Rush: The (Partial) Series – Power Windows (1985)

Power Windows (1985). We’re still driven by synths and electronics, but we’re still rockin’, by and large!

Big Money was a hit song, it’s a huge, sprawling thing with a lot going on within its borders. You know it well already.

Grand Designs is where an epiphany hits me, in all this. And I hate to say this, it’s totally inaccurate and I know it. All this stuff from the mid-80s… does it not sound all the same, to any of the rest of you? Like, songs could be interchangeable between albums (excepting lyrical content)? I’m certainly not meaning to deride or belittle any of the work here, but as I go through the thought has started to occur to me. I think it’s the utter shift in sound, the one I said yesterday was alright by me because it was their choice to go that way, and I still say that… Weird. I know. I KNOW! I’m probably way off base. But I had to express it. And anyway, Grand Designs. Good song. I liked the guitar solo.

Manhattan Project (also from the Chronicles I’ve pummelled with repeated listens) is a pretty, slow song, though its subject matter is still what you think it is. Eventually, the rock wins out, though. The juxtaposition and the lyrical content is all a bit unsettling. I like that it kept me on edge.

Marathon is a huge track (fiitingly). Lots of everything, here. The instrumentations are all excellent – bass, guitar and drums. Synths, well, of course they were here too. I think they were going for uplifting here, and it worked for sure.

Territories slowly builds into another rocker whose sound fits the album perfectly. I liked the bit at 2:00. Many times they just hit those moments and you nod your head, secure in the knowledge that these guys are masters at their craft.

Middletown Dreams seamlessly connects to Territories. See above comment in Grand Designs. It’s still a good song! Really! It has a certain menace to it, a heaviness that most of the others haven’t had (in the same way).

Emotion Detector builds into a period-perfect rocker. I liked the chorus part. But wow, it’s actually getting hard (at times) to believe that this is the same band! Of course, I am exhausted, it’s been a long week. Maybe I’m not hearing this record properly and need to sleep on it.

Mystic Rhythms stomps along, driven largely by the drums and the bass. It plods a bit, but it’s a fitting album closer.

In sum: Yeah, I need to hear this again, when I’m not falling asleep at the keyboard (my Mac keyboard, not a synth!). Maybe I did it a disservice, playing it tonight, unable as I was to play it in the car this afternoon, in my usual manner. I wasn’t able to get myself into the proper headspace to deal with all the everything-80s in this record. I am still completely grateful for the chance to hear it, please don’t misunderstand. Thanks heaps, Mike the one and only Lebrain!

22 thoughts on “Rush: The (Partial) Series – Power Windows (1985)

  1. Deke says:

    Totally agree with what HMO is saying. When I look back at it I remember being blown away by Big Money and for me it was kinda of a slide after that but like HMO sez there is still some cool stuff on it it’s just not up there with there previous stuff.
    But can ya blame them the ol Rush steamship had basically been goin steady since 74 with releases and man they just shifted gears doing what they want when they want.
    So for me I still was buying there stuff and always have right up to this day but PW kinda gets forgotten about.
    May have to,spin this one on the iPod soon…

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    1. keepsmealive says:

      Oh, I agree too. As in my reply to him, I knew I was probably off base but it had to be said. Spin it again and see what you think. Better yet, play the couple of albums previous and then PW. See if it becomes a wall of songs that sort of beome indistinguishable from one another…

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  2. Heavy Metal Overload says:

    After loving the previous two this one never made so much of an impact on me. There are some cool songs on it and I enjoy it… but just not up to previous standards for me.

    As far as 80s stuff sounding the same… I dunno, I’d hesitate to say that. There’s a lot of stuff that has similar production and sounds the same but I don’t think it’s maybe all that different from saying all Metal sounds the same, or Blues or whatever? I think it’s like anything else, the artists personalities and songs separate them and I’d think people that are into that style can tell the difference. Interesting thought though, I wonder what everyone else has to say about it.

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    1. keepsmealive says:

      Well, I was worried I was putting the cat amongst the pigeons with that comment, but I go from the gut when I throw this shit at the wall, and it was what was on my mind. I had to say it. I knew it was probably way off, but still.

      I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s the same as saying all metal sounds the same, or all blues. It just felt like they settled into this rut of a sound, after so many records of pushing the envelope, and it started to sound same-y to me.

      What may be evolving, here, is the realization that, for me, I could do without so much synth in Rush’s music. I love this band. I knew the synths were coming (like in Game Of Thrones, “Winter is coming.”) I just hope that, with Hold Your Fire, they try to change it up a bit more.

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      1. Heavy Metal Overload says:

        I realise now I’ve misunderstood what you were saying in the post. I took your comment about the 80s stuff to be regarding a lot of 80s synth-type bands and music in general whereas I realise now you were maybe just talking about Rush’ 80s output?

        I think this run of albums do sound fairly similar with probably less and less guitar presence as they go on. But definitely similar. And then there’s another live album and the usual Rush re-think! I don’t know if I would say it was a rut though, I think they were feeling out this approach album-to-album. There is definitely a progression.

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      2. keepsmealive says:

        Well, I had meant just Rush, in that case. But of course that entire decade was infested with bands who had that same thing. The difference, of course, is that Rush are friggin’ RUSH and there’s still plenty of gold in them thar hills. I was just speaking generally, noticing that there was a definite ‘sound’ and it was appearing a lot. I’ll be rocking Hold Your Fire today, I’ll be curious to see if they shake things up at all.

        Haha I just had a mental picture of Neil Peart, leaning on his drum sticks, sitting on a throne made of drum sticks, leaning forward and saying “The synths are coming.” I crack myself up.

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    2. Phillip Helbig says:

      Certainly there is a sameness about most 80s productions regardless of the variety of types of music. In the new-wave arena, add to this a certain affected type of singing (probably originated by David Bowie and/or Bryan Ferry in the 70s) and there is more of a sameness. Heaven 17, anyone? (Apparently they are still around and playing clubs.)

      Certainly only someone with little experience could say that all metal sounds the same. This is a particularly bad example; there is more variety within heavy metal than in all of the rest of music.

      Yes, some types of music have less variety, but that is not necessarily bad.

      I think the problem was the 80s is that too many people tried out too many things which they thought were cool, but dated really quickly. Like cars in the late 1940s.

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      1. keepsmealive says:

        Yes, that’s a valid point too. The 80s were rife with bands who fell into that. If we were to go back in time and turn on 80s rock radio, we’d probably barf. It was what it was, though. So maybe my other point to consider, in all of this, is to not try to set Rush apart too much. I know I was doing it, since they are AWESOME. But they seem, as much as anybody, victim of the times in which they were playing. And I don’t have to like it – I really want to, but I don’t have to. 😉

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      2. Heavy Metal Overload says:

        “Someone with little experience could say that all metal sounds the same”

        That’s what I was meaning. And if someone could say that why is it a bad example? As someone with a long history of listening to Metal I know that there is a huge variety, I wasn’t implying otherwise. But is someone new to the music going to be able to tell Death Metal bands apart, for instance? I doubt it.

        So all I was saying is that I’m reluctant to ever say any genre of music sounds the same if I’m not literate or conversant in it. Equally I don’t assume everyone can hear the variety in Metal just because I can. And if you think of large swathes of extreme, noisy music out there that most people seem to consider as Metal nowadays it does make things worse. A lot of the things you consider as varied in the genre may be styles that some people don’t consider Metal at all!

        (I need to explain that a lot of times I just like throwing stuff like this out for the sake of discussion! I don’t necessarily know how I feel myself, I just like shooting the shit and seeing what everyone has to say. I’m really interested to know what you think about this.)

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      3. Phillip Helbig says:

        “But is someone new to the music going to be able to tell Death Metal bands apart, for instance? I doubt it.”

        I meant distinguishing, say, Iron Maiden’s “Journeyman” from something by, say, Burzum. 🙂

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      4. Heavy Metal Overload says:

        Ha ha ha I know. I realise I’m being ridiculously generic here just for the sake of argument (forgive me, I’m at work and I’m seriously bored). I could talk myself in circles about this all day!

        In saying Metal I wasn’t really talking about the broad spectrum of the genre from ..er.. Bon Jovi to Napalm Death. What I was thinking about was more an ignorant “outsider” perception of the genre’s most well-known acts. “All distorted guitars, growling vocals etc…” And someone that might say, for example, Iron Maiden and Queensryche totally sound the same. Even though we both know that’s not the case (even if there are similarities). I’ve always thought of Metal and it’s various subgenres to be a victim of generalisation so I suppose that’s why I thought of it as an example?

        But… you’re right! Coherent arguments aren’t all that easy to make when you’re having to pretend you’re working!

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      5. keepsmealive says:

        Here, HMO. Stare hard at the screen and read this… now you’re working hard! Boredom averted!

        I totally get what you’re saying. I always felt the same way with jazz. Louis Armstrong was not Chet Baker was not Miles Davis was not Al Hirt (to use trumpet players for the example). There are always different sounds, approaches, textures, movements, yet people always just think “oh that’s jazz” and don’t even try to differentiate. It’s OK, the people making records are not making records for those nimnods. The people who are truly listening know the difference.

        I think, to further refine what I meant when I said about some of those Rush songs being interchangeable between albums, was that they found a sound and, while they may have pushed forward a bit (even deeper into the electronics, for example) and added some old-style guitar here or there, by and large many of these songs of a couple albums’ worth of them did all start to blend together. For me. Probably not for everyone. I get that. I wasn’t meaning a whole big discourse on finer points within genres, necessarily, although this is also an interesting avenue of conversation – and we LOVE conversation here on the KMA! – I was just talking about Rush over the past couple of albums in the series.

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        1. Heavy Metal Overload says:

          Yeah. I realise I’ve sent things off on a tangent! Glad you see where I’m coming from though, the Jazz comparison is interesting.

          I don’t even know what to say about this Rush album anymore. I’ve opinionated myself into a stupor!

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          1. keepsmealive says:

            You teach me so many words from your crazy Scottish lexicon, it’s a pleasure to be able to teach you one I use here. I have no idea if anyone else does.

            But we need to be careful. The nimnods are everywhere. And if they hear us, they’ll find us. And if they find us, they’ll corner us and talk endlessly about really stupid things. Best to just leave the nimnods alone. And never, EVER feed them.

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  3. Craig says:

    Hi, love the series, been read thru it all tonight. Sad to think that it stops here, at least for the time being. Regardless, Power Windows, give it time to sink in, realize it was a complete sea change for them , its the only album that doesn’t really build, expand or evolve from the last album. GuP in this case. It completely starts from scratch, It says, “Hello, the name of this band is Rush, this is what we sound like” in a completely new and fresh way. It happens to be my favorite Rush album after Signals but that is beside the point. You need to somehow find on the interwebs a bootleg of the demo recordings of this album. You will find them to be a revelation. First you need to fully absorb Power Windows. Listen with headphones, put it on while you are doing housework or cooking, crank it in your car. Rush sounds best cranked in the car. It also sounds really good while you are paying bills online.

    I rest my case.

    P.s. the guitar solo on Emotion Detector is one of Lerxst’s finest. Really. He may have been pushed slightly to the background but his playing in fucking amazing this whole album. He refuses to be ignored here.

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    1. keepsmealive says:

      Thatnks for popping in, Craig! We always welcome and encourage new commenters! Well, my current Rush collection ends at A Show Of Hands [and Chronicles, of course], though I do have Clockwork Angels I’ll need to build up to that point, and I will definitely be doing that! This series has shoved them to top of the heap, priority one on my Must Buy list! 😉

      I hear what you’re saying about giving PW time. And I will indeed be doing that. I’ve found myself playing the albums for review, and then spinning them again and again afterwards just because I can. PW will get the same play-time. I have a 5-CD changer here in the basement and it’ll get a spot in the rotation!Also, I posted in these pages not long ago that my process for review is to be in my car listening (along with my 2-year-old daughter) and writing in crappy dollar store books with crappy dollar store pens. You’re right, if an album can rock you in the car, you’re doing great! And Rush really has managed it, all along. Right from 1974 to now. I still liked PW, I think maybe this tangent of conversation may overshadow the point that it’s still a very good album.

      Perhaps its the direction the evolution went that I noticed, and commented upon. But, as I noted, I was so tired last night. Maybe not the best time to be trying to be coherent. 🙂

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    2. keepsmealive says:

      Meant to mention laughing at the “paying bills online” comment. I’d have figured death metal best for that. 😉

      Also, agreement on the guitar solo in Emotion Detector.

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