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Rush - 2112 CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.11 | 1994 ratings

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4 stars There's a first for everything, and 2112 was my first Rush album, and I guess also the first '70s Prog' album as well. When I bought it, I was a massive Dream Theater nut, and I was aware that Rush was the biggest influence to the band. I also knew that I liked 20 minute songs, and since the 2112 suite was the only Rush song to actually cross the 20 minute mark, I decided to head there first. After all this time, here are my thoughts on this otherwise legendary album.

If you know your Rush, you'll know this album comes after 'Caress of Steel' which was a commercial failure. You'll recall also that that album too had a 20 minute suite, named 'The Fountain of Lamneth'. While this suite had some great music, it was flawed because the format was essentially 6 short songs separated by silence, rather than being one continuous piece. Those who were underwhelmed by 'Fountain' will be pleased to hear that the 2112 suite is (quite literally) light years ahead of it's predecessor. While still not being a continuous piece from start to finish, some of the parts do link to the next one, and all of the silences between the other parts feel more natural within the suite. Also, rather crucially, the story of the suite is far more evocative and exciting, and the music itself is far better than Fountain.

The story itself is set in the future (no points for guessing which year). This is a dystopian future where a group of dictatorial priests control the media and all forms of art are strictly forbidden (uncannily similar to the 2002 film 'Equilibrium' by Kurt Wimmer, which is also fantastic). A man who discovers a guitar in a cave, begins playing and discovers a range of emotions he has never felt. Excited, he brings this to the priests, but is dismayed as they smash it to pieces, saying that it is all 'a silly whim' and 'doesn't fit the plan'. He then dejectedly returns home, and has a dream where he learns that the 'Elder Race' all moved to another planet, where they lead lives far superior to his. Awakening, he is distraught knowing that he can never lead a life as happy and fulfilling as that which has seen in his dreams. Ultimately, he returns to the cave where he first found the guitar and kills himself. The song ends with a statement from the priests: 'We have assumed control.'

This is only my interpretation of the lyrics, and you can be open to make yours, but I find that reading others opinions helps me form my own. Within the CD and LP editions, there are annotations between the lyrics, fleshing out the story with more information. Whilst some people enjoy concept albums which can have many interpretations, I find Rush's presentation to be perfect on this one. Coming up with your own story to suit the lyrics of an album can be difficult and time consuming, so I really appreciate the fact that Rush put in most of the effort to come up with a solid story, and leave relatively small details to be sorted out by the listener. On other concept albums, such as Misplaced Childhood by Marillion, it is more difficult to come up with your own idea of what the album is about. While the album doesn't patronise you by fully telling the story, 2112 gives you sufficient information to really appreciate the story, which honestly does not happen that often in prog.

The music played in this suite is also extremely good. The song really rocks hard and heavy in places, but more can be said. The band have an amazing use of their instruments to explain parts of the song. When the protagonist finds the guitar, for example, we first hear the sound of someone tuning the guitar, then trying different notes, then playing simple chords and ultimately playing faster and more technically, simulating a speeded up version of the process of learning guitar. The way Alex Lifeson plays this section is masterful, not only giving a good impression of this process, but playing it in a way that sounds musical, rather than a series of random notes and riffs. Also, praise must be given to Geddy Lee's use of vocals to give different accents to the protagonist and the priests. More precisely, he uses a higher and louder singing voice to characterise the priests, giving real depth to the song. Unfortunately, he can no longer reproduce this on stage, and the live versions really suffer. Musically, the band saves the best till last, and the Grand Finale is one of the best outros heard to any suite in prog rock.

On Side 2 of this album, there are no less than five short rock songs, all between three and four minutes long. Unfortunately, these don't share an ounce of prog between them, but they are nonetheless enjoyable. A Passage to Bangkok, Lessons and Something for Nothing are all geared to be favourites when played live. Of these, 'A Passage to Bangkok' is the most enjoyable because of it's anthemic chorus, perfect for concerts. Of the remaining songs, The Twilight Zone, dedicated to the show of the same name, is a truly bizarre composition, being very uncatchy and having too much contrast between the verses and the choruses. Finally, Tears shows the more mature side of Rush. Rather than rocking out as usual, the band instead hold back and instead perform an effortlessly beautiful and melancholic song. As a piece it is very underrated because it is radically different to the hard rock Rush sound.

The album is extremely lopsided. Surely Rush knew that five short rock songs (who's combined running time is still 2 minutes shorter than 2112) would not be able to compete against the epic on Side 1! As far as history goes, Rush were steadily getting proggier at this point, and the extreme success of this album encouraged them to keep writing sprawling epics. Whilst 2112 was a great album, with it's superb title track, the best was yet to come.

baz91 | 4/5 |


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