Canadian progressive power trio Rush released their debut in 1974, but unlike most of their contemporaries they adapted very well to the 1980s; the group’s emotionless, clinical style is well suited to the more synthetic sound of the era. 1981’s Moving Pictures marks the closest Rush came to the mainstream, with their newly synth heavy sound and three piece setup not unlike contemporary work from The Police. Drummer Neil Peart’s lyrics are similar in tone to Rush’s earlier work, but feel less awkward here, while Geddy Lee’s voice is also lower and less irritating.
The opening ‘Tom Sawyer’ is accessible, and remains Rush’s signature song with its belching synthesizer and anti-establishment lyric. In fact, despite only a superficial acquaintance with their discography, I’d be willing to wager that the first half is the best album side that Rush ever produced – ‘Tom Sawyer’ is followed by the impressively epic ‘Red Barchetta’, a memorable instrumental ‘YYZ’, and album highlight ‘Limelight’, which constantly and seamlessly shifts tempo under a sweet pop melody.
The second side isn’t quite as impressive – ‘The Camera Eye’ is pretty, but doesn’t justify an eleven minute running time, while the final two songs are relatively forgettable. I’m never going to be a huge fan of Rush, but Moving Pictures is a very strong entry into their catalogue.