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And yet, whenever somebody asks me if I like Rush, my immediate answer is always "no," and my disposition when I'm asked why is always negative.Despite some who might think that my love of Yes and relative disdain for Rush comes from becoming acquainted with the former before the latter, this is actually far from the truth.When Rush writes what my brain considers a good melody or a good riff, I like their stuff just fine; unfortunately, that probably happens less than half of the time.Switching gears for a bit, I want to say something about Rush's general evolutionary path.I became pretty well acquainted with the band early on in my rock education, as my brother went through a major Rush phase when I was 16 and 17, and I heard their songs on a regular basis.Plus, I listened to classic rock radio pretty frequently at that time, and Rush got quite a lot of airplay, so I got to listen to them a lot.While Rush never significantly deviated from its core power trio sound (though the synths started to really drown out the sound for a bit there in the 80's), they did manage to cover an interesting amount of territory in their career.They started out as a fairly straight-forward hard rock band (with some fantasy elements here and there), before switching, uh, mid-album into a full-fledged prog rock band for a few years.
The easy route would be to just leave it at that, but unfortunately the situation is more complicated than that simple dismissal would suggest.
Rush ends up reminding me a lot of Dream Theater in its overall approach, and that is NOT a compliment given that DT may bore me more than any other band I've ever heard (DT came around much later than Rush did, but they accentuated a lot of what I perceive as Rush's flaws and help make it easier for me to pick them out).
I like Rush a lot more than DT, of course, but the pattern is similar, and that's a problem.
One thing about Rush and its collective instrumental abilities that I think largely explains the devotion the band receives from some is that the band, with only a few notable exceptions, rarely shows much in the way of restraint.
This isn't to say that every song from them is a shred-fest or anything like that, but rather that, with few exceptions, the band members go out of their way to demonstrate, in some form or another, a significant percentage of the full extent of their chops in most of their songs.
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My opinion on this question is as follows: a great arrangement can easily make a bad song mediocre, and can easily make a good song great, but it is hard for a great arrangement to make a mediocre song good.