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2112
Rush

Mercury 1079
Released: March 1976
Chart Peak: #61
Weeks Charted: 34
Certified Platinum: 2/25/81

Alex LifesonNeil PeartGeddy LeeThis is Rush's first successful stab at a concept album. Like many of Rush's albums during the '70s, this one deals with a futuristic scenario where an individual triumphs over an impersonalized high-tech society. * * * *

- Rick Clark, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

2112 houses the sidelong title suite. * * *

- Gary Graff, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

Waving in the metaphysical Rush, side one of the only sci-fi opera put to vinyl is devoted to the title track, a blissfully overblown 25-minute opus, inspired by Ayn Rand's novels, in which great literature and great rock collide. Fueled by Geddy Lee's howls, this conceptual album takes you to other planets and into oblivion. It was thinking man's metal -- or so we thought in 1976. * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

The ambitious 2112 was a milestone in Rush's career, a make-or-break album for the Canadian power trio sometimes dubbed as "the biggest cult band in the world." With this release, the band drastically decided to go ahead with their own thing, no matter what.

Rush nearly folded after Fly By Night and Caress Of Steel (both 1975), which were poorly received. In the aftermath, drummer/lyricist Neal Peart became deeply affected by the libertarian writings of Ayn Rand. Her philosophy, which emphasizes that the individual should follow his own path, provided the story for the album's epic title track -- a 20-minute composition broken down in seven segments. This track tells the tale of a man who leads a revolution through music after rejecting the Priests of Syrinx, a story that mirrored the band's own frustration with the music business.

Rush's trademark sound -- prog-meets-heavy rock -- comes fully into its own on this record and the magnificent title track has stood the test of time well -- a meticulously assembled opus that utilizes classical compositional technique to great effect. Of the other tracks, hard rockers like "A Passage To Bangkok" and "Something For Nothing" are now established classics.

The album was well received by fans at the time, though critics dismissed it as overblown and pretentious. Not that the band cared: since 2112, they have singlemindedly followed their own path, amassing hordes of devoted fans and staying firmly -- and happily -- below the critical radar.

- Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

(2012 Deluxe Edition) Rush have always been one of rock's all-time great argument starters. Anywhere North American males gather, it's possible to ignite a fierce debate just by name-dropping these Canadian prog sages. You can quibble over Geddy Lee's voice or Alex Lifeson's guitar chops. You can dissect how drummer-librettist Neil Peart's philosophy has changed over the years. You can question the way they malign wolves in the "Dionysus: Bringer of Love" section of "Cygnus X-I: Book II" from Hemispheres.




Further reading on
Super Seventies RockSite!:

Album Review:
Hemispheres

DVD Review:
Beyond the Lighted Stage

2009 Geddy Lee Interview

Rush Lyrics

Rush Videos

But most of all, you can always start an argument over 2112, the 1976 rock opera that made them stars. Rush made more-popular records, but 2112 -- newly issued in expanded form -- is their most extreme, grandiose and Rush-like record, and thus their greatest record -- the definitive 20 minutes and 34 seconds of the Rush worldview (plus five extra songs on Side Two, which nobody has even played twice).

It might have made sense to reissue 2112 a year ago, so everyone could drunkenly download it on New Year's Eve. But that would have been obvious and predictable, which isn't Rush's style. That's why on their 2012 tour, with their popularity at an all-time peak, they chose to highlight their Eighties synth-pop phase, which Rush fans regard the way Zeppelin fans regard Jimmy Page's Death Wish II soundtrack. Rush like to keep people mystified.

The deluxe version of 2112 features remastered music (although, philosophically speaking, not mastered at all). It adds three live tracks and a digital comic-book version of the story, which goes like this: In the futuristic society of Megadon, where music is outlawed, a kid finds an old guitar. He figures out how to play it, which makes him a criminal to the evil priests from the Temples of Syrinx. Can his innocent strums revive the ancient spirit of music? Can he escape the tyranny of the elders? Will they let him rock? (Spoiler alert: Noooo!)

Although Peart was still in his long-since-abandoned Ayn Rand phase, 2112 has really nothing to do with the New York speed-freak author. Instead, it has an authentically grubby dork compassion. 2112 doesn't try to emulate the lame upscale respectability of other rock operas. The abrasively distinctive sonics, from Peart's busy tempo shifts to Lee's squawk of doom, keep it from ever fading into the background. Nobody will ever turn it into a Broadway show.

It's built to be played loud on headphones, late at night, all alone, staring at the wall and wondering when your life is going to stop feeling like imprisonment in the towers of Megadon. What are Rush but a three-headed "It Gets Better" statement for generations of messed-up adolescents, dreaming of a better world but unwilling to give up on this one?

So what will people argue about now that Rush have been voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Don't worry -- Rush fans can just move on to debating why their heroes are deprived of knighthoods or the Nobel Prize in economics. Rush fans love to argue. And Rush obviously like it that way. * * * *

- Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone, 1/17/13.

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