In 1996, Rush released their previous studio album, "Test for Echo". It was not a very powerful album, nor do I find myself still regularly listening to it. If we go back one more studio album we reach 1993's "Counterparts", and that was a very powerful album with only one mediocre track ("The Speed of Love", cheese to the square of two). The main question in my mind when I left the music shop with "Vapor Trails" in my hands was, "Have they released another 'Test for Echo' or another 'Counterparts' style album?"

Right from the start it becomes obvious that the band have opted for rather more simple songwriting. "One Little Victory" is a bit too grungy, and "Ceiling Unlimited" is a track that is both repetitive and too long. Some of the tracks - such as "Ghost Rider", "How It Is" and "Nocturne" - are musically satisfying and offer some good work by arguably one of the best rock drummers out there, Neil Peart. But the other tracks just seem too laid-back for my taste. Even "Freeze (Part IV of 'Fear')" fails to capture the magic of the pre-decessing parts.

It's primarily Geddy's voice and vocal melodies that make the album at once too easily accessible and too bland to want to access. "Vapor Trails", though, carries with it the inimitable lyrics of Neil Peart. The guy simply can't write crap lyrics. But they're not at a par with the things that have come before, despite there being some powerful moments of lyrical sadness (due, no doubt, to Peart's loss of his wife and daughter in recent years). Musically, the album is filled with unobtrusively melodic tracks that, too, leave me feeling a bit disappointed. But that's the difference between what is and what I feel it ought to have been.



Written May 2002


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