I’ve been a fan of Rush since the beginning of the 80s. One of the great bands of the 70s, 80s and 90s, Rush had been on hold for several years while drummer and lyricist Neil Peart recovered from being devastated by the deaths of both his wife and his daughter within a few months of each other. While bandmates Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee had both recorded solo albums in the interim, the return of Rush to active service has been eagerly awaited by all fans of the band.
This album isn’t what you might expect. They’ve made a deliberate decision on this album not to use any keyboards, and to have no conventional guitar solos. The latter will no doubt be a disappointment to fans of Alex Lifeson’s fluid style, but there are plenty of other things to recommend about this album.
The album opener, “One Little Victory” starts with a fusillade of drums, just to remind us all the Neil Peart is back. This intro, especially when joined by Geddy Lee’s bass, reminds me just a little of into to Motorhead’s “Overkill”, although song then takes a more Rush-like direction.
Vapor Trails has much more of a live feel than much of the 90s output; abandoning the multi-layered approach for more direct power-trio rocking out. Alex Lifeson’s guitar is to the fore in the mix, reclaiming the space previously taken up with the now-absent keyboards with inventive riffs and textures. High spots for me are the title track, “Secret Touch”, “Earthshine”, in which Lifeson slips what’s almost a solo when nobody was looking, and “Nocturne” with it’s intriguing opening line ‘Did I have a dream, or did the dream have me’.
Overall, I’m not sure how to sum up this album. It’s no “Moving Pictures” or “Hemispheres”, but Rush have never been a band to retread their own past. It’s certainly a record that grows on you with repeated listenings, and can’t be properly appreciated on just a couple of spins.