I adore the smoothness of this song. Rush often employ the "power kick," using a sudden rush of distortion and/or volume to completely change up the energy level of a song. Here they go the other way entirely. Elements of the Strangiato Theme come through during the intro, and then they smoothly blend more and more rock into it until all systems check out at 1:59. Everyone experiences music differently, but inside my head, the Strangiato Theme is exhilaration. Whether skiing, debating, paintballing, airsofting, playing tanks, or whatever, I sometimes find that zone where everything comes together and I can take on all comers. The Strangiato Theme puts that feeling into music.
Then it ends - the chord hits and the percussion keep an echo of it alive, but eventually it smooths into a brooding, almost exploratory vibe in which Alex explores the subtleties of the volume pedal. Here especially I think that someone like, oh, _earthshine_ could probably explain exactly what Alex does, but I just have to mutter about how he's slowly building something up and eventually really wailing into it. For all the songs where Alex basically plays rhythm guitar, this tune offers plenty of reminders that the man has chops. I never played six string but it spooks me a little to hear the pick noise around 5:35. I do not know for sure, but I suspect it takes strong left hand technique to play that smooth.
A quick increase in distortion melds that movement into a reprise of an earlier passage, and then Geddy steps up to the plate. Youch! Bass naturally allies with percussion, so of course Neil gets a quick turn to show off at 6:25, and then we get the whole band going again. By the seven minute mark, the current melody contains nothing I recognize from the intro, but there was never a time I really noticed it switching over - masterful. I also heard something for the first time - it sounds like Alex overdubbed some volume pedal nonsense over his main line around the 7:18 mark, or maybe someone's trodding a synth pedal, but somehow they inject a little something extra at the 3. Somewhere there's a three piece band in a teenager's basement that wonders why their cover never quite sounds right...
A minute or so later, we get a reprise of the Strangiato Theme, which I always find too short... and then we're on our way out. Dang. I would pay a lot of money to have been a fly on the wall when they were putting that song together. Possibly more than any other Rush song, LVS drives home the enormous gulf between playing music and writing it. When I was in high school and woodshedding 8-10 hours a week, I could imagine having the skill to play the bass line for this song. I never had it, but I thought I could see it from where I was. To have the imagination to think of so many different parts, and the patience and vision to assemble them... nope. My talents, thankfully, lie so far elsewhere that I don't even feel the need to try.