All of Rush's albums from this period are short, easy to digest and are worth getting for at least one stand-out track. "Permanent Waves" boasts one of the most perfect of all classic rock songs, "Spirit of Radio". It's built on at least three riffs, each one of which would have alone made a great song. The best of them is a punchy rising phrase. Its lyrics are so naively idealistic that there might actually be some timeless message there. The "spirit" they sing about might be barely recognisable in modern commercial radio, but maybe it's alive today on the internet.
Although Spirit of Radio stands out further from its surroundings than the best tracks on other Rush albums. The crisp straight rocker "Freewill" and the resonant ballad "Different Strings" tread ground that will be familiar to fans of "Farewell to Kings" and "Hemispheres". What's missing here is an outstanding progressive track in the same spirit as "Xanadu" or "La Villa Strangiato". "Jacob's Ladder" tries its best, but its mechanical chugging leaves me relatively cold, although I concede that might have been its point. "Natural Science" has the Rush sound but few ideas of note in its 9 minutes. If you already have "Spirit of Radio" on a compilation, then it's a better bet to investigate those other Rush albums before this one.
August 10, 2004