20 Rush Albums in 20 Days: Counterparts
DAY SEVEN: Rush, Counterparts, running time 54:17, released October 19, 1993
Rush continued to explore heavier-guitar production in the 90s, and at the time I remember not caring for it so much. Hearing "Stick it Out" for the first time, it seemed like a poor throwback, but now in hindsight, it makes perfect sense. Rush has never isolated itself from musical trends, and as grunge had already taken hold of the airwaves, it’s not surprising that the sound of the times would have impacted the band's writing and production. It’s probably a good thing that it did, because the result was increased sales and a new generation of followers.
Counterparts begins very solid, with “Animate,” “Stick it Out,” “Cut to the Chase,” “Nobody’s Hero” and “Between Sun & Moon” (the middle track sounding a lot like it belongs on Rush’s previous release, Roll the Bones – to me it’s reminiscent of “Face Up.”), but the album’s middle suffers by comparison. The overall theme of relationships between men and women lends itself to a more personal, intimate lyrical approach that sometimes sounds a little too straight forward for Rush. The opening of “Alien Shore, (“You and I, we are strangers by one chromosome”) is, to me, not the best way to begin a song, and the lines like “For you and me, sex is not a competition” from "Alien Shore" just don’t seem to work.
When I saw Rush at Minneapolis’s Target Center in 1994, my least favorite tune was “Double Agent,” and hearing it again today, I stand by my conclusion. The spoken word section is embarrassingly bad. When Geddy sings “so tight” and “at war” after speaking the words a moment before, it reminds me of Budweiser’s “Real Men of Genius” ad campaign. Not good!
Luckily, the album ends where it began, with three excellent tracks, the instrumental “Leave that Thing Alone” followed by “Cold Fire” and the uplifting “Everyday Glory.” Why this latter track, or songs like “Cut to the Chase” and “Between Sun & Moon” haven’t made it into a regular concert rotation is one of those mysteries I’ll never understand. All of these would be welcome replacements for the played-out live performances of “Force Ten” and “Dreamline.” If Rush has a weakness, it’s the unwillingness to play a more varied setlist from tour to tour.
As with all of Rush’s releases from 1987 on, this album is too damn long, but it’s still among their best efforts. Subtract “Double Agent” and “The Speed of Love” and you’ve got a very solid 44 minute album. Kill your children, artists! Subtraction is addition.
Tomorrow, I’ll be listening to…drum roll, please…number 17: Vapor Trails. I’ll go to the 2013 remix of the album, figuring I shouldn’t have to subject myself to an original mix that even the band was unhappy with.