. . .
Sorry, but if you know me at all, you’d know that there was literally no way I could resist doing “2112” as the 2112st Certain Song post. Especially since we’re only a month or so from Rush, anyways.
So let me start with this: right now, there is at least one kid in the world who will get to listen to “2112” in the year 2112. Mind. Blown.
Which seemed inconceivable when “2112” first came into my life in the mid-1970s. I mean, 2012 was forever away, for fuck’s sake. All I know for sure is that I heard “2112” at the tale end of my prog phase, and while it didn’t blow me completely away, I really did like how Rush’s prog was full of hard rock guitars, and some crazy-ass drumming.
So wait. Let’s talk about Rush for a second. There are going to be Rush fanatics who read this — and the other posts in a month or so — and think that I was insufficiently appreciative of their amazing glory. And, of course, there are going to be the haters who can’t believe that I would write about Rush at all. So here’s where I’m coming from: I liked Rush a lot in the late 1970s, and even after I got into punk rock, I thought their singles were pretty great right up through “New World Man.”
After that though, they got dodgy for me, and I ignored them — outside of when I came across those singles, of course — until this last decade. At that point, I would occasionally stick a Rush album that I’d totally missed into the mix, and sometimes I enjoyed it and sometimes I didn’t. What I ended up liking about them was how they stuck to their guns and remained a self-contained unit: there was an integrity there that seemed to come from a bunch of guys who liked each other and liked the music they made when they got together. And the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve come to appreciate that.
That said, there’s a lot of silliness in their music, and I’ve always thought that the whole conception of “2112” was the epitome of that silliness. It’s the future, and there’s a Solar Federation which is run by some religious cult, and music has been outlawed and all musical instruments, and then a guy finds a guitar and changes everything with his awesome shredding, which summons a rescue by even more powerful beings, whom I can only assume will institute awesome concerts and dance parties in 2113.
I might not have this right.
And more importantly, I don’t really care if I have it right. For the most part, when it comes to songs that take up a full album side — like “Supper’s Ready” or “Think As a Brick” — I’m always less interested in the story than how the segments fit together musically.
And while I do find myself drifting in the middle of “2112,” Rush is smart enough to open it with one of the greatest hard rock and one of the greatest prog rock instrumentals ever recorded. The Overture from “2112” is an absolute masterpiece, from its opening synth squeal through the peak-a-boo opening chord sequence — check how Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee and Neal Peart are in complete synch throughout, no matter what they’re doing — the galloping mid-section and the final swirling solo.
Every single note is in place, and while all three members are showing their virtuosity, it never feels like there’s even a note out of place, especially during the slower bluesy solo. It’s such a great start that even when Geddy Lee starts singing in character as a conclave of evil priests and later as the guy who found the guitar, they pale somewhat in comparison. I mean, if you’re not invested in the story, I guess.
And “2112” also ends strongly: with a terrifying alien invasion, which is no doubt going to completely upend the lives of not just the evil priests, but also all of the regular schmucks who are just living their lives blissfully ignorant of music or fun, and probably freaked the fuck out when spaceships showed up and massively announced “ATTENTION ALL PLANETS OF THE SOLAR FEDERATION, WE HAVE ASSUMED CONTROL.” But given that it comes at the end of some great hard rock riffing from Lifeson, it also sounds really really cool. I mean, if you’re not being invaded, of course.
It seems weird to think about now, but 2112 the album was hardly the commercial breakthrough you might think it was: when it came out it, it only made it to #61 on the Billboard charts, but it — and constant touring — turned Rush into a cult band, at the very least, and all these years later, it’s their second-best selling album, after Moving Pictures, of course, as generations of kids continue to discover it.
“2112” Official Music Video (yes, really)
“2112” Live in New Jersey, 1976
“2112” Live in 1997
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