Mr Geddy Lee (though not really) (mrgeddylee) wrote,
Mr Geddy Lee (though not really)

Tom Sawyer

The opening to this song gets me. It contains no hint of what's in store. They play at a sane pace, in 4:4 time, and nobody has to strain to figure out what they're up to. Ged sings with a lot of conviction here. When he sings "a quiet defense," he sounds like he really means it. Right after that, around the 0:34 mark, the band really turns it up. Instrumentally it can be learned with reasonable effort but they definitely put more sauce on. Never having played drums, I can't talk much about the technical nuances of Neil's work, but I do notice that around the 0:42 mark, he doesn't quite play the same thing three times, not does he go on a drum safari. He plays a different variation of a common pattern each time. I like that a lot.

For the chorus they really back off, which leaves room for Ged to mess around on synth, and also makes for a smooth transition into the second verse. I really like the way they head for the solo(s) after "gets by on you." At 1:33 the familiar synth line starts, but the underlying rythm remains the same. They build off that for a while, and then at 1:55, just dive off the rails - but preserve continuity because the drum line stays roughly the same, and the melody from the synth has moved to the bass. That leaves Alex free to strut his stuff, which he does with considerable enthusiasm. On headphones at the 2:32 mark, I can really hear that they mic'd the drums in stereo, even to the extent of putting the base drums on different channels. On one hand I find that somewhat silly - it creates an illusion of space that you could never hear in nature without exposing yourself to a lot of pain. On the other hand, it sounds pretty cool.

The third verse starts at 2:43 and it seems like they're going to repeat the first verse, but really, the music becomes much more intricate. Neil's drum part at 2:56 becomes something I can barely process, not because of the speed, but because he just goes all over the place, but again with his notorious precision. I begin to understand why he says he enjoys the challenge of playing it live, even after all these years.

I know some fans who got sick of this song, especially because so many people identify it so strongly with Rush. I sympathize with those who resent people who, having heard it on the radio, assume it must be Rush's best song. I could make a case for it being only the fourth best song on Moving Pictures, although I admit I'd only be doing it to pick a fight. Anyway, regardless of perceptions or ignorance, the fact remains that I could never resent the song itself. When I go to a Rush concert and hear those familiar opening notes, I cheer as loudly as anyone else.

If I had picked up this album when it first came out, I'm not sure if I'd be stoked at this point, or let down. As Earthshine mentioned in his comments to my last entry, Permanent Waves seems to mark the end of the band's crazy experimental phase and show a movement toward something more concise and polished. If I listened to "Science" and then "Tom Sawyer" for the very first time, I might feel let down by the loss of that experimental spirit. On the other hand, not all experiments work out as intended. As you'll see as I work my way through, I think Moving Pictures is one of rock's few perfect albums, and if you can do work like that while going commercial, then may I and all of you have the good fortune to go commercial too.
Tags: rushppd
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