Clipped From The Courier-Journal
MUSIC NEWS AND REVIEWS Heartfelt Rush By MIKE GRANT The Courier-Journal "TEST FOR ECHO" Rush (Atlantic) Formats: cassette, CD Once the final record is cut, it will be interesting to see how Rush will be remembered. Caught somewhere between mainstream and alternative, Rush's pop niche seems almost intangible. No one questions the musicianship of Geddy Lee (bass, keyboards and vocals), Alex Lifeson (guitars), and Neil Peart (drums). Few have written songs that go more smoothly from regular 44 time to 78 to 64 and back to 44. Frontman Lee has even admitted that in the band's early years it would decide on the signatures before the actual song was penned. But music isn't about time signatures. It's about heart, and Lee, Lifeson and Peart have been accused of being tinmen. You don't have to search far to find someone who has something bad to say about Rush the songs are too long, too weird, and what's with that singer's voice? True, Rush has written many an opus, some on themes of science fiction and Roman mythology. And Lee does have a voice that would frighten small children. But if all you see is the band's minor shortcomings, you're not listening hard enough. Toronto's hard-working trio deliver original music, and even if the album is subpar, the effort's always there. "Test for Echo" is Rush's finest effort since "Presto," largely due to Lifeson, who pulled his "2112"-era guitar out of the attic. After occasionally taking a back seat to Rush's potent rhythm section in recent years, Lifeson is given considerably more space on "Test for Echo." From the title track to "Carve Away the Stone," his guitars squeal and shriek, although there's also the soothing acoustic work of "Resist." If you could describe a Rush song as being pretty, this would be the one. "Test for Echo," however, isn't Rush at its best. The technically wonderful "Hemispheres," "Signals" and "Presto" still reign supreme. But "Test for Echo" may prove that the resourceful trio do have heart to go along with brains. A Topular' band "HIGHLOW" Nada Surf (Elektra) Formats: cassette, CD Somewhere in the wells of my deranged subconscious, images from the movie "Heathers" keep popping up. Popularity is a precious commodity in high school, and "Heathers," for my money the definitive flick about being a teen, addressed the subject with loads of black comedy. Nada Surf tackles the issue on a different plane by creating its own guide 1996 REVIEWS (u-'-vy L ..--.. X Xv J Rush features, clockwise from top, Neil Peart, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson. in the hit song "Popular." "I'm the head of the class I'm popular I'm a quarterback I'm popular." With lyrics that shallow, no wonder that "Popular" has become, well, popular. The rest of "HighLow," which was produced by ex-Cars leader Ric Ocasek, is pretty standard grunge-rock fare. Nada Surf has a good ear for pop hooks, and the lyrics are above par. "Stalemate" has a great late-'70s rock feel that makes it the best song on the album. The well-thought-out construction of this and "Popular" indicate that Nada Surf bears watching. Brassy rap "COME FIND YOURSELF" Fun Lovin' Criminals (EMI) Formats: cassette, CD "Stick 'em up, punk. It's the Fun Lovin' Criminal" The untimely demise of Tupac Shakur has raised questions about rap, most of them ridiculous. Blaming any music genre for society's ills is nuts but, hey, that's a topic for another day. Rap. artists are neither heroes nor hooligans, merely musicians. Bearing that in mind, here come the Fun Lovin' Criminals. The Fun Lovin' Criminals aren't out to win friends or influence people. Huey, Fast and Steve make no apologies. Their rap is bold, brassy and, in its own own way, funny. A good example is the band's big hit, "Scooby Snacks." Accompanied with samples from Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction," the song is about a drug-induced bank robbery. I know. Not exactly a ha-ha subject, but those who have heard the song will understand. And the music isn't a random mess of samples and noise a trap many rap artists fall into. The combination of hip-hop, jazz and rock is played live by the Fun Lovin' Criminals. The Fun Lovin Criminals also show a good touch for ballads, as on "We Have all the Time in the World," a nice cover of John Barry's love theme from the James Bond film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." The Fun Lovin' Criminals bring an easy East Coast feeling to rap. With a debut album this good, they eventually may emerge as the most promising rapsters to come out of New York City since Public Enemy.