It seems to be an all-too-common thing (almost cliché, really) for bands to put out an album of cover tunes, as a basic declaration of “this is where we come from” or “this is what influenced us” or “this is what we’ve been reduced to”, etc. You definitely would be hard-pressed to place Rush in the latter column, as in 2004 the band was riding a high crest from a successful “comeback” album and tour supporting their 2002 release Vapor Trails. Even after a prolonged hiatus, Rush was still a creative, artistically evolving, and musically viable entity.
But let’s face it: sometimes you just want to have a bit of fun, ya know? Waxing nostalgic, perhaps, for the music of their youth that sparked their creative fuses, Lee, Lifeson, and Peart gathered in the studio to record a collection of classic tunes from the late 1960s, the kind that formed a musical DNA that guided many a hard rock band of the era. The resulting album Feedback was recorded with little muss or fuss, light on the production and heavy on the basics. The trio took the songs of The Who, The Yardbirds, Blue Cheer, Cream, Love, and Buffalo Springfield and composed a 28 minute love-letter to the lot of them.
Twenty-eight minutes… barely more than an EP. And yet freed from the expectations and self-administered highest of demands that came with crafting their own compositions, Rush erupted a riotously enjoyable piece of work, almost something of a spiritual sequel to their 1974 self-titled debut album in that it equally revels deep in their blues/hard rock roots, only this time with 30 years of successful recording and touring experience behind them. There isn’t a hint of pretension, no conscious effort of “deconstruction” or “re-interpretation” whatsoever. By the time they rip into the opening track, Eddie Cochrane’s “Summertime Blues” (by way of covers by both The Who and Blue Cheer), you’re almost instantly cognizant of exactly the type of album Rush was making.
There might not be a whole lot of tonal variety on Feedback, but there really doesn’t need to be for this kind of record. Even the album cover itself was designed as if it was peeled off some venue wall in 1968, and everything from the earnestness of “Heart Full of Soul”, the mad mod psychedelia of “Shapes of Things”, the wistful yearning of erstwhile classic “For What It’s Worth”, and the anthemic (if purposefully off-putting) “Seven and Seven Is” works to feed that particular vibe. And all of it works. You can feel not only the deep affection for but also that strong connection with the music they’re covering.
The band cuts loose with the requisite rockers, of course. Aside from the opening “Summertime Blues”, Rush is having a rollicking good time with The Who’s “The Seeker” and wraps up the album wonderfully with Cream’s “Crossroads”. At 28 minutes in length, the album is over in no time at all, and it kind of leaves you wanting more… until you basically remember that Lee, Lifeson, and Peart have a pretty good gig outside of being a really strong cover band. So be it. Feedback is not what the layperson might expect from a band like Rush, and that works entirely in the album’s favor. As a collection of cover tunes, it’s not quite an essential Rush album. But ZOWIE is it a fun one.