I'm not sure what the reception of Signals was when it was released, but having come from the prior albums on our listening journey, I'm pretty sure it was a huge shock to the systems of all of the fans. Signals marks a period where Rush started heavily using synthesizers in their music. Sure, "Moving Pictures" started the trend, but "Signals" really cemented the synthesizer as part of the Rush sound. The opening chords of "Subdivisions" must've been a shock for the early fans. The first time I picked up Signals was on a bus trip to my future college. I picked it up at a drug store prior to boarding the bus. My initial reactions were mixed. The tape version positively sucked. The dynamic range was absolutely awful, and everything sounded mushed together. Fortunately I've since picked up the CD version of the album, which sounds vastly superior when compared with the tape version.
The album starts with the now-familiar synth sounds of "Subdivisions". the song is about the territories that people create for themselves, and the cliques that seem to form in any organization. "Analog Kid" is more frentic, but still lush with that golden synth sound. "Chemistry" for me is a non-song, as my mind zones out until "Digital Man" (which to me sounds more like Rush covering a Police song than anything). Then, the piece-de-resistance: "The Weapon". That song still gives me chills after first watching it on a third-generation bootleg of the MTV concert (with Count Floyd. :) ). "New World Man" completes the disc for me. What? Oh, sure, there's "Losing It" (a song about those who were at their prime, but have since 'lost it', and "Countdown" (a musical documentary of the band's visit to watch the Space Shuttle Columbia's inaugural flight), but those songs don't excite me as much as the rest of the album. Overall, "Signals" has some great moments, and some tracks that unfortunately get skipped and ignored. "Moving Pictures" was a tough album to follow, but I think Rush put together an album that showed they weren't sitting on their laurels. The next album, "Grace Under Pressure" confirmed they were in it for the long haul.