Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December 21: Rush, "2112"

Artist: Rush
Song: "2112"
Album: 2112
Year: 1876

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In the case of nearly every band in history, there is some tangible element that can be noted as the "reason" that they found fame as musicians.  Whether it was due to a single member of the band having a talent or personality that was far beyond that of their peers, an overall sound that was drastically different than that of the time, or perhaps a skill for lyrics that were unforgettable, there must be some aspect that makes the band unique.  Yet it is when a number of these possibilities come into play simultaneously that one can find the greatest bands in history, and few, if any other bands can boast a similar claim than that which brought the band Rush to fame.  Without question, the band stands today as one of the most technically skilled and musically adventurous in history, and a large number of their songs have attained "classic" status.  Each member of the trio can be argued as the finest of their generation on their particular instrument, and it is often the non-traditional time signatures in which the band plays that makes their songs so distinctive.  Though they had already released a few albums by 1976, it was their effort that year that forever changed the face of music.  Bringing together their love for science fiction and their extraordinary musical talents, there is simply no other recording in history that can even hold a candle to the title track from Rush's 1976 album, 2112.

When it comes to the idea of "epic" songs, there are none int he same category as the entire "2112" saga, as it is largely seen as separated into seven different movements.  It is within these parts that the entire musical range of the band is evident, as they vary from distorted hard-rock passages to spacey musical explorations and interludes to slow, melodic moments of reflection.  Even when the band is buried in a deep instrumental passage, such as during the opening four and a half minutes, the amount of emotion that comes through in the music is nothing short of stunning.  This is largely due to the exceptional talents of guitarist Alex Lifeson, and it is his work here that stands as all the evidence he needs to make his case as one of the greatest guitarists in history.  The way in which he plays off of the often breathtaking drum work of Neil Peart is the main reason why Rush's overall success was unavoidable.  After just a brief listen to any point of the song, it is instantly clear why Peart is held in such high regard, as his fills and the manner with which he uses the entire drum kit is beyond that of almost any other drummer in history, and it is why he stands as such a legend to this day.  Rounding out the musical side of the band is the bass of Geddy Lee, and the fact that the trio is able to deploy more volume and talent that bands twice their size is perhaps the "secret" behind Rush.  Throughout "2112," the band is in top form, and the music is as important to the overall "story" as the lyrics, as the music often conveys more emotion that any other part of the song.

Though his work as a bassist cannot be overlooked, one would be hard pressed to find a singer with a more instantly recognizable voice than Geddy Lee.  While many try to simply write it off as little more than high pitched, there is a sound and emotion within his lyrics that go far beyond such a description.  Truth be told, there is no accurate way of describing Lee's voice that can do it justice, and it is during "2112's" third part, "Discovery," that one can can experience the completely mesmerizing sound that he brings in its most raw and clear form when compared to the rest of the bands' catalog.  Whether it is a more reflective moment such as this or the unrestrained near-shout that precedes it, Lee's voice seems to know no limit in terms of range or emotion, and it is this ability that adds even more depth to the bands' music.  As if his vocals were not enough to bring in the listener, the overall saga that is "2112" stands today as one of the most complete and unforgettable musical tales ever recorded.  Set during what turns out to be a futuristic uprising, it represents the most ideal blend of music and science fiction ever recorded, and yet that the same time, the level of "rock majesty" cannot be denied.  From the simple thought of "...listen to my music, hear what it can do..." to the far darker, almost Orwellian words during the "Temples Of Syrinx" movement, the limitless feel of the mood and words perfectly reflects Lee's boundless vocal talents.

Though it is often lost in the sheer length of the song, musically, "2112" was nothing short of revolutionary in its own right, as it is here that Rush finally brought the sound they'd been working on to brilliant fruition.  While their first two albums boasted songs that were either hard rock OR progressive rock in nature, throughout "2112," the band blends the two together in an unprecedented fashion.  Their clear disregard for all musical norms at that point in history are what makes "2112" even more of an achievement, and one can trace the sounds of bands ranging from Primus to aspects of The U.K. Subs to nearly every band from the 1980's metal movement back to Rush's work on this album.  The fact that the entire "2112" saga remains just as fresh and exciting today as it did more than thirty years ago is perhaps the final piece that sets the band in the most elite group of musicians in history, and cements their individual places as legends on their respective instruments.  "2112" brings with it an ebb and flow unlike any other song ever recorded, and it is this musical movement that keeps the listener completely mesmerized throughout the entire twenty-plus minute run of the song.  From the wild sound effects to the breathtaking instrumental passages to the completely captivating story-line, there no other song that has ever been recorded that brings the same combination of exceptional musicianship and original sound and lyrics that one can find in Rush's 1976 epic, "2112."