Marking its fortieth anniversary, Rush’s Moving Pictures continues to stand the test of time.
It seems like it was only yesterday that I learnt of Neil Peart’s passing while struggling to articulate howPermanent Wavescontinues to shine forty years after its release. Now, here I sit thirteen months later, tackling the next album in Rush’s catalogue to turn forty: Moving Pictures. In many ways, it feels like the last thirteen months have lasted as long as forty years. Time is a peculiar thing, though, in that the themes and dynamics Rush explored on Moving Pictures (released on February 12, 1981) are still both lyrically relevant and musically impressive today. Moving Pictures continues to both endure in popularity and endear itself to Rush’s devoted fan base due to its ability to relate to present-day issues of intolerance and neuroticism while rocking your socks off.
The four tracks on Side A each can make a case as “best Rush song ever.” The crash and synth opening of “Tom Sawyer” will forever be an immediate attention grabber for those who know and love it. Though I could vaguely make out the track playing over the PA system while watching the Leafs game on TV the other night, hearing it still brought on a rush of adrenaline. Cue the air drumming! Cue the obnoxious attempts at wailing like Geddy Lee! Cue Alex Lifeson’s tasty guitar solo, which he claims he winged in only a few takes. Fathers of future generations will beckon their kids to “check out the drums in this part,” doing their bit to ensure the shine never tarnishes. “Red Barchetta” is Rush at its apex. Peart’s futuristic story about a protagonist taking a drive in a society under imposed “Motor Law” complements the arrangements of subtle time signature changes and movements kicked into overdrive.
Iconic Grammy-nominated instrumental “YYZ” finds each member of the “Holy Triumvirate” demonstrating their skills while educating listeners on Pearson International Airport’s identification code. Perhaps it’s the fact that each member takes centre-stage at various points throughout the piece that it feels as though you’ve feasted on a delectable three-course meal. The front side closes with “Limelight,” which still garners heavy radio airplay (at least on my hometown hard rock station) and perfectly encapsulates Peart’s introverted apprehensions about achieving fame (“I can’t pretend a stranger is a long-awaited friend”). “Limelight” is Rush being incredibly relatable: We all have quirks and propensities for neuroticism. We can also be elite at a specific craft but yearn for it not to define us as a whole.
Moving Pictures’ back half is certainly no slouch in comparison to its front. “The Camera Eye” was the group’s final ‘epic’ ten-plus minute track, with Lee’s keyboards playing a significant part in preparing fans for their mid-80s synth phase. Peart’s lyrics on the ominous “Witch Hunt” criticize those intolerant of others with different values or backgrounds, echoing socio-political treatments of diasporas today. The thunderous fade-out of “Vital Signs,” with each member going bananas over Lee’s howls, not only prepares us for the group’s next chapter but offers wisdom on how we can shape our destiny as well. “Vital Signs” urges you to be better without being too overbearing.
Peart’s passing left many believing Rush was finished (although rumours of their demise may be greatly exaggerated), making Moving Pictures a landmark moment in the timeline of the band’s illustrious career. And while many super fans may consider it as Rush’s high-water mark, Moving Pictures continues to be relevant forty years on. Moving Pictures continues to stand the test of time: The clock keeps ticking, the air-drumming and horrendous shower-singing endure — and the Leafs still haven’t won the Stanley Cup.