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You call me, you call me - 93%

Empyreal, June 19th, 2015
Written based on this version: 1997, CD, Mercury Records (The Rush Remasters)

This is one of the more obtuse Rush albums, and took a long time to really open up for me, but really it is up there with their best works. This is one of their mellower moments overall, with a reliance on cool, chilly synths that frankly make this sound more New Age than rock – they are constantly going, forming colorful swathes and transcendental soundscapes that contrast rather brilliantly with the hard, realistic lyrical themes. Geddy Lee's vocals take on a more sedate character than we're used to from him, and the vocal lines are beautifully articulate and hypnotically resonant, sticking with you long after the album ends. Everything is soft and soulful here, but when you really listen to the lyrics and the emotion in Geddy's voice, it becomes a powerful and iconoclastic listen by one of the best bands in rock.

The band was at their peak songwriting here – they dial back their epic tendencies, but replace it with tight musical syncopation on a level most bands could never reach. The songs are all different but fit together as a unit, and when you start the album you'll have to finish it. It's a very complete work and everything is perfectly in place – the more I listen to this, the more I'm struck by its brilliance. I don't like this quite as much as any of the four previous albums, but the layered textures of the songwriting have to be commended.

It's an album about a lot of very real things. The opening “Subdivisions” certainly doesn't waste time rallying against conformity and the oppressive, suffocating regime that the suburbs represent. Further tracks like “New World Man” and the satirically tinged “Digital Man” are also about the changing times and how difficult it is to stand on one's own feet in the modern world, set against colorful keyboards, a few light hints of jazz and pop, and some of Alex Lifeson's trademarked shimmering, radiant chord work on the guitar. “The Weapon,” in one of the album's most poignant and razor-sharp moments, takes a literary-barbed sword to the lies politicians tell to keep the public in line, set against a musical backdrop of slow, ominous build-ups and graven-faced vocals. “Chemistry” is a typically brilliant Rush tune about science and how everything connects, and “Losing It” is a sorrowful dirge on the waning creativity that happens to every artist – one of the album's most haunting moments.

But the crowning moment comes early in the album with “The Analog Kid,” a breezy and sweeping tune full of wanderlust and escapism, through the lens of a quite mysterious, ephemeral sort of love story. These are some of the best lyrics I've ever read, and they get my imagination working every time like good music should. Don't settle for less than this, people. Signals works on many levels, and functions as Rush at the top of their game. Musically transcendent and lyrically brilliant, it's the sound of a band with their eyes wide open to the world and their pens at the ready. Lyrics matter – listen to this and be swept up in its power.

The fawn-eyed girl with sun-browned legs
Dances on the edge of his dream
And her voice rings in his ears
Like the music of the spheres