RUSH - 2112 - ANTHEM
2112 was released by Canada’s progressive hard rock icons in 1976 and has not been matched since. An album like this could have only emanated from the Toronto-based power trio, in the '70s and after the digestion of a lot of philosophy, namely Ayn Rand and her Anthem novella.
The album’s cover alternately depicts a naked man facing a pentacle or the pentacle hovering alone in space. The band itself is dressed in retro-futuristic garb and could be the representation of the priesthood it will shortly condemn on the album. With the senses finely attuned and the man’s nakedness representing purity and vulnerability the album’s artwork emphasizes the individuality of music, freedom and creativity juxtaposed against authority, society and a contempt for the arts. The red star is clearly infernal and organized, while the lone man stands before a greater power, if not force. The original side-A, called 2112, is a 20-minute rock opus condemning the evils of oppression through the story of a man of the future stumbling upon a guitar and consequently music.
Ushering the story is the instrumental Overture’s futuristic synthesizer effects. Then come the blasting and rumbling drums and guitars, which rollick through progressive metal and hard rock before ending with a quotation from the Bible. The band really hits its stride with The Temples Of Syrinx where singer Geddy Lee screeches an angry and powerful narrative. The music is incredibly strong. The bass-lines are a tour-de-force of runs, changes and sounds. Discovery is slower and features tentative strums as the unsullied man learns to handle his newly discovered musical instrument. By the time the priests vent their anger at their shocked subject it is clear that Rush has created a timeless piece of art that rises above what even Ayn Rand could have imagined. Think of this as 1984 put to stormy rock music. Grand Finale features the voice of the band’s lyricist drummer Neil Peart. The story and the music on 2112 are both timeless and timely.
Side two begins with what might arguably be the band’s finest work ever. A Passage To Bangkok is the ultimate fusion of catchiness and hard rock craftsmanship. The travelogue sung by Lee, strummed by Alex Lifeson and drummed by Peart can both be heard and imagined as the song progresses. The rest of the album does not quite reach the same height as what preceded, but by now the damage is done and the world of music has a higher bar to attain to stay relevant. Lessons, in particular, is simpler and even radio-friendly to some extent. Having said that, the album ends with Something For Nothing and a torrent of soloing and screaming metal.
2112 is a whirlwind journey through time, earth and space and quite possibly immortalizes Rush at its peak. The album’s strength is even further amplified remembering the dominance of disco and New Wave punk circa 1976. To discover 2112 may take months, but it is a ride as amazing and relevant today as it were upon launch. - Ali “The Metallian”
RUSH - PERMANENT WAVES - ANTHEM
Permanent Waves is the entry to and epitome of Rush’s third phase. While the band’s debut, simply called Rush, featured a drummer other than Neil Peart and most of the '70s was spent producing spectacularly astounding epic hard rock opuses, the advent of the '80s ushered a new age for the Canadian trio. Permanent Waves signalled a new era marked by shorter songs, shorter hair, use of synthesizer prominently and a more condensed sound less in tune with the epic or the spacey, but more determined than ever to address social malaise to a wider audience. Permanent Waves sits next to 2112 as one of the band’s must-have albums. The album is relatively short, given an approximate length of 35 minutes, but finds space to include a nine-minute long piece called Natural Science. The album’s infectious melodies, astounding musicianship, articulate lyrical stance and topics and sheer intelligence render it the ultimate progressive rock album.
Permanent Waves’ first song is the ever popular hit The Spirit Of Radio, a name the band had borrowed from Toronto radio station CFNY. The song begins with a wobbly guitar rhythm that will propel it to becoming a solid classic. The power trio is in very fine form and clearly confident in its abilities. The band does not hesitate in using a reggae rhythm four minutes in followed by a fake live audience sample and a boogie-esque piano piece. A drum roll ends the song but not before the band adds its voice to the general disdain for materialism and annoyances created by “salesmen”. The chugging bass guitar presence of Geddy Lee and the noisy lead parts on The Spirit Of Radio are also hallmarks of the album.
Freewill is again intelligent, a staple and serious. The vocals of Geddy Lee will barely get more forceful or better than on the song. The music could be described as pompous, but the tracks comes across as deep nonetheless. Coincidentally, the lyrics are not dissimilar to another progressive song, Yes’ Owner Of A Lonely Heart and the line, “Give your free will a chance
You’ve got to want to succeed”.
If a guitar riff can be personified as thoughtful and reflective then it surely is the one on Jacob’s Ladder. The guitars are back and forth and back and forth again on the track and the chugging bass runs add to the wailing and screeching six-stringer. The song though is not what is traditionally known as loud, but there certainly are a couple of hard beats and heavy drums the song amidst the synthesized core of the track.
Entre Nous could be a love song, or it could be a metaphor. The song’s catchiness belies Rush’s progressive and advanced song writing talent. The breathless vocalizing and the fantastic drumming are second to none. What a song!
Different Strings is up next and is relatively quiet. The track might have been designed by the power trio to offer a dream-like quality and, at less than four minutes, set up the album’s finale, Natural Silence. The song, before we move on, is the rare instance of lyrics, which are written by Geddy Lee.
As mentioned, Rush serves up a lesson in Natural Silence next. At over nine minutes, the song has it all including three waves or segments. It begins with strings and a wistful sequence that reminds one of 2112. It veers and meanders, is up and down and is certainly played with care, craft and creativity. The rare vocal and drum interaction is incredible and worth the price for the album alone. When Geddy screams about “The most endangered species/ the honest man” one notes that he has not let the materialist salesman off the hook.
Permanent Waves features a serene and unaffected young girl strolling amidst natural and unnatural chaos and that is what this album reflects. Musically, it is hard and it is so soft, lyrically it is serene and is angry and it showcases Rush (once again) forging its own path amidst a scene that inevitably follows trends and patterns. - Ali “The Metallian”