Monday, August 6, 2012

Rush - Power Windows





Power Windows came out during my initial forays into the local community college. I went to community college for just one year immediately following high school, because I was too stupid to stay in my own State when I was of legal drinking age there.

Allow me to explain.

The State of Illinois had a drinking age of 21 as long as I was in high school. The irony is that there were two really good liquor stores right across the state line in Illinois that would occasionally be a hot spot for selling booze to minors, unlike in Iowa where the drinking age was 19. You could only buy booze at state run outlets, which was a little bit like walking into an East German liquor store, I suppose.

The stores had the same color schemes; their signage the same blue and yellow block lettering that said “Liquor Store.” The staff-all of them employees of the State of Iowa- all wore a blue uniform with a prerequisite name badge.

Beer was 3.2% AHC and could be purchased at gas stations, grocery stores and convenience stores. If we ever wanted to get rip-roaring drunk, we’d drive out buyer down to Missouri to get the sweet nectar of 5% AHC.

It wasn’t until a few years after high school that someone suggested the manner in which Iowa sold hard liquor to its citizens was similar to the way they did things in the Soviet Union.

That was it.

Within short order, the State of Iowa announced that they were breaking up the state-owned monopoly of hard liquor sales, causing its citizens to get excited at how they might be able to purchase Canadian whiskey on a Sunday afternoon. The parents of one of my friends put together enough capital to open up a liquor store in my hometown while even my own grandparents considered doing the same thing in the small town they lived in.

Iowa also began to get consistent with their drinking age by increasing it from 19 to 21. I had already turned 19 prior to the change to the drinking law, so they allowed me to be grandfathered into the law.

After my 19th birthday, I was often assigned the task to purchase booze for my friends who weren’t yet of age. On one particular evening, a friend of mine was having issues with his Illinois girlfriend that needed attending to, so we stopped by a convenience store where I purchased a twelve pack of beer.

After inhaling a few cans, my friend decided it was time to visit his Illinois girlfriend and determine the status of their relationship. We arrived at his girlfriend’s place, he went inside, they broke up, he came back out, got into the car, and we all cracked a fresh can for the drive back over to Iowa.
I was in the back seat, nestled between two three-way speakers where my friend had loaded Rush’s Power Windows into the cassette deck. For some reason, I used to carry drumsticks around, and as everybody knows, Rush is the premier band for any drummer.

I began to play along to the opening track, “The Big Money,” mimicking any fills that I could manage and hitting every cymbal crash.

Directly behind me, the familiar colors of blue and red illuminated that rear window.

They cop claimed that my drumming appeared “suspicious,” which gave him some bullshit probable cause to pull us over. This led to the discovery of the open cans of booze, all possessed by underage drinker, one of them too stupid to wait the 10 minutes or so to cross back over the state where he was legal to crack open the can of his shitty domestic beer.

I blame Power Windows for that incident, but I also blame the drinking for me thinking that the record was good enough to warrant such “suspicious” shenanigans to get me busted.

A recent revisit of the album failed to point out any stellar highlights, aside from the aforementioned “The Big Money” which provides Alex Lifeson with at least a pulse while Geddy slap and tickles that bass to no end.

He also slabs on humungous layers of keyboards and synthesizer, signaling that all of the rumbling going on for Grace Under Pressure was completely justified as Rush was beginning to lose their hard luster after one too many records of the keys taking up valuable real estate.

“The Big Money” is a distraction. It's the one song where everyone involved plays their heart out, trying to convince the listeners that they’re still the progressive juggernauts underneath all that digital soundscape.

But as you progress through Power Windows, you begin to feel that the band is becoming too chummy with this instrument. Never mind that Neil Peart’s delivers some of the worst writing of his entire career, he’s also managed to create an electric drum sound that could pass for a rabid fan making the most ridiculous drum sound with his mouth, trying to imitate one of Neil’s fills. So essentially, there are drum sounds that sounds like a dude making drum sounds. It’s ridiculous.

I remembered liking the song “Manhattan Project” once, but now that I’ve heard it recently, I think I just liked the idea of a song called “Manhattan Project.” Rush have managed to take a subject matter where Peart could run in all different directions with, but instead we get a pained retelling with every clich├ęd line you could imagine.

It gets worse, and by the time you get to “Mystic Rhythms” you realize that the biggest reason you like it is because it’s at least a melodically decent song in a sea of brittle waves of Rush’s love of synthesizers.

It would mark the point where I dropped off Rush’s radar until a track from Test For Echo hinted that they may have gotten back on course. On Power Windows, Rush appears suspiciously off track, suggesting that they would be fine upstanding Canadians if they paid the “Possession Of Beer By A Minor” fine I ended up getting for making real life drum sounds with my own mouth.
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