Vapor Trails

On Vapor Trails, the stalwart Canadian power trio Rush returns from a six-year studio absence, sniffs the wind and abandons the prog-rock jams of its last studio album, Test for Echo, for a harder, Staind-friendly approach. On tracks such as "Earthshine," "Stars Look Down" and "One Little Victory," Alex Lifeson proves he can still generate plenty of guitar crunch. Vapor Trails is also Rush's most focused effort in many years, thanks to a renewed emphasis on songwriting. The lyrics of drummer Neil Peart, who lost a daughter in a car accident and then his wife to cancer, have become less abstract and much more personal. This is refreshing, even on the earnest, M. Scott Peck-worthy "Sweet Miracle." Otherwise, though, there are few surprises: Geddy Lee sends his voice to the rafters through his nose, while his remarkable bass playing mixes in a showy display of virtuosity with Lifeson's and Peart's colossal guitar-and-drum show.

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