Most bands would be happy with one greatest hits package to dine out on. But then Rush have never been ‘most bands’, and this release marks the third part of their retrospective, covering the band’s last twenty years.
That’s decades two and three of their existence, covered in one disc, the material lifted from five studio albums. Yet since Rush fans seem to have pockets of infinitesimal depth, it’s a fair assumption they’ll warm to the unique idea of collecting their band’s retrospectives. Expect this disc to sell well alongside the multi-DVD live sets from exotic world locations.
Yet behind the cynicism of record company exploitation lurks the knowledge that Rush as a band have remained remarkably consistent throughout their existence. For sure the material such as 2112 or, more commercially, Closer To The Heart and Spirit Of The Radio will always get the maximum exposure, but to write them off would be a mistake.
Parallels with Muse are irresistible. A trio with no obvious lead guitar line, Rush do perhaps in their later years get closer to the middle of the road, but they remain capable of pulling a riff right out of rock’s top drawer. Animate is a prime example, its sinuous bass riff powering a dominant vocal from Geddy Lee. Opener One Little Victory packs quite a punch too, the sort of riff you could play round in circles for hours leading to a ballsy chorus of real intent.
A surprise for the uninitiated will come in the form of Nobody’s Hero, Lee’s unexpectedly frank memorial to a friend talking openly about sexuality. This isn’t something you’d find much of among his progressive peers. It’s a reminder that while Rush might at times baffle with lyrics such as “God is in my garden, Sister in my soul, Angel in my armour, actors in my role”, they can still hit the nail on the head elsewhere.
The Presto album is surprisingly under represented, with anthemic tracks such as Red Tide or Paint It Black lacking from this collection – catchy rockers both. Yet the truth is that even at this late stage in their careers, Rush have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal, and that if they do make it to a fourth retrospective they will still be rocking with intent. Progressive rock’s first golden wedding celebration, perhaps?