Sunday, February 14, 2016
2112- Released in 1976 for Mercury Records
Best Song- 2112 (Particularly the Overture, Temples of Syrinx, or Grand Finale sections)
After the flop of Caress of Steel, it looked like Rush was done. Their live shows were flops (Only 1 bootleg exists from the tour!), their album was a flop, and the experience was miserable for their "Down The Tubes" Tour. Mercury Records urged them to switch to more hit singles. While they would eventually do that, now was not the time. Instead, Rush recorded 2112 at Toronto Sound Studios, opening with a 20 minute title track. Of course, this gamble paid off, giving them a hit.
As for me, I absolutely love this album. In terms of sound, this continues the "Hard rock with progressive influences" formula of the past two albums, but that is in no way a bad thing. Geddy's singing is just as great as ever, Lifeson's guitar work is just as stellar, and Neil's drumming still packs a mean punch. And the songs themselves are also excellent, with one particular 20-minute song leading the way.
The first song on the album is the 20 minute epic of the title track. And forgive me if I gush too much, but this is not only the best song in the Rush catalog, but one of my three favorite songs of ALL TIME (The others are The Show Must Go On and Shine On You Crazy Diamond) and that says a lot, right there.
The story goes as follows. In a world where all the music in the world is made by the government, one man finds a guitar, and thinks that it would be nice to allow people to make their own music. He shows it to the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx, but they say it's a waste of time, and smash it in front of him. The man has a
dream of when people could make their own music, realizes that life was better then, and commits suicide.
Sound stupid? It is. But the song itself is a different story entirely.
The song starts off with whooshing synth noises (The first time synths were used in Rush, but provided by guest Hugh Syme), before guitar riffing enters at 1 minute in, bringing you into the first part, "Overture". The synth part drops out soon after, and then we reach IT. The part where Lifeson delivers one of the most stunningly epic guitar riffs i've ever heard, backed with Neil's pounding drums and a heavenly ascending vocal part by Lee... This moment is not only the best part of the song, but one of my favorites in the Rush catalog. The song continues shifting through many musical themes, all of them outstanding, led by Lifeson's duel acoustic and electric guitar, and Neil's great drumming. (The 1812 Overture is quoted at one point) After about 3 incredible minutes of this, an explosion sound drowns everything out, with Lee delivering the words "and the meek, shall inherit the earth". And that's just the first 4 and a half minutes! This then leads into the second part of the song, and easily the most famous, "Temples of Syrinx", with Lee delivering quite possibly the highest vocal part he would ever do (And that's saying something!) backed by another excellent melody (The backing guitar in the chorus especially) and yet more great drumming. This section of the song deserves all the praise it gets, and the guitar breaks in between the verses are stunning. These first 7 minutes would essentially define the song in the minds of most, and Rush has performed at least this section on almost every tour.
However, it's only the beginning. After some gentle acoustic playing, we go into the third part, "Discovery". This section features a waterfall sound effect, over which we get some GORGEOUS, gentle guitar work, which gradually gets more complex. What makes this part so great is not just that, or the soft, gentle performance by Lee. (For a guy known for screaming his head off, he can pull off some BEAUTIFUL emotion!) What does is the little things. As the protagonist in the story discovers the guitar, the guitar part grows from single notes to chords, and eventually, a melody. The beginning even sounds like someone tuning a guitar! If i can find a song that has a better way of describing this kind of thing, you win something or other! After this soothing section, we get much harder as we go into the next section, "Presentation". Just like Discovery, it's all about the ideas they put into this. The song shifts between soft parts (The protagonist) and hard parts (The priests). After listening enough, It's easy to picture the guy walking up to the temple, presenting his guitar, only to be pushed away by the Priests. The transition works naturally, and part is Lee's singing. I always love it when one minute, he's doing some nice soft crooning, then the next we get "YES WE KNOOOOOOOOOOW, IT'S NOTHING NEW". The guitar solo is also some incredible shredding.
Afterwards, things calm down again, as we go into the fifth section, "Oracle: The Dream". This part of the song starts with a softer, calm part, before weird guitar noises lead us into a heavier part, supposed to represent the protagonist's dream or something. Though it's probably the weakest part of the song (Doesn't grab me as much as the other few) it is still great, (What a great song) with great vocal/guitar interplay. Plus, I really like the way Lee sings "I'VE SEEN THE HAND, OF MAN ARISE. WITH HUUUUNGRY MIND! AND OPEN EYES!
It then calms down yet again (What a crazy song! Rush really knew their mood shifts) and goes into the next section, "Soliloquy". As with before, this part starts out quiet, but turns louder near the end. But while "Oracle" was just great, this part is AWESOME. It is a slow, ballad section with a great guitar solo, a wonderful melody, and AMAZING emotional singing by Geddy Lee. This section perfectly illustrates the feeling of someone who is in despair, and doesn't feel he can carry on with life. After the protagonists "Lifeblood... Spills over..." We go into the final part of the song, Grand Finale. And BOY, is that a perfect term to describe this section! The song starts out with an upbeat (Why so upbeat? The protagonist just killed himself!) section driven by guitar, with some cool feedback noises in the background. This part is not to last, as we then go into a much more intense section, with Lifeson playing a repeating downwards scale over pounding drums. This section is wonderfully intense, and Lifeson's beyond incredible, extremely distorted lines which play over the scale are something to behold. But that's not all! The tension keeps building, and building, until the song breaks down into INSANE chaos, and I tell you, words can not describe how the very ending of this song (The part with the "ATTENTION ALL PLANETS..." voiceover) is. This section is the absolute best use of the "big rock ending" in a song, and i'm sure this is the music that plays while you're defeating the final enemy in your epic quest, with the world falling apart around you. Yes, it's THAT good. The song finally ends with a eerie, robotic voice repeating the words "ATTENTION ALL PLANETS OF THE SOLAR FEDERATION" and "WE HAVE ASSUMED CONTROL" three times each. (Amazing math bonus. 7 words X 3 is 21, 4 words times 3 is 12. 2112!)
So that's 2112, Rush's absolute greatest song ever (Most would probably give that title to "Xanadu", however). But wait, there's more! As hard as it may believe, there are *gasp!* other songs on here! The songs are more conventional rock then the monstrous title track, but while they can't compare to that masterpiece, they're good songs in their own right. "A Passage to Bangkok" is quite possibly Rush's only "drug song" with lyrics about going to various drug producing locations in the world. And it's a great drug song at that, driven by a WICKED oriental sounding riff, great singing, a nice chorus, and good soloing.
We then go into the next song, "The Twilight Zone", which has lyrics inspired by the (great) TV show of the same name. (Most people have probably seen it, but if you've somehow been living under a rock and haven't, you should, it's a stellar piece of classic sci-fi, sorry for the digression). And the song itself is good too! Geddy's singing is stellar, with a very low-key and dreamy feel in the choruses which sounds great (though the "nay nay nay nay" parts are a bit stupid), the riffing is nice, the soloing is good (Reaching some really high pitches at times!) and the whole song matches the show perfectly.
We then go into one of the few songs in the Rush catalog penned by Alex Lifeson, "Lessons". It's a nice, upbeat, laid back number with a acoustic driven melody in the verses which gets much harder (but still awesome) in the choruses. Geddy's singing is also crazy high-pitched here (NO! You didn't listen A-gain!) and the instrumental break is good. What more do you want?
We then go into Rush's first true ballad (Rivendell was also very soft and gentle, but I don't think a song about Lord of the Rings counts as a "ballad"), the Lee-penned "Tears". And while "Rivendell" was overlong and boring, "Tears" is simply BEAUTIFUL. Geddy's singing is extremely pretty, showing beautiful, soft delicacy that he rarely showed before, and it sounds breathtaking. The melody is also pretty, the mellotron strings in the chorus (Provided by Hugh Syme) add nice depth to the sound, and the chorus is nice. And there's also the harmonizing at the end... simply heavenly. Absolutely lovely.
We then go into another Lee-penned (But with Peart writing the lyrics) song, "Something For Nothing". And while "Tears" is soft and beautiful, "Something For Nothing" is pure heavy RAWK. And it's great. The bass part at the beginning is wonderful, one of the few times the bass is brought up to the forefront like this. We then go into the heavy pre-chorus section, which has a great melody, wonderfully aggressive singing by Geddy (It would be even better live!), and it leads into the nice sing-along chorus. A incredible scream by Lee leads into yet another killer guitar solo, which really rocks out loud. The rest of the song also features great melodies and riffing. A great closer to a great album.
Overall, an absolute classic album. Definitely Rush's best, and probably somewhere in the overall best as well. I can't give this anything less than a 5/5.