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This is how the 80’s Should Have Sounded - 88%

Metalich, August 19th, 2007

If you like synthesizers and large productions, then you might want to take a big breath. Inhale deeply of Roll the Bones for it is the last time you will hear those sentiments in a Rush album; the band herein finishes what was started on Presto, if not back on Power Windows, and closes out an era of musical direction. Pop, synths, and super production collide with a reemerging focus on guitar, and compositions with depth, to offer a momentary glimpse of how the 80’s could have sounded and worked, but failed because they didn’t before passing into the twilight of history.

Alex Lifeson is a welcome presence on here, his guitar an active and thankfully noticeable force herein. Welcome back! The band is at its best when you are allowed to go my man, never forget that. The keyboards are a texture, one that is notable but no longer an equal member of the band, its roll for the previous three albums properly consigned to the lead guitar. Alex, with Lee, is all over this thing as they should be. And Lee is simply Lee. After thirteen studio albums, what can be said but he continues to prove what the bass is capable of accomplishing. It’s a lead instrument, its rhythm, it does solos. Hell, you can cut a tin can with it. When combined with Alex it lifts Roll the Bones to a level not seen in almost a decade.

Neal Peart continues his journey for the perfect drum sound. His days of electronic drum sounds have disappeared, showing that a good drummer is a percussionist, a greater part of the whole that still maintains a wonderful warm sound, indifferent to supplying simple patterns in a verse or busting open the skills only he can deliver. He’s simply great when he needs to be but not shy about disappearing into the back if the song demands it. Speaking of Peart, his lyrics are the best he has offered since Grace Under Pressure, the album thematically based around the concept of chance; many of the songs deliver the theme up in intelligent ways that add depth to the experience.

The album itself demonstrates the theme in some interesting song styles and structures. “Dreamline” opens the album with a nod to the recent past in dramatic shifts from verse to chorus, but with Alex opening up in it, the style now works. Neal’s lyrics are almost conversational in tone making the offering brilliant. Contrast this to the title track, whose chorus features an acoustic guitar while an interlude to the solo features one of the few raps I like. Yes - A rap. It’s centered on the persistent theme of chance and I can’t help but like the deep voice rolling out the smart lyrics. Then again, I’m highly biased having seen this live: A giant skull with the mohawk bust this part out. “Where’s My Thing? Part IV” is the groups first instrumental since “YYZ”, and its just great. Sure, it suffers from high production, and it’s too bouncy for its own good, but its just so god-damn fun I can’t help but like it. Every band should take five minutes to show off. “Ghost of a Chance” is Rush’s answer to a ballad, and one of the few love songs they have put out, but an entrancing if not well written piece. “Neurotica” is an odd song that is infectious; light blending choruses being pushed by Lee, who dominates the verse with a heavy bass line, while Alex opens up in the pre-chorus up all over the map with simple but blistering axe work: a strange combination that is simply great. Finally, “Bet Your Life” is an average closer with pop sentiments, but the lyrics just make the song; the group basically throws several dozen philosophies at the wall while Lee sings over the montage/mess with a simple chorus. Weird and interesting (and lyrically engaging) wins the day on this one.

An eclectic but wonderful culmination of what the group has been doing for the last four albums; it’s easily the highlight of the period and a fitting end to it as well. Yes, it nods to a few pop trends of the time; but it is well written, excellently executed in its performance, and the trio is at full form and equally involved. That easily makes this the best 90’s offering from Canada’s greatest export.