sneaky message that the band will continue to make music. Over the years, they've proven to be one of my favorite artists and Vapor Trails is a very strong return in my opinion. Most Rush fans have probably picked it up already, but if you've been hesitant, I encourage you to give it a try.
What did you think of this review?