Not Everyone Loves Rush’s ‘Headlong Flight’

Some thoughtful, constructive criticism of “Headlong Flight”

The track was mixed too loud. The parts seem stitched together. The lyrics aren’t that interesting. The drumming is tedious. The sound hearkens too much back to the 1970s.

Mixed in with the rave reviews of “Headlong Flight” on Amazon are a few  negative reviews, not by Rush critics but by long-time fans who say the track could have been better had Alex, Geddy, and Neil worked with a producer who had come in with a more objective ear. In the spirit of spurring the band to always improve their work, here are some views of “Headlong Flight” that provide thoughtful, constructive criticism. Taking into account even negative views that have something to say is always better than just blindly praising something.

Of course, most of the reviews are great. Check those out, too. 

The reviews below were edited slightly for grammar.

Nick R is a disaster
“I hate to title a review so critically, but Rush’s current producer has taken them in a disappointing direction. Rush used to evolve, each album presenting a different style and concept. The period from Permanent Waves through Presto is an excellent example. Listen to ‘Natural Science’ or ‘Entre Nous’ from Permanent Waves and compare to ‘Scars’ or ‘Available Light’ from Presto, or ‘Prime Mover’ from Hold your Fire and the consistency is in the creativity and craftsmanship of the songs. And, more important, they’re fun to listen to. Snakes and Arrows and now the first songs from Clockwork Angels are dreary and pounding. The producer wants their sound to go back to the early seventies. What results is something sounding dated and an almost forced hardness. It’s a shame. Rush could have capped their career with something special, instead they’ve turned up the volume without providing much substance.”—solosurfer

Pointless Nostalgia
“This causes me some pain, but ‘Headlong Flight’ is just not a good song. The choruses that tie it to the larger story of the album are annoying, and not because it’s a fictional character speaking. Rush pulled that off to great effect with ‘Red Barchetta,’ just to take an obvious example. No, this song is so obviously about their own sense of having lived a great adventure that the switch to the chorus feels forced. (Besides, the whole ‘steampunk’ storyline of the album is a bit overwrought.) What’s worse, though, is that the whole song is a big nostalgia trip. Rush is a band that has never gone back to try and repeat what they did in the past, but in this song, even more than the other two from CA, we have nothing but a long, incoherent retrieval of their ‘old style.’ Consider its echoes of ‘Bastille Day’, and it’s waw-waw driven guitar solo over a bass/drum pattern that obviously rips off ‘By Tor and the Snow Dog,’ just to take a couple of examples, and you’ll hear that it’s an attempt to replay that past. At the same time, as at least one other reviewer has noted, the song feels slapped together. Geddy Lee himself has said that this grew out of what was to be an instrumental jam, but he so loved one of Peart’s lyrics that he had to work out a melody for them and reorder the song. Now, they’ve pulled off quick turn-arounds before (‘Force Ten’ comes to mind, along with ‘New World Man’), but the result was always a short, tight song. Of late, they’ve just slapped together bloated pieces like this. This points to a deeper problem. Over the last little while, they’ve had a producer who is also a fan. This does not seem to work for them. Terry Brown never had a chance to be a fan before he came in to save their lives by working out the sound for their first album. Their other great producer, Peter Collins, had never heard much by them before working with them on Power Windows. He went on to produce two of their most adventurous albums, Hold Your Fire, and Test for Echo. Not only did he know how to work with the right engineers to get their sound right, he also pushed the three of them to greater ambition and precision. He pushed Peart to greater lyrical complexity and depth. All in all, he was better for them. They need someone objective, ambitious, and with a will to push back against them. Their current producer is such a fan, so in love with everything he thinks they did in the past, that he is letting them get away with laziness. Just look at the lyrics to this song. They are not simple so much as just ugly. And the vocal melody does in fact feel like it was written in five minutes. None of it works as a whole, nor does it have the feel of a suite like some of their longer songs. No, this is just mediocre. So, yes, I’ll see them live, but I’m worried this album will be a dud.”—T. Hall

Headlong Flight to Boredom
“I cannot agree with the reviews of this track or the ones for ‘Caravan’ or ‘BU2B.’ I am not against their new music. Vapor Trails (in spite of the bad sound) is my favorite CD since Hold Your Fire. I felt that Rush has made some good tracks on the albums from HYF to VT, but the albums themselves are forgettable. I want back the Rush that I love and which made great music in the 70s and 80s and that were great with gems like ‘The Pass,’ ‘Resist,’ ‘Driven,’ ‘Dreamline,’ ‘Bravado,’ and ‘Ghost of a Chance,’ most of Vapor Trails, and half of Snakes and Arrows in the 90s and 00s. S&A was good and had they edited it by removing the four duds the album would be as much better. To me, ‘Faithless,’ ‘Bravest Face,’ ‘Good News First,’ and ‘Spindrift’ should have been dropped. Read the three-star comments under S&A where many other Rush fans have said it better than I could about what is missing or wrong with S&A. Unless they remix these singles from CA, it is going to be a 2.5-star release and something I will not listen to that often. What I find hard to figure out is the 5 star reviews of these tracks. The music is just not there. At least, it’s not up to Rush’s old standards. I cannot believe how anyone can compare S&A or CA to Moving Pictures or their classic CDs. All you have to do is put on ‘La Villa Stragiato’ or’ YYZ’ and then listen to ‘The Main Monkey Business’ or ‘Malignant Narcissism’ and the comparison ends there. You can do the same with many of Rush’s standards and do the same with the songs from Presto, Roll the Bones, Counterparts, Test for Echo, or S&A and you’ll understand my frustration with comparing CA’s first three songs with old Rush. What I hate about ‘Headlong Flight’ is how crappy it sounds. Sometimes Geddy reminds me of the lead singer of Queensryche (which is not good). The drumming is tedious and, overall, it sounds soulless and boring. The bass lines are cool and Alex shows he can still play, but AHHHHHHH!! the chorus is so frigging annoying and the song seems slapped together. How is this good? I hope this is not my review of CA on 6/12/12.”—Rush1982

Go ahead . . . flame away . . . but the engineering / mix / mastering on this BLOWS!
“Remember the VT fiasco? Well, apparently they don’t, ’cause once again we have a wall of compressed distorted noise! ARGH! WTF is with these guys? Why can’t they hear that their engineers are absolutely destroying their music? Sorry, folks, but it’s time we stopped accepting these garbage recordings as the norm. Rush should hold themselves to a much higher standard. OK, for the record. I love these guys. I’ve been to 39 shows, going back to Hemispheres. I don’t even want to think of how many thousands of dollars I’ve spent over the years all told. But many. These guys and their music have been a major part of my life. Period. And that makes this all the more frustrating. Even the previous releases of ‘Caravan’ and ‘BU2B’ were loud, but they had a lot more dynamic range. I’ve been flipping back and forth between them, and the difference is night and day. This is muffled loud and flat with lots of overly distorted noise. At least ‘Caravan’ and ‘BU2B’ had SOME clarity. I’ve read that this was not mixed by the same guy (Nick). I don’t know if that is true, but it sure sounds worse. They’re all just SO LOUD! Stop, please. Let us use our own volume knobs! I will also say that all I have is the 256k mp3 release, ’cause that’s all that is available. And the word is that this is going to be released in 96hz/24bit HD. As soon as it is, I will see if it is any better and, if so, change this review accordingly. But even though it’s only an MP3 right now, it’s hard to see with the amount of abuse here how it will be made up. Also for the record, the musicianship here is top notch. These guys are at the top of their game still, playing-wise. Lyrics are great, too. Again, all the more frustration for those of us clambering for good, solid dynamic music. Want to hear a great recording of theirs? Sonically, you need to go back to Counterparts. It was the last great. Please, Rush, don’t ruin another great album! Fix it before you release it! Major disappointment.”—Robert W

More about “Headlong Flight”


~ by rvkeeper on May 11, 2012.

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