Rush - 2112
Mercury Records
Progressive Hard Rock
6 songs (39:06)
Release year: 1976
Rush, Mercury Records
Reviewed by Goat

Writing reviews for albums that you love is always hard. Not just because of the natural difficulties in expressing something personal to a wide audience, but because there’s an automatic measure of doubt involved when you’re forced to look at something from someone else’s viewpoint. The question of whether other people will respond to something in the same way that you do is inherent to the human condition, after all, and although more generally used in situations about such trivialities as love, politics and sports, there’s no reason not to apply it to music as well…

The fourth album from Canadian Prog-Rock heroes Rush hit me hard. I had been acquainted with the band before, having been recommended the more popular yet not as good Moving Pictures and liked, if not loved it. Fine, it’s full of great music and deserves a Classic review of its own, but there’s something not quite perfect about it, perhaps the 80’s-sounding synths that I’ve always had a hard time with (in non-Industrial music especially). Anyways, knowing that the band had an extensive back catalogue and wanting to hear more, I came across a cheap copy of 2112, snapped it up, and loved it from the first listen.

Released in 1976 2112 managed to save Rush commercially after the concept pieces on previous album Caress Of Steel failed to catch the public’s imagination. The band’s label wanted them to stay away from long songs, but despite this our tenacious trio went ahead with 2112’s title track, which is over twenty minutes long. Of course, the band were duly rewarded with success, 2112 being its first US Top 100 album, reaching Gold status in 1977 and Platinum in 1981. Most fans regard it as the band’s finest, placing it up there with other classic Prog albums such as Dark Side Of The Moon and Larks’ Tongues In Aspic.

Influenced much by Led Zeppelin (another candidate for Classic reviews ad infinitum) Rush varied its sound much over the years, around the time of 2112 playing a form of Hard Rock that wasn’t afraid to toy with the genre’s boundaries. What makes this album special is that somehow Rush has discovered exactly what it is about Rock that makes it so damn enticing, and boiled it down to its essence. It’s impossible for me to even attempt to describe this album’s title track in detail, as there’s far too much going on and I’d be reduced to a spluttering fanboy within seconds. Suffice it to say that all three members are playing for their lives; Peart’s drumming, Lee’s bass and vocals, and Lifeson’s guitar are all flawless, absolutely impossible to fault.

The lyrics may seem to be rather too much in debt to right wing author Ayn Rand - about whom the less said the better - describing a suppressed peon under a suspiciously Communistic society discovering a guitar and rebelling against his oppressors. In simple terms, however, this is a celebration of Rock music, resonating with everyone who’s ever been told to ‘turn that racket down!’ (which of us haven’t?) and telling us that it’s perfectly natural to rock out. Although in modern times this has become rather a cliché, back in 1976 there were doubtless many for whom this was a revelation, and even in these supposedly enlightened modern times it’s a comfort like no other to play this album and revel in its youthful enthusiasm. If you like Rock or Metal of any sort, the odds are that you will love 2112 – even those that dislike Rush admit it’s because of Geddy Lee’s high-pitched voice, and not for the quality of the instrumentation.

Although the focus will always shine heaviest on the title track, the five other songs on the album all deserve their share of the light. A Passage To Bangkok is another classic song, often interpreted as being a paean to weed, and it’s Lifeson that sparkles most here, his guitar lines and solo being outstanding. The Twilight Zone follows, a more laid-back song about the television show, and as the lyrics invite you to ‘enter this world of imagination’, it’s an interesting prelude to later Rush classics like Xanadu. Lessons is another perfect Rocker, Tears another mellow track (and often the one derided for being out of place, although it works fine to these ears), but it’s album finale Something For Nothing that’s the best of the five. Switching between calm acoustic strumming and Geddy’s highest-pitched shrieks, it’s an excellent finish to a perfect album.

I’m probably the only Rush fan to think so, and yet the band’s lyrics have never enveloped me as fully as the music itself. The aforementioned Something For Nothing must be the first ever instance of that old chestnut about freedom not being free appearing in a song’s lyrics, thus starting an honourable chain of tradition that has lasted right up to modern times, yet the music itself is so well-judged and speaks so clearly that it doesn’t matter what Lee is yelping about. He could even be condemning a woman’s right to vote or a Muslim’s right to freedom of religion, and the music’s so good that for that minute or three it lasts you don’t care. It’s the rare band that’s capable of this, and that Rush can toy with your emotions in this manner only goes to prove their superiority.

That’s not to say that nothing the band says has any worth, of course! Listening to music is about personal gratification, when all is said and done, and just as Black and Doom Metal are about the depressive emotions, so 2112 is about the reflective, the nostalgic. As I listen to Geddy singing ‘Listen to my music, and hear what it can do/There’s something here as strong as life, I know that it will reach you’ reminds me of that moment when I discovered music as a positive force in my life, when I realised that music’s about more than the latest chart hit. Of course, that moments later the authority figure on the album and in your life cynically replies ‘Yes we know, it’s nothing new/It’s just a waste of time’ is just how things go, but that moment of discovery happens to us all, is unique each time, and stays with you forever. Although few sensible people have believed that Rock n’Roll can change the world for many years now, listening to 2112 makes it possible again, and that’s why I love this album. It’s the aural equivalent of Disney films or old family photographs, perfect for pulling out whenever the world - or hell, even the music that you listen to, anything - weighs too heavily on your shoulders and you need a little joy, a little innocence to make things right again.

Although Rush is the only band that came close to recapturing this sense of nostalgia for me on future albums, it never quite happened, and so 2112 is my favourite release from the Canadians. Whether it’ll be your favourite depends on you, of course, but I can virtually guarantee that you’ll love it, assuming you’re not one of those sillies that can’t stand Lee’s voice. A clichéd interpretation of politics is that the Left speaks to the brain whilst the Right speaks to the heart, and 2112 certainly speaks to the heart like little else. Classic, in all senses of the word.

Killing Songs :
All!
Goat quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Rush that we have reviewed:
Rush - Clockwork Angels reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 90 / 100
Rush - Beyond The Lighted Stage reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Rush - Test For Echo reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
Rush - Counterparts reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
Rush - Roll The Bones reviewed by Goat and quoted 87 / 100
To see all 26 reviews click here
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