Tuesday, November 6, 2007

2112 (1976)

Occasionally I wonder why I am keeping this blog since there are so many places to read album reviews already and especially when most of the albums have been around longer than I have. I mean, I wasn't even born when Rush's 2112 was released in 1976. After wondering this question recently, I decided that what I am most interested in writing about on this blog are all the things about certain albums and musicians that most people don't know about. Quirky things, you know? Well, I think I have found some good stuff this time.

The thing about Rush's 2112 for me is that I never really listened to it until just recently. Although I generally love prog rock and certainly appreciate Rush's talented lineup and music, I have really only listened to a small sample of their music over the years. 2112 was the Canadian prog-rockers fourth studio recorded album. It's original release on vinyl featured the eponymous 7-part suite on one side and the rest of the album's non-thematically related cuts on the other side. Given that the majority of this album is a concept piece and a core classic one at that, I am amazed that I have overlooked it for so long. What really shocks me though is that the concept of "2112" is about a dystopian society, which is a genre of fiction that I most enjoy reading. Hearing this album was a good reminder for me that there is always going to be something that I will come across and be unexpectedly enthused about.

First off, the songs on this album that are not part of the "2112" suite are not particularly noteworthy with the exception of the last track "Something For Nothing." In fact, you might want to avoid them if you are not already a Rush fan. Interestingly with "Something For Nothing", drummer and lyricist, Neil Peart saw some graffiti on the wall while driving to a show in LA that said, "freedom isn't free," which inspired his lyrics for this album's closer. This song is a fine example of what should be expected lyrically and instrumentally from this trio.

That said, let's get on to the heart of this album, "2112". Clocking in at 20:37, "2112" was inspired by Ayn Rand's novella Anthem. The seven part story of "2112" tells of a man, Anonymous, whose life is controlled by the Priests of the Temple of Syrinx. We begin with an overture depicting a planetary war resulting in the ultimate galactic rule by the Federation. The second movement sets the stage for us, complete with some serious drumming by one of the greats, Neil Peart. We learn that the Federation's Priests dictate what people read, hear, and watch all in the name of the Red Star of the Federation. If you pay attention to how bassist and vocalist, Geddy Lee, sings this song, you will notice that he tells the story using his two different singing "voices". Lee can sing in an interesting, high-pitched, screechy voice that he uses to represent the voices of the Priest of the Temple of Syrinx. His other "softer" voice tells the story of the protagonist. Knowing that Lee uses these two voices to represent different tellers characters in this tale makes it easier to understand the story as it is told over the course of this song. Many a would-be fan of Rush has been turned away by Geddy Lee's unique vocal styles. Hence, Rush is one of those bands where people either become fans or decidedly not fans at all. In the third movement, our protagonist discovers an "ancient miracle" in a cave behind a waterfall. (Notice the guitar tuning and the bubbling watery sounds at the beginning of this part?) The "miracle's" strings vibrate and create beautiful sounds when strummed. Enthused by this strange device, he decides to bring this guitar to the Priests so that he can show them what new beautiful music can be made and share it with all the people. In part four, the Priest's respond to our protagonist's guitar solo in Peart's lyrics:

"Yes, we know it's nothing new
It's just a waste of time
We have no need for ancient ways
The world is doing fine

Another toy will help destroy
The elder race of man
Forget about your silly whim
It doesn't fit the plan


Don't annoy us further
We have our work to do
Just think about the average
What use have they for you?

Another toy will help destroy
The elder race of man
Forget about your silly whim
It doesn't fit the plan"

Guitar now smashed, our downtrodden protagonist begins to realize the extent of the wonders lost by the Federation's rule. In part five, Anonymous falls into a dream wherein he visits with an oracle who shows him the land of the elders and foretells of the them returning to defeat the Federation and crush its Temples. Upon waking from his vision, our protagonist can no longer stand life and kills himself in hopes that he might be transported to the place he visited with the oracle. Not to fret though because the final part of "2112" brings the repeating message: "Attention all planets of the solar federation...We have assumed control." (And there was much rejoicing).

Alas, that is not even the best part. While perusing the Internet, I found a site dedicated to the synchronization of "2112" with the original Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, much like the synchronization of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon with The Wizard of Oz. It is definitely interesting and have since watched it three times. I have included a link below to the clip from the movie that has "2112" synchronized already, but it is difficult to get an impression of this peculiar synchrony because the soundtrack from the movie overlaps "2112". My suggestion: download the "2112" file at the bottom of this entry, cue up the clip provided as per the instructions found here, and see for yourself.

My favorite parts are when Wonka is shaking hands and especially when Mike Teevee points his toy gun at Wonka. Notice what's going on when Lee says, "...and the meek shall inherit the Earth". One last note and then I will let you discover the rest on your own: make sure to turn the sound up on the videoclip when Wonka goes to play the little keyboard to unlock the door to his factory--this happens right at a movement change in the suite. Oh oh, ok last note: notice the sounds of the waterfall mentioned earlier in the third movement. That's it, see/hear for yourself. Once you have checked it out, look here.

Rush - 2112


nick said...

I didn't know that about Ayn Rand. when I was listening to this record I hadn't read any of her stuff, that totally makes sense though. god i hate her.

Chris fo Sheezy said...

Wow that's win. I'm definately gonna have to check that one out ;)