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One of Rush's Best Songwriting Efforts. - 90%

greenberger, October 17th, 2013

Rush has always been a hit-and-miss band, sometimes riding the wave of creativity successfully, and sometimes making some of the most boring music you'll ever hear. Roll the Bones is, thankfully, in the first category. After dipping their toes into the synth-driven mid-80's style of dreary, keyboard-laden pop, Rush started swimming towards more rock-oriented waters with Presto, a solid album. Roll the Bones improves on that direction with a release that manages to rock out in that quintessential Rush way, yet remain accessible and- dare I say it- fairly commercial.

But not in a bad way; in fact, what makes Roll the Bones a definite winner is the songwriting, which hits a consistent high point here- a rarity for the band. For every Tom Sawyer there are plenty of uninspired compositions in the Rush oeuvre. Because the trio is so talented, fans tend to overlook this vital detail, but the fact is, a lot of Rush's songs, in a notes-on-paper way, aren't that interesting; a dangerous flaw when you're a band often guilty of being soulless. For whatever reason, however, Roll the Bones is full of strong melodies and satisfying instrumental interplay, giving these musicians a solid platform on which to show off their chops.

Dreamline kicks things off with a catchy guitar riff and one of those strong vocal melodies that set the tone for the album, followed, oddly, by the slower Bravado, which is actually kind of pretty (a rarity in the Rush canon.) But it's the title track that really kicks things into gear- a funky, fun effort for a band that is usually neither funky nor fun, complete with a silly-but-somehow-perfectly-fitting white-boy rap on the trail of a great Alex Lifeson guitar solo. Roll the Bones shows that the band is still capable of great things when everything comes together.

Lifeson, in fact, might just be the star of this album. Perhaps because his guitar was in hibernation for the last several years, he really lets loose here with some of his best playing (and writing,) really pushing these songs to a higher level as they rise up to the musical challenges his bandmates throw at him.

It's this perfect balance and interplay between drum, bass and guitar that makes Roll the Bones so groovy, most evident in Where's My Thing? an instrumental jam that stands up there with the best of Rush's efforts, and by far the best track on the album. It's the song that made me realize how much better Rush is when they let their instruments speak by themselves, and how great it would be if the band ever decided to make a fully-instrumental album, because they write much more interesting music for their instruments than they do for Geddy's voice.

This album, however, isn't a bad second choice. The highlights are many, and even the weaker moments are still interesting, which makes you wonder why they've been so inconsistent as songwriters. I'm not sure that Rush really qualifies as "metal", but with this release, they sure do qualify as "great".