(All Album Reviews by Rickenbacker)
It's almost funny to think that the year 2112 is somewhat in our sights at this point! But in 1976, 2112 was all about space travel, jetpacks for all, clean white, loose clothing & shiny silver homes under the stars! It's also the title of Rush's 4th album. 2112 is the album that the members of Rush generally regard as their 1st "real" album. Geddy Lee described the other 3 as 'groping in the dark' for their own identity as a band. This album sees the band finally leaving the shadow of Led Zeppelin behind...& moving further into the realm of British prog.
The title track is a much more polished concept that they had attempted on Caress of Steel; The side-long epic. Once again, it's divided into several suites (or movements) Seven this time. Neil Peart takes his cue in lyric from Ayn Rand's short novel "Anthem". Naturally, he puts his own sci-fi spin on it & the result is a Rush classic. It follows the story of a young man in the year 2112 who lives in a futuristic, totalitarian society. Everything is provided for them. Everything is dictated to them (by 'The Priests of the Temples of Syrinx') & the 'hero' is quite content...until he wanders off to his place of reflection (behind a waterfall) & finds a relic of the past- a guitar.
His wonder at it & his imagination begin to soar at the possibilities of this "new" machine. Unfortunately, his enthusiasm for the instrument isn't shared by the Priests, who see it as a threat to their power..... And for the 3 of you who haven't yet heard this recording, I won't give away the entire story! But I will say that you're in for 20 minutes of great prog rock served up 70s style- just the way God meant it! There have been many debates as to how exactly this story ends, & I think that's part of the beauty of this song. Listen for yourself & you be the judge...
The 2nd half consists of much shorter songs, but still showing a noticable maturity from the last 3 offerings. "A Passage To Bangkok" is a smokey, hard rock ride to the far east chock full of references to weed & more traveling on the road. They humorously play up the Asian feel with stereotypically "Oriental" notes at one point.
Neil (& I'd guess Geddy & Alex) must've been huge fans of the tv series "The Twilight Zone". Not only did they dedicate Caress of Steel to creator Rod Serling, but they went & made a song of the same title. It makes allusions to a few episodes as it goes along with a shuffle beat. Neil does a decent job of creating a hazy, dreamy picture in the lyrics.
Alex Lifeson takes a stab at lyrics in "Lessons" & I have to say, it's probably the closest thing to filler on this album. Somehow, the chorus doesn't quite flow smoothly with the music in my ears. It rocks, but I don't think that's enough to make a good song.
Geddy Lee takes a turn at solo lyric writing & I think has much more effective results with "Tears". It's a very somber tune with a looming sense of loss. It's also the 1st Rush song to feature keyboards, played by their longtime graphic designer, Hugh Syme.
Rounding out 2112 is "Something For Nothing". You'd think it being the very last song it might be filler material, but it's actually a strong, very well written hard rock song. Became a popular crowd pleaser during their mid 70s tours. The lyrics are typical Neil Peart pro-individualism; a theme he was both praised & criticized for for several years.
The overall improvement in production is evident on 2112. There's something of a *suggestion* of melancholy on this album, despite the many rocking moments. It certainly is no feel-good album. But it's still a watershed accomplishment for a band that was still on the rise at the time of release. It marked the end of Rush's 1st phase (of studio albums) & the 2nd phase was on the horizon...