Solo albums are supposed to be like extramarital affairs, giving artists the right to enjoy complete freedom and perhaps to try a few things they wouldn't normally do with their regular mates. Apparently Rush frontman Geddy Lee wasn't really aware of these options -- or chose not to take them -- while putting together his solo debut, which rarely departs from the sound of the band he's fronted for nearly 30 years.
Lee offers only subtle variations on the Rush formula on My Favorite Headache. Guitarist Ben Mink offers a rhythm-oriented performance that contrasts Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson's stringier style. Lee penned all the songs on his own; while most of the tunes hold up, lines like, "When you lose the past, the future makes no sense," from "The Present Tense" painfully demonstrate how much he misses the services of Rush lyricist-objectivist Neil Peart. But Pearl Jam/former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron does a solid job as a stand-in drummer for Peart, meshing well with Lee's intricate bass weaves. Synthesizers don't loom very large here, with Lee opting instead for piano and string textures that reverberate throughout the album.
The title track, by far the boldest move on My Favorite Headache, starts off with Lee's grunting bass lines, a segue to a hearty layer of stripped-down, chunky guitar riffs that alternates with a chorus of rich orchestral accompaniments. In "The Present Tense," Lee leaps back a few years to latter-day Rush, a sensation that lingers for the remainder of the album. "Moving to Bohemia" combines orchestrations with a hard-edged, upbeat rhythm, while "Home on the Strange" and the album-closing "Grace to Grace" steer away from synth-powered modernism, opting for a more guitar-bred approach. "The Angel's Share" and "Slipping," meanwhile, bask in an acoustic setting.
Recalling Test for Echo and Show of Hands, My Favorite Headache will appease Rush fans who have remained loyal to the trio during the last decade but not to those who think the band's peak was best captured in that Nissan commercial.