Strange Brouhaha

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Rush: "Feedback"

Rush put this album out in June, 2004. I must have forgotten, because it was new to me when I saw it on the shelves at Best Buy the other day. I picked it up immediately, of course, and you know what? I'm glad I did.

"Feedback" is an eight-song collection of covers that, as Neil Peart puts it in the liner notes, Rush "learned from and were inspired by." Clocking in at a shade over 27 minutes, we'd call it an EP these days, and some folks probably are. (I've got some albums that were released as full-length LPs that aren't much longer than this.) Freed from the constraints of intense technical perfection that a regular Rush album would imply, the band seems to be a lot lighter and looser, in much more of a laid-back, lets-get-together-and-play mode than normal. You can really tell, or at least I got the impression, that they were just kicking back and having fun. Geddy, especially, just sounds totally relaxed.

The song selection is not exactly inspiring. I like "For What It's Worth," for example, but does the world really need this particular version? The Lost did a good cover in the 90s, And I also think the world is not asking for another version of "Crossroads." Still, that's the kind of thing you put on a cover album, because those are the songs that everyone wants to play.

What is interesting is that Rush performs the songs in a way that really clearly shows that yes, they WERE influenced by these songs. It's a return to the roots of Rush in a way that "Vapor Trails" was supposed to be but really wasn't. In a bunch of places, I was struck by the way these songs sounded like they'd fit perfectly on "Rush" or "Fly By Night" or, especially, "Caress of Steel." In fact, if you didn't know they were covers, you'd probably think that most of these tunes came straight out of Chapter 1. (The only giveaway is that Geddy's voice is much, much lower these days than it was thirty years ago.) The rhythms, arrangements, and chord voicings are all classic Rush.

When I was walking out of the store with the disc in my hands, I was already preparing to write it off. I'm glad I didn't. This is, in my opinion, probably their best studio album since...well, you have to go back a long way. I liked parts of "Counterparts" and "Roll the Bones," but I like this one better. (For those of you that don't know, both those albums are over a decade old.) It's kind of a relief to listen to it, knowing that it's meant to be fun and not A RUSH ALBUM.



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