So, this was really interesting. This album very obviously starts a new phase in Rush’s career, ie. a phase more focused on, not to be insulting, a poppier sound. Now, it’s no sin to go pop. In fact, with these guys, it’s the best thing that ever happened to them, at least in terms of the three albums I’ve heard at the point of this review. This album starts with The Spirit of Radio and it just bursts out of the gate with this beautiful guitar riff and then the song proper starts and it’s got this great, really catchy melody. And it’s like a drink of cold water after the brutal desert of Hemispheres. Freewill is also a really good, rocking song and Different Strings is just a lovely tune with a great piano solo in it. Different Strings is, I think, the best song of theirs that I’ve heard so far. Now there are a couple of the longer epic tracks here as well, Jacob’s Ladder and Natural Science and both of those are, once again, totally forgettable. But, on the whole, this represents a massive step up for the group in terms of quality. They’ve still got more or less the same sound, as in production sound, and the technique on display is still wonderful. It’s just that now they have actually good pieces of music to apply those things to. This is a solid album. I’m going to give it a conditional recommendation. Good record. 3 stars.
tl;dr – Rush integrates pop into their prog sound and takes a huge step up with wonderful songs; the epics still fail to engage, but on the whole, a solid album. 3 stars.