Rush Series 2: The 1990s – Counterparts (1993)

After yesterday’s expedition into Roll The Bones, there were a few comments from people waiting for me to get to this next album in the discography. Coming two years after RTB (and Rush’s 15th album, for those keeping track), what we have is a rather different album.

Animate is one helluva album opener (and a single). I was going to write that it achieves liftoff very quickly, but I don’t even think it ever touched the ground. I don’t hear much synths in this one, mainly just the three piece and it rocks like crazy. Even when it slows a bit and becomes this thoughtful section, it still rules. I loved this song.

Stick It Out starts out with a bit of menace and then becomes this crashing, stomping thing that is really pleasing. As soon as we hit the chorus I realized that I knew this song! This was a single (hell, it hit #1 in the US), it was on the radio. Man, I didn’t catch it right away but I totally knew this song all along. Yes. This is a great one!

Cut To The Chase starts out a bit more lightly, but promises much more. And then BAM! it hits. There is so much to love here, the whole thing is so atmospheric. And Lifeson’s solo! Yes! Holy hell, this is three songs in a row that rock like hell. I’m really going to love this album, arent I. Yes, I believe I am. Because next we’re into the reason I bought this album first of their 1990s releases.

Nobody’s Hero. We all know this song, from its acoustic intro through to it’s strong body, we’re told two wrenching stories. The first story is about one of Peart’s friends’ death of AIDS. The second is of a girl killed in Peart’s hometown. Many believe it was Kristen French, one of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka’s victims. Like I said, very dark stuff. But this song… I can’t get it out of my head. Every piece of it fits, and I think what keeps it from falling off into despair are the strings (arranged and conducted by Michael Kamen). It’s the lift we need. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this song, always did, even way back in the day. One of my favourite Rush songs. Ever.

Between Sun & Moon is another great rock song on an album that seems to be full of them. Maybe it’s just the year this was released (and Wiki tells me this one was #2 behind only Pearl Jam’s vs.), but I could totally hear Eddie Vedder singing this one. It soars like a Pearl Jam song. Is that blasphemy? I can deal with that, it’s just what I hear, and I’m no expert. And whatever, it’s not a bad thing. At all. This is a great tune with some really great musicianship throughout… which seems redundant to say, when talking about this band, isn’t it.

Alien Shore zips along with a slinky feel and then crashes into another huge rock song. Dammit, this record is kicking my ass and I’m only just past halfway through. This is the Rush I think maybe we were missing in the synth years. Not that they weren’t writing brilliant tunes then (they absolutely were) but it’s nice to hear them just rock the fuck out again. Hell yeah. This one would have sounded great live, if they ever played it.

The Speed Of Love is an excellent mid-tempo rocker with a real feel to it. It breaks down during the verses, then lifts up to a sort of clarity in the choruses.. does that even make sense? It’s just in the way the instruments hit together, it feels open, almost sparse but also not. It all works, it holds together as only Rush can do it. Very cool.

Double Agent was another single, and it starts out well enough, but then it just starts rocking the hell out and it’s awesome… except there’s that talking bit again. Sigh. Shades of Roll The Bones. That sort of thing isn’t working for me, the only blemish on a (so far) perfect record. And this song is so strong otherwise.

Leave That Thing Alone is quite a funky instrumental workout. I liked it!

Cold Fire was also a single (from an album that seems chock full of them), and it’s a great mid-tempo pop rocker with heavier chorus parts. This is another one that definitely achieves liftoff.

And last finally we have Everyday Glory, which zaps us right back into the 80s. It’s like Rush playing an early-days U2 song. It’s disorienting, especially after the last ten tracks. It feels a bit like it’s a left-over from Roll The Bones that’s been tacked onto the end. The chorus saves it a bit, and that guitar solo is bloody huge, but still, it’s a bit of a weird way to go out. It’s not a bad song, still.

In Sum:

Wow. Just wow. Almost all of this record knocked me backwards. Brilliant.

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Posted on July 15, 2014, in posts by aaron and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Glad you love Counterparts. It was hard to imagine that not being the case, of course. It’s definitely an overlooked gem in their catalog, at least among casual fans. I saw them on this tour at Madison Square Garden (my first Rush show since the Moving Pictures tour at that same venue) and they were spectacular. Met Geddy backstage very briefly (I was working at Atlantic Records at the time) but couldn’t make my way to Alex through the throngs of guitar geeks asking him all kinds of technical questions. Neil, of course, was nowhere to be found.

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Test For Echo, which is another divisive album among fans as far as I can tell.

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    • Thanks, Rich! Yes I loved Counterparts, it’s an almost completely consistent record, and it rocks like crazy. I played it good and loud on the second time through and had a blast!

      You’re really lucky to have seen them live. I have yet to manage it, but if they come around again I really, really must.

      Cool you got to meet Geddy, even if briefly. I’ll bet Alex gets really tired of all the guitar geeks hahaha. A shame Neil isn’t around more, he really could make a bit more of an effort to be friendly, even if it’s only a short time after shows, not for as long as the others. Privacy is one thing, rude to the people who buy your records is another.

      TFE is tomorrow, so get ready to give ‘er!

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      • Phillip Helbig

        “Cool you got to meet Geddy, even if briefly. I’ll bet Alex gets really tired of all the guitar geeks hahaha. A shame Neil isn’t around more, he really could make a bit more of an effort to be friendly, even if it’s only a short time after shows, not for as long as the others. Privacy is one thing, rude to the people who buy your records is another.”

        I don’t think that Neil is rude; he’s just uncomfortable in such a setting. While I enjoy talking to musicians, I’m not the intrusive type. Recently, I talked to the (extemely beautiful female) singer of a little-known progressive-metal band, which was an interesting conversation. But this was because she was sufficiently non-famous that she could come into the audience to listen to the main act along with us punters and it was a spontaneous conversation (during which we discovered some rather surprising connections between us). Would I go backstage even if I could? I don’t know. Through a really bizarre string of events, I might have access to a backstage pass for one of my favourite bands, but I’m still debating whether to take up the offer. It’s one thing if old friends etc are backstage, but people who don’t even know the band except very casually, I don’t know.

        I suppose as a band there is a time when one wants people to come backstage, especially groupies. Then there is a time where one is comfortable with what happens. Then there is a time when one has to have security to keep out the riff-raff (and all but the best groupies). (And, for some, there then comes a time where one has to ask people to come backstage.) Rush are definitely in the third category. I can see Neil feeling that this is somehow phony. As he wrote: “I can’t pretend a stranger is a long awaited friend” in, appropriately, the song “Limelight”. (Although it should be obvious from the context, i.e. Peart talking about himself as a famous guy who is often approached by strangers who expect to be treated as friends, I have often taken it as a description of the feelings of someone who is in the opposite position, i.e. someone who wants a friend, but is surrounded by strangers, and realizes that, as Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers sang, “you can’t make old friends” (yes, a perfectly logical reference to Dolly and Kenny in a Rush discussion), so resigns himself to having no friends rather than phony friends. Of course, the situation, in some sense, is not that much different than from the point of view of the famous guy and perhaps Peart, remembering his times at high school when he was wearing a cape and the jocks were picking on him, intended both meanings.)

        How many people have a picture of themselves with Ozzy or whomever, and Ozzy doesn’t even know who they are?

        Some bands have “meet and greet” which costs anywhere from 50 to 500 (pounds, franks, dollars, euros). While I can maybe see this as acceptable for a band who isn’t making that much money and uses it as a way to generate additional income to allow them to continue recording and touring, like Uriah Heep, say, I think that in the case of the multimillionaires like Ozzy this is a bit dubious.

        There was once a starlet who, trying to generate her own PR, got a magazine to publish a picture of her with a Famous Guy, implying (but not stating) some connection, giving the impression that she knew the right people etc. Too bad for her that Famous Guy wrote a letter to the editor of the magazine, which was published, stating how the photo had come about: someone distracted him, then she approached from the other side and the photo was snapped before Famous Guy knew what was happening.

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      • Wow thanks for taking the time to type all of that in, Phillip!

        I fully understand your point of view. I get that not everyone can be social with people they’ve just met (and may never meet again). Especially not fans of your band who are on an effusive adrenaline high after your concert. It would be too much. I get that. All I meant was that a little effort, even for ten minutes or so, yes even when you’re exhausted after owning a drum kit for an entire show like Peart does, would allow a few people to meet him and thank him for the music and carry on with their lives. Completely shutting off that avenue of connecting with the people who love your music is a tough call.

        I once read that you should never meet your heroes. That it’s better to have your connection be with their output. I get that too. I’m a bit weird about that – I’ve never met Henry Rollins, even though I’m a big fan and I’ve seen him three times and I know for a fact he’s the most accessible guy after shows, willing to stay and talk. It would have been as easy as standing by his bus after the show. With him (for me), though, somehow I prefer just knowing he’s out there, doing what he does. That seems enough. But then, another time, I very purposely went and met Harry Connick, Jr., if only briefly. I got to shake his hand, thank him for the music and see him smile as he said thanks. It was a genuine moment. I wasn’t asking anything of him, just letting him know I appreciate what he does. So apparently, for me anyway, it’s a situational thing. That said, if somebody offered me the chance to meet Keith Richards, I wouldn’t hesitate. Absolutely I would. But would I pay to meet someone I admire? Nope.

        As for Ozzy, I’ll bet there are a lot of times and places Ozzy doesn’t remember at all! 🙂

        I’d love it if you come back and tell us your decision, whether you used the backstage pass or not.

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  2. Definitely one of the better and most listened to “modern” Rush efforts for me! There’s a couple of songs on it I don’t particularly care for but it’s mostly good. Stick It Out really got to number one in the US?!

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  3. I have a Record Store Tale coming on Saturday about the first Rush album I ever bought. It wasn’t this one — this came a little later. But I am getting ahead of myself.

    I love Counterparts, and clearly you and I got a lot of the same feeling out of it. I didn’t know Double Agent was a single. I dig it, but not so much the talking. The BEATS on that song just kill!

    I LOVE Leave That Thing Alone. They played that one live quite a bit.

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    • It’s always interesting to hear the opinions of fans who got into an artist at different times than me. I was fortunate that my first exposure to Rush was Permanent Waves, which was released during my freshman year of high school, and within a year I owned everything prior to that as well as the newly released Moving Pictures. Most friends my age became fans at that time. We all had differing opinions of their work from the mid-80s & afterward but our favorites are always tied to those formative years. I often wonder how I would feel about certain albums if I got into them during the “synth years,” or if I had dismissed them until I was older and then heard the whole catalog in one big rush (no pun intended).

      That’s how I came to the iron Maiden catalog. While I should have been a huge fan back in high school I just wasn’t interested, and I didn’t hear anything from them until around ’97 or ’98 when I bought some of their albums on vinyl and immediately became a huge fan. I was already in my early 30s by that time so my connection to their music will be very different from someone who loved them from the beginning.

      Not sure where I’m going with this. Guess the point is that we all have different perspectives on the same music, and that makes these conversations a whole lot of fun.

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      • Cool summary about your musical tastes Rich.
        It’s never too late to jump into anyones band camp.
        Esp with Maiden since there fan base (I’m one as well) is so rabid and vocal!
        Up The Hammers!

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        • Deke, sometimes it’s tough to jump into a vast catalog especially when fans are so opinionated. I found that to be the case with Metallica when I did my series on their discography. Every word I wrote was nitpicked by various fans. I have no patience for that. There are plenty of bands I’ve loved for 35+ years and I’m always happy to hear the perspective of new fans. The great thing about the Maiden catalog is that it’s pretty consistent with only a couple of misfires and the rabid & loyal fanbase, as well as the band’s apparent love & respect for their fans, make it really easy to enjoy their music. Rush is exactly the same way. Seeing the mainstream acceptance they’ve gotten over the last few years has been really enjoyable.

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      • I’m totally with you, Rich. I knew Rush’s hits all along, but am only now, in 2014, getting to hear them all in one big rush (pun totally intended). 😉

        Same with Maiden. In high school, I was the jazz kid. The cool kids were playing G n’ R, Metallica and Maiden. I was listening to Miles. So it took me a while to come around to the rawk. And it’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve bought up all the Maidens. I even reviewed them along with Mike’s series on it, many of them for the first time hearing them ever.

        Agreed, your point is valid. That’s what keeps these blogs interesting, everyone has a take on the tunes. I find a lot of agreement, across the pages, but sometimes people differ and that’s cool too.

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      • Phillip Helbig

        “Most friends my age became fans at that time. We all had differing opinions of their work from the mid-80s & afterward but our favorites are always tied to those formative years.”

        Same here. Rich, if we ever meet personally (I live not far from the airport in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, where many international flights come through; maybe I’ll be back in the States at some point) there is a great story related to this which I’m sure you’ll enjoy. One of the few things I can’t (yet) share publicly.

        As to liking the stuff one started out with: this is what happens with most people, and is the case even if they don’t objectively like the music. It is more common memories associated with the music than the music itself. While I can appreciate this to some extent, as far as serious music goes this doesn’t matter to me at all. I got into rock music in 1979, even though the 1970s is probably my favourite decade musically and some good music was actually popular at the time (and some good music wasn’t, and some popular music wasn’t good, but on the whole, it was a good time)—I was just oblivious to it, listening at most to John Denver (whom I still like, but he’s not really rock). The Beatles were long gone by then (though they had broken up only 9 years before); in fact, it was a Beatles show at an amusement park (The Fabulous Mahoney Brothers) which got me into the Beatles and into rock music. Pink Floyd were at the peak of their popularity with The Wall, but their best albums were a few years old. I like The Wall and most things they did. Jethro Tull had just passed their peak. Rush were at their peak around this time. So, yes, I got into some of my favourite bands at that time, and some were at their peak then—but some weren’t. For me, this doesn’t matter. Maiden were just getting started around this time, but I never heard one of their songs until 2011 or something, even though I have always known that they exist. I knew two brothers, one of whom introduced me to The Beatles and Tull, the other to Floyd and Rush. They also listened to much other stuff, some of which I could appreciate to some extent later (Neil Young), some of which I couldn’t (Judas Priest). Although my tastes range wider since then and I have discovered truly excellent stuff like Love, The Bones of All Men, Maiden, The Amazing Blondel etc, I think on balance I would still chalk up The Beatles, Tull, Floyd and Rush as my favourite bands. However, they are not my favourites because they were the ones I started with; rather, they were the ones I started with because they were good enough to catch my attention at a time when I wasn’t into rock music at all.

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      • We do and it’s so cool to hear about it. Test For Echo for example…Aaron heard it for the first time and loved it. When I heard it back in 96 I hated it and I still don’t like it. Why? Perhaps we shall get to the bottom of it.

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    • Look forward to it Mikey!

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    • Agreed on Double Agent. And if they played Leave That Thing Alone in a concert I was at, I’d probably fall over.

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  4. Well said Aaron about Counterparts! 100%bang on!
    I just remember the first time I heard it and it was holy shit the geetar is cranked!
    Woo Hoo!
    The songs,production,mix is deadly…..
    Superb!

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    • Thank you. Yes, the sound is huge and it was totally refreshing on the heels of RTB. There’s really not much to dislike about that record, though on further reflection they could have left off the last track. Or maybe tacked it onto RTB and been done with it. Ah well.

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  5. Difficult one for me, I never fully connected with it. When this came out I was pretty fully on into my Zappa/Hammill/Crimson/RIO phase and just didn’t have much time for it. Of course I dutifully bought it on release day, along with Vs. Of course I listen to it now and a lot of it does. Cold Fire? At the time, yeah ok, fine, nice little deep cut. In the light of Neil’s tragedies it totally gives his words new meaning, new weight. Damn it gives me chills. I don’t think I have ever listened to Speed of Love all the way through. Alien Shore is kinda cool but what the hell is an alien shore?

    My fav tracks for this one? Double Agent and Sun and Moon. Killer tracks. Just killer!! Cut to the Chase is another one that gives me chills, it is just so atmospheric, so direct and powerful. Like I say during the synth phase and the pop phase (Presto/RtB) the strength really lies in the arrangement, the placement of the instrumentals, where the words actually do come in. It was a steady ride from Permanent Waves to this, the put the focus back on the trio, I think the actual songs here suffer for it, they are still in transition I feel. One can tell by the end of the next one they needed a break. Too bad it had to come about like it did.

    In hindsight its a pretty good album. I do come back to T4E more often though, go figure.

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    • I totally get being in a different place when big albums come out. Like I told Rich (above), I was listening to jazz when alot of this was happening. I’m only catching up now.

      There must have been prescience in Peart’s lyrics to give you chills, ‘cos this album came out in 1993 and his family tragedies weren’t until 1997.

      Can I hazard a guess that perhaps the Alien Shores you seek are of the Platinum Blonde variety? 😉

      Perhaps Rush’s entire career has been a transition. They’re so restlessly creative, it makes sense that things rarely feel anchored for a whole album. But I just posted TFE for today’s review and you’re right, it’s a killer too.

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  6. Phillip Helbig

    I bought Moving Pictures when it came out and around the same time all of the previous albums. I stayed with them until Power Windows by which time they had lost me with the 80’s production. This was back when Kate Bush had a Fairlight and almost everyone had too much echo on the snare. Even previously good musicians like Rush, David Gilmour, Jethro Tull etc were affected. (I learned decades later that Martin Birch could still make wonderfully sounding albums throughout the 1980s, as his work with Maiden shows.) In the 1990s, I had a colleague who likes pretty much the same music and, at 7 years older than Rich and I, actually saw many of the bands in their heyday (he had gotten into them when he was young). He said that Counterparts was surprisingly good, though different from the kimonos-and-tache phase of Rush. It was. Though I didn’t buy another album until Snakes and Arrows (apart from recent live albums), it Counterparts rekindled my interest in Rush and I have seen them 4 times in recent years (decades after two consecutive nights on the Signals tour).

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    • Absolutely Phillip, I think one of the best things about Rush is how every record is its own beast, like them or not. And as I said elsewhere (I think to Rich?), I highly recommend doing a Rush binge. The larger picture that emerges is mighty impressive, indeed! Perhaps I’d have felt differently if I’d had to wait for years between records, like everyone else. 🙂

      Like

      • I got to do a couple of Rush binges in the last couple of years when I got the Sector box sets and the Atlantic Albums box set. I already knew all the albums extremely well as they’ve been one of my favorite band for nearly 35 years, but it was a blast going through them in succession (and to hear a few of them in surround sound, even though Rush’s surround sound mixes are usually mediocre).

        Like

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