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Rush - 2112 CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

4.11 | 1935 ratings

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3 stars If there's such a thing as The Stereotypical Rush Album, then this is almost certainly it. Pretty much any serious discussion of Rush will bring this album up early on, and I've found reactions mostly tend to fall either into worshipping the album or spitting upon it. As often happens in such cases, I fall in the middle.

As with Caress, this album shows Rush showing itself as both a prog rock band and as a more conventional 70's hard rock band. This time around, though, this division actually seems to have been totally planned, and the confused feel of the last album is gone on this one. The production is also a LOT stronger and more forceful here than there, even if the sound still isn't as powerful as on Fly by Night. This album also lightly introduces synthesizers (and even a mellotron here and there) into the band's sonic pallette, and they work more effectively than I might have thought from just listening to the band's first three albums.

The first side is occupied in its entirety by the famous title track suite, with which I am not head-over-heels in love. The story is closely based off of Anthem (it also has some similarities to the plot of Lifehouse), and the liner notes contain the sentence, "Dedicated to the genius of Ayn Rand." Basically, the story concerns a future totalitarian society in which The Priests of the Temples of Syrinx control everything that people can read and listen to. One day, a man makes the archaeological discovery of an electric guitar, which he is instantly able to start playing in a way that produces coherent music. He shows the guitar to The Priests, thinking they'll be all proud of him and amazed at his discovery, but instead they tell him it's of no use to them and they destroy it. The protagonist then sulks about this (and has a vision of the world in which this guitar was created) until he's gotten so depressed that he kills himself. The end. Wow, Neil.

Needless to say, I'm not at all impressed by the concept of this piece, and it's really the quintessential example of why Rush tend to annoy the living crap out of me. The more "dramatic" moments of the piece work for me only as unintentional comedy; hearing Geddy squeal "I don't think I can carry on!" and "My lifeblood spills over..." inevitably makes me laugh every time, and the ending "announcement" is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard on a rock album. The closest comparison I could make would be to the ridiculous "This is our Independence Day!'" speech in that 1996 movie, and that is definitely not a compliment.

So ok, I don't like the lyrics or the story, but what about the music? Well, truth be told, I think the actual music of the "Overture/Temples of Syrinx" part is fantastic, and close to the best (and at least the most powerful) music to come from Rush in the 70's. A bit too much of it is taken up with dated sound effects, but when the band is actually playing, it almost seems as if they've found a bottomless well of cool riffs. Plus, the lyrics are so over-the-top hilarious that, in the context of these good riffs, it's almost impossible for them to hurt anything, and they even almost contribute to my enjoyment of the piece. The rest of the piece, though, strikes me as thoroughly mediocre. Only the reprises of the opening theme have much of a positive effect on me at all; the rest of the time, the emphasis is clearly on the lyrics, and the music just isn't memorable to me in either melody nor in arrangements. So basically, the first half of the album consists of seven minutes of greatness, and thirteen minutes of me waiting for the second side to start.

The second half of the album, then, is where I get most of my enjoyment, and is the reason this album almost gets a ****. The Lifeson-penned hard-rocker "Lessons" is a messy throwaway, but I find every other song on the side to be good or better. "Passage to Bangkok" has a great set of riffs and some decent lyrics that seem to be about going to various drug-producing locations in the world, and is a Rush song I can easily get in the mood for. "The Twilight Zone" has some goofy lyrics, but they amuse me, and I find the introduction great and the song itself quite good, so it can stick around.

The last two tracks end the album on an extremely high note, and ultimately ensure the album its grade. My personal favorite is the oft-ignored but oh-so-beautiful ballad "Tears." Laugh if you want, but I think it has an absolutely beautiful acoustic guitar line, a nice vocal melody, lyrics that are good enough for the song's purpose, and even effective mellotron use. Yes, it's a "wussy" song, but I can't help it if I think the wimpiest song on the album is easily the best. At the other extreme, the closing "Something for Nothing" is a screeching rocker with some nice guitar lines and a GREAT memorable chorus. The lyrics strike me as stupid and obnoxious (they read like a Libertarian creed in parts), but they're delivered with enough power that that is at least somewhat offset.

In the end, I actually consider this a perfectly ok album, and a necessity for all Rush fans. It just so happens that my reasons for liking it will be different from the reasons that most Rush fans will have for enjoying it. Slice through the pomp and half-baked "artsiness" of the title suite, and what you're left with is a really decent 70's hard rock album.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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