Power Windows


Mercury Records, 1985


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


When you try to feature as many different bands as possible on this site, it's really easy to forget about great albums by groups who have been fortunate to grace our pages. When this happens, I always know I can count on readers like Andrew Santoni to slap me back into reality. Andrew (who suggested The Who Sell Out a few months ago) recently wrote to me wondering why we hadn't done a Rush review since late March. He suggested I dig through the Pierce Memorial Archives (Santa, get these damn elves out of here!) for their 1985 classic Power Windows.

Geddy Lee and crew were ready to make a major breakthrough. While they had always enjoyed some level of success, they were about to use the tool of the music video (something they had experimented with on their previous album Grace Under Pressure) to break this album. Fortunately, the music is just as strong as the videos I have seen for Power Windows, and this album, while one of their most commercially oriented, is easily one of their best works ever.

Synthesizers had been used by the band for some time, but on the leadoff single "The Big Money" they played as important a role as Lee's trademark complex bass work, Alex Lifeson's guitar riffs and Neil Peart's mastery of the drum kit. The song is one of the freshest that Rush had written to this point - one where you didn't need a doctorate to try to understand what they were talking about. Rush had always been seen as the "thinking person's band"; "The Big Money" was Rush's successful step down from my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 ubermensch to commoner - and is a high watermark to this day.

In fact, quite a few songs on Power Windows break from the Ayn Rand scriptbook to subjects that can easily be understood. "Manhattan Project," a song about the building and dropping of the first atomic bomb, may be occasionally a bit weak in the lyric department ("The big bang - took and shook the world / Shook down the rising sun" isn't the greatest lyric that Peart ever wrote), but the performance itself is an incredibly strong one that has turned this one into a concert favorite. (I highly recommend checking out the home video A Show Of Hands to see the animation the band used as a backdrop to this and other songs.) Likewise, "Marathon" sings the praises of pushing ourselves toward our goals - and is another song that features virtuoso performances.

Of course, Rush still gives in to the cosmic noodlings that have made up a good portion of their career. "Territories" is another great track on this album, though it's a little more highbrow than the rest of the album. Were it not for the fact that Rush plays this one in concert often, I think it may have become an overlooked track. The album's closer, "Mystic Rhythms," may also fall under this category, but it's simply one of their most beautiful songs, complete with guitar synthesizer provided by Lifeson - his rhythm guitar work on this one could possibly be his best.

For all of its successes, only one song misses the mark on Power Windows - "Middletown Dreams" is a number I just cannot get into no matter how many times I listen to it or how hard I try. And though one weak song doesn't ruin an album, when there are only eight songs on this album, it is a little more disappointing.

If I read Andrew's original comments (unfortunately, I misplaced the original e-mail - either that, or I wrote my grocery list on the back of it), he was worried that I might not like Power Windows because of its more commercial bend. I guess this fact has been the complaint of critics and fans alike, but I heartily disagree. Inasmuch as Rush had won substantial success for their more cerebral work, I think they needed to turn towards the commercial side of their music at least once to see what they could do with it. (They turned back from it just one album later on Hold Your Fire.)

For a band nearing their 25th anniversary, Rush has almost constantly put out quality work, though I will admit they are a taste that you acquire. For those looking to do so, I would most likely steer them towards Power Windows for their first taste.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B-



© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mercury Records, and is used for informational purposes only.