Rush Review – The 70’s: “2112”

Author’s note: This article originally appeared on another website I write for, That Hashtag Show, on January 17th, 2020.

After Caress of Steel met with mixed critical review and mediocre fan reaction, the record label begged the rocking trio from Toronto to abandon the idea of another musical concept album. Undaunted, our heroes plunged on and released an album that other concept albums are now measured by… 2112.

Cover art for

“We don’t want to change what people think about rock & roll, we just want to show them what we think about it.”

Alex Lifeson on 2112 from an interview in 1976
Rush on stage

The Billboard 200 climb only made it to #94, however, album sales told a whole different story. 2112 was certified Gold status in 1977—only a year-and-a-half after release. Four years later, it hit platinum and continued to the summit of Three-times Platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America. Rush found their first major commercial success here.

“We’ve got a big future ahead of us.”

Geddy Lee, 1976

2112 – Track 1: 2112

The 7-part opening track tells the story of life under the rule of The Red Star of the Solar Federation. The basis is, by the year 2112, apocalyptic events have occurred that leaves humanity under the thumb of The Priests of the Temple of Syrinx. They control everything this era of mankind does. Part I. Overture and II. The Temples of Syrinx are head-banging rockers that set the stage.

2112, part IV: Presentation
2112, part IV: Presentation

The best part of this whole epic comes at 6:48 in III. Discovery and IV. Presentation. Anyone who has ever learned to play guitar from rock bottom can relate to every part of this song, and Lee’s vocals here tell the amazing story of a priest who found a guitar, reveled in its beautiful sound, and tried to introduce music back into the world. Opposition comes from the Temple leadership, but that won’t stop our heroic priest. The face-melting bass and guitar solo at the end are some of the best of Rush.

The closing pieces of the movement round out what I consider being the best prog rock piece ever written. At the end of twenty minutes and thirty-three seconds, if you are a true fan of rock-and-roll, you’ll be grinning from ear to ear. Bring on the spaceships.

2112 – Track 2: A Passage to Bangkok

You don’t have to get high to enjoy Rush. I never smoked, but this song grew on me like it was under a grow light. It has a good sound, but it’s also a little goofy. The addition of the cheesy “Kung Fu” riff, while meant to be humorous, distracts from a solid guitar piece. The solo at the 2-minute mark is quite redeeming, however.

Lee and Peart always get a lot of Rush’s limelight, but Lifeson is definitely the meat in this taco. The comment that wins the internet comes from a YouTube viewer that said of this tune, “When Rush does a weed song, it takes the form of a lesson in agricultural geography.” Touche, my friend… touche.

2112 – Track 3: The Twilight Zone

Take a trip to the surreal in this tune that follows a couple famous Twilight Zone episodes with the lyrics, and was written and recorded in one day. It was the first single released from the album. While the tune is catchy, in my opinion, it’s the least of the songs on this album. Rod Serling gets his second album credit from Rush on this one, and even Marvel comics got in on the action. In 1977, The Defenders dedicated their 45th issue to each member of the band. In it, the antagonist Red Rajah (who is really a mind-controlled Dr. Strange) says: “Truth is false and logic lost, consult the Raja at all cost.”

This issue was dedicated to Rush, who later arranged to meet writers David Kraft and Roger Slifer at a show. The Red Rajah and his plot echo elements of 2112, with its Red Star Federation and emphasis on the individual struggling against an oppressive collective.

2112 – Track 4: Lessons

Lessons has one of the best overall complete beats on this album. You can’t help but bob your head to this Zeppelin-sounding track about teen angst. Alex Lifeson’s introduction to show business was in a documentary showing him arguing with his parents about quitting school to become a professional guitarist. You can’t help but wonder if this wasn’t written with a strong lean towards that experience. His guitar work on this short song is superb, and the fact that Lifeson penned the lyrics here lends to that theory.

2112 – Track 5: Tears

Rush didn’t do many love songs, but Tears would fall into that category, or perhaps a “love-lost” song. The genius of the lyrics here is we can translate them either way. There’s no burning guitar riffs or blazing drum work here, just a harmonious blend of Lee’s voice and Mellotron work, with Lifeson’s weeping guitar and Peart’s gentle taps and cymbals. Fans have used this for wedding marches, break-up songs, celebration of newfound love, or lament of missed romantic opportunities. You don’t have to be a mega-fan to appreciate the beauty of this tune.

2112 – Track 6: Something for Nothing

The album closes with this rocker, finishing up your journey on 2112 with classic Rush sound: Ripping guitar work, intricate bass licks, and walloping drums. The idea for this tune came from graffiti Peart saw from the tour bus in downtown Los Angeles that said, “Freedom isn’t free.”

“All those paeans to American restlessness and the American road carried a tinge of wistfulness, an acknowledgment of the hardships of the vagrant life, the notion that wanderlust could be involuntary, exile as much as freedom, and indeed, the understanding that freedom wasn’t free.”

Neil Peart

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best)…

Lifeson and Lee with their stacked guitars

I give 2112 a 9.5 out of 10. It’s not their penultimate album, but it’s one of their top-three of all time. Fans have voted more than once claiming 2112 is the definitive Rush album, but I believe that title belongs to a different one we’ll review later. This album is also the origin of the Star Man logo that would show up in artwork on later cuts. Peart describes the art in an interview with Creem Magazine:

“All he (the naked man) means is the abstract man against the masses. The red star symbolizes any collectivist mentality.”

Neil Peart
The Star Man

Another first on this album is the addition of musician Hugh Syme, who helps out with keyboards on Tears, and who would also design several other Rush album covers. He had something to say about the Star Man as well:

“The man is the hero of the story. That he is nude is just a classic tradition… the pureness of his person and creativity without the trappings of other elements such as clothing. The red star is the evil red star of the Federation, which was one of Neil’s symbols. We based that (album) cover around the red star and that hero.”

Hugh Syme

In summary, 2112 is on the 1001 Albums You Need to Hear Before You Die list, and deservedly so. It is a musical triumph that solidified Rush as a super-group in the prog rock universe and launched them on a 40-year odyssey where we all got to ride along.

What’s next in the Rush Review?

Check back later this week for a two-album review of A Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres! And if you missed it, check out the review for Caress of Steel here.

In memory of Neil Peart: 1952-2020

Sourced from: www.rush.com

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