Rush – 2112 (1976)
Welcome back to Your Dad’s Car Stereo. I’ve been saving this week’s album for a while now, unsure of when the best time to review it would be. With the recent passing of Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart, I can’t think of a better way to pay tribute to him as a person, his artistic contributions, or the band than to review their seminal work, 2112. Written at a low point for the band after the commercial flop that was Caress of Steel, Rush doubled down on creating the kind of music that they wanted to make, knowing that their fourth album may be their last if sales didn’t pick up. The resulting album ended up featuring a 20-minute long masterpiece of Ayn Rand-inspired, collectivist lyrics known simply as “2112.” 2112 was massive success and enabled the band to release more albums, like their most popular release Moving Pictures, and experimenting with just how far you can push rock through the 80s with the heavy incorporation of synthesizers.
2112 is my favorite album, hand down, no exceptions. This album was released during the peak of what we now define as classic rock and incorporates the best elements of albums leading up to this point. The traditional blues rock-inspired classic rock sound was well-established by 1976 and 2112 was Rush’s first earnest attempt to expand on what we can call rock music by incorporating classical and Asian influences, literary lyrics, and playing around with basic strong construction. Songs like “The Necromancer” from Caress of Steel and “By Tor and the Snow Dog” from Fly By Night were some of the band’s earlier attempts at grandiose stories, but everything came into full view on this album. By this point, the band had established their sound and I really appreciate their confidence to release an album this ambitious after the sales issues with Caress of Steel. I think that speaks multitudes about them as artists, their musical abilities, and knowing their audience. 2112 has gone down as one of the most influential albums in the development of prog rock and could be considered the peak of prog. Please enjoy this masterpiece of rock music.
Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown
2112: Overture/The Temples Of Syrinx/Discovery/Presentation/Oracle/Soliloquy/Grand Finale-Medley: “2112” is probably the best classic rock track ever written. It’s hard to know where to start with a 10-minute song like this so let’s start with influences. Lyrically, the song is inspired by the works of Ayn Rand, particularly Atlas Shrugged and Anthem. Neil Peart was always reading and during this period he was particularly focused on the idea of collectivism. Musically, this song pulls influences from across the musical spectrum, sampling William Tell’s 1812 Overture, art rock, and more traditional blues rock with frequent time signature, tempo, and thematic changes. Lyrically, the song tells the story of a man living a in an oppressive society where all knowledge is held by the Priests of the Temple of Syrinx in their vast libraries. When the main character finds a guitar in a cave (new knowledge), the priests deride him and fear the fact that others may find out that the seemingly all-knowing priests are just that, seemingly all-knowing. The song finishes with a planetary invasion by the Solar Federation. This ending is a poignant way to end a song that focuses largely on who has control in a society, the people or the people that govern them, by twisting that and showing that neither of them were really in control in the first place. There’s so much to love about “2112” and I find something new to like every time I listen to it, and I’ve probably listened to it more than a hundred times now. For me, it doesn’t get better than this. Dad’s Rating 10/10
A Passage To Bangkok: I always thought it was hard to stand up to a song like “2112” and be the song to follow it up, but “A Passage To Bangkok” is about as good as you’re going to be able to do. On any other album this might be one of the best songs on the album too! It’s a great classic rocker. The intro with the stereotypical Asian chord progression has aged a little poorly in my opinion, but after a gigantic song like “2112,” what better to do than to follow it up with a song filled with drug innuendo. This is a substantially lighter-toned song than the one that precedes it, but that helps in my opinion. If every song were as thought-provoking as “2112” then the album would have been really heavy. Dad’s Rating 7/10
The Twilight Zone: The opening to “The Twilight Zone” is one of my favorite openings to a song as Lifeson adds depth by increasing the size of the chords. The guitar work stands out the most on this track. It’s iconic and ever-changing. Initially you think this will be a hard rocker with the intro being as powerful as it is, but then the band surprises you with soft vocals and guitar through the chorus to turn this into a howling power ballad. Dad’s Rating 8/10
Lessons: “Lessons” is just a solid rock song. Of course it has typical cryptic Rush lyrics, but the highlights on this song are Lee’s vocal performance and Lifeson’s guitar performance. I think “Lessons” gets overlooked with everything else going on with this record, but Lee manages to deliver an incredible vocal performance that ranges from restrained to wailing and Lifeson creates a superb shred on the axe. This one’s more of a hidden gem and definitely worth checking out if you normally just listen to 2112 for the title track. Dad’s Rating 6/10
Tears: “Tears” is the only proper ballad on 2112. Oftentimes a band will choose to do a power ballad to keep the energy up but still create a ‘down tempo feeling.’ Rush knew that this was a high-energy album and they needed to actually cool things off, and the decision to include a proper ballad to do that was the right decision in my mind. I’ve often commented on how ballads have a tendency to bore me, but there’s something about Lee’s voice that is so hypnotizing that it keeps you listening and hanging on to each word. Dad’s Rating 6/10
Something For Nothing: The transition between “Tears” and “Something For Nothing” is really smooth, and listening to them back-to-back, you wouldn’t even realize that they’re two different songs. It’s also a really strong finish to the album. The sound of “Something For Nothing” is very consistent with that of “2112” and helps to tie the album together. In a way, it feels like ‘2112 Pt. 2,’ and that’s why I like it so much. As a whole, the album has lots of musical influences, but coming finishing with a song that sound like this feels like re-centering. Dad’s Rating 7/10
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