Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories

1996 – Part 2.2: Rush – Test For Echo

“Test for Echo” was released on 10 September 1996 on Anthem Records. Rush was one of the earlier leaders in forming their own label to release and distribute their music.

Anthem was formed in 1977 and Geddy Lee, Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson became associate directors of Anthem. Apart from Rush, they also releases other Canadian acts like Max Webster.

I’ve already written about the tracks “Test For Echo” here and “Driven” here but I still haven’t done a review on it.

After taking a well earned break after “Counterparts”, Lee focused on starting a family, Lifeson went to work on a solo album and Peart studied with Freddie Gruber, the guru of swing drumming. Peart’s constant reinvention of his style is a huge component to Rush not sounding the same on each record.

“Test For Echo”

Here we go in slow mo

To me, it’s the best Rush song from the 90’s.

The guitar riffs from Alex Lifeson are so easy to digest, powerful, heavy and groovy, even when they are down tuned a whole step.

Lifeson begins the song with interesting arpeggios. He achieves the unique sounds by combining root five power chords and leaving the 1st and 2nd strings open.

Geddy Lee and Neil Peart lay down a solid foundation, especially in the Chorus, when Lifeson just plays those arpeggios and Lee and Lifeson, set the groove.

Also check out how Peart plays a subdued half time beat in the verses and then starts to pick it up double time. A good drummer could make a simple riff sound fresh by doing just that.

And of course, no Rush song is complete without the lyrics of Peart, a critique of the American justice system which turns criminals into media stars.

Some kind of trouble on the sensory screen
Camera curves over caved-in cop cars

As technology progressed so did the coverage of real time situations. It’s one of the big reasons people watched the news to begin with, to see what was breaking.

Don’t touch that dial,
We’re in denial

We didn’t touch the dial at all, we just kept upgrading our TVs, giving the TV makers billions of dollars in revenue. Because we loved having all of this entertainment in our houses. Live news was the first form of reality TV.

Now crime’s in syndication on TV

Crime and sex always got eyeballs. It didn’t matter the medium. And now with the internet, where everything is available, it feels like we are all so desensitized to it.

“Driven”

It was one of the first tracks finished for the “Test For Echo” album, featuring three separate bass tracks; the main part, the harmony part and the sub bass bottom end, and they sound as one massive bass track.

Neil Peart also plays a little bit behind the beat which gives the riffs a heavier character.

Driven up and down in circles
Skidding down a road of black ice

You know the saying of “going round in circles” well in this case, the feeling is that we are not achieving anything because someone else is controlling the wheel and we keep coming back to the same point or problem.

But it’s my turn to drive

We need to take the wheel and be in control of our choices and decisions. We need to learn from them, grow with them and take ownership of our choices and actions. There is no one to blame when it’s our turn to drive.

The change from distortion to acoustic is soothing before the fuzz kicks in. And the simple chord progression of F, G and Am makes it so accessible.

Driven to the margin of error
Driven to the edge of control
Driven to the margin of terror
Driven to the edge of a deep, dark hole

How driven or ambitious can we be, that we find ourselves driven to the edge of control, or a deep dark hole?

Driven on
By the road to somewhere I’ve never been

A simple meaning of what it means to drive. It offers us the freedom to leave our city limits and go to another city and another.

The road unwinds before me
And I go riding on

It’s what we always do, we get up and live and go riding on. And we sacrifice or give up control, a little bit of our freedom each time which brings us back to the first verse and the words of being driven up and down in circles.

And the cycle repeats.

“Half The World”

The mix of acoustics and electric is a Lifeson thing. This song along with “Totem” and “Resist” feature the 10-string Mandola that Lifeson first utilized on “Victor”.

“‘Half the World’ is one of our finest moments as songwriters as far as writing a concise song without being wimpy or syrupy.

It’s got a little bit of everything: nice melody, and yet it’s still aggressive. It’s hard for us to write that kind of song, really. You’d have to go back to ‘Closer to the Heart’ to find an example of that.Geddy Lee in “Merely Players

The Color Of Right

It’s almost a pop song with its major key Intro and Boston like riff after it.

Make it easy on yourself
There’s nothing more you can do
You’re so full of what is right
You can’t see what is true

So relevant over the last 15 years, especially in our democratically elected governments who tried to pass laws that totalitarian governments have.

Time And Motion

This is the Rush I like. Heavy enough to give all of the 90s acts a run for their money and a bit proggy.

The Intro alone is worth the price of the CD. It wouldn’t be out of place on a Dream Theater CD.

“Totem”

It’s very Celtic like.

The “angels and demons inside my head,” line is visual and sums up the song about what people should believe in.

I believe in what I see
I believe in what I hear

Religion is a very divisive subject when it comes up, depending on which side of the discussion you sit on.

“Dog Years”

At the start it’s like a punk song. Only Rush can get away with this kind of goofy subject matter.

“Virtuality”

How good is the Intro riff?

The blues swagger and jazz like swing beat.

And that line “net boy, net girl, send your signal around the world”.

I was singing it for years afterwards and whenever anyone mentioned “internet”, I would start singing it. And I would cop weird looks I’m the process.

“Resist”

Such an underrated album cut. It’s my favourite.

Geddy Lee mentioned it’s one of his favorites in the book “Merely Players”. Wikipedia tells me that Alex Lifeson states the same.

I like the Celtic like sounds that the Dulcimer brings.

“Limbo”

An instrumental, pieced together from different bits of ideas that the group had sketched out but remained unused, but it’s not “La Vila Strangiato”.

“Carve Away The Stone”

And the album is complete with a song about the Sisyphean myth. I don’t what it is and I’ve never researched it, but I’m sure it will send me down the rabbit hole if I do.

Crank it loud and don’t forget to check out “Resist”.

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9 thoughts on “1996 – Part 2.2: Rush – Test For Echo

  1. Bought this upon its release and played the hell out of it. Have not heard it in year. For me though Counterparts is one of my faves of all time from these guys as Stick It Out would be my choice of best Rush 1990’s tracks lol..
    In saying that I really dig Driven from this one as well..
    Great stuff dude..

  2. I liked this one too. I don’t have a 90’s favorite as I don’t listen to them enough, but at least I do listen. Mostly the 80’s/90’s stuff for me though. That was when I came in to the band.

  3. I guess carve away the stone is in reference to the album artwork..
    Found this on Wikipedia- In his book The Philosophy of Recursive Thinking, German author Manfred Kopfer suggested a viable solution for Sisyphus’ punishment. Every time Sisyphus reaches the top of the mountain, he breaks off a stone from the mountain and carries it down to the lowest point. This way, the mountain will eventually be levelled and the stone cannot roll down anymore. In Kopfers’ interpretation, the solution turns the punishment by the gods into a test for Sisyphus to prove his worthiness for godlike deeds. If Sisyphus is able “to move a mountain”, he shall be allowed to do what, otherwise, only gods are entitled to do.
    …hmm..

    • Hmmm. Once upon a time this kind of stuff will get me interested to read further.

      On a different note, the first time I heard the word “recursive” was at Uni when I was doing programming.

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