Perfect songs aren't easy to come by. In fact, you could probably make a case that they don't exist. But even if they don't, Rush's "Distant Early Warning," from their 1984 masterpiece Grace Under Pressure, is about the closest anyone has ever come to writing one. Complex yet concise, "Distant Early Warning" covers so much ground in about four and a half-minutes that it takes myriads of listens to even begin to understand it. It's a masterpiece of good rock songwriting, mixing in all sorts of textures, developing themes in subtle ways, incorporating polyphonic lines, using simple ideas to create a wall of tension. Not to mention that it's one of Geddy Lee's all-time best vocal performances. The words, furthermore, perfectly demonstrate why Neil Peart, at his best, is a master lyricist; they're vague enough to leave room for ambiguity but specific enough to actually mean something, incorporating vibrant imagery that evokes powerful emotion, mixing musings on current events with observations on human nature to create a lyric that is both timely and timeless.
The world weighs on my shoulders
But what am I to do?
You sometimes drive me crazy
But I worry about you
I know it makes no difference
To what you're going through
But I see the tip of the iceberg
And I worry about you
Finally, "Distant Early Warning" leads into my planned new series of blog posts. My next post will elaborate upon some of the themes explored in the song, and others following will explore these themes in even greater detail.