RUSH – 2112 (2012 Universal CD/Blu-ray 5.1 deluxe edition)
I received this deluxe CD/Blu-ray edition of Rush’s immortal 2112 for Christmas two years ago. I meant to review it back then, but it slipped between the cracks. Apologies.
The set includes: the entire album on Blu-ray in 5.1 surround sound, the entire album on CD, three live CD-only bonus tracks, hardcover packaging including a comic book, a new essay by David Fricke, and more. Not to mention that the Blu-ray is a motion comic that combines the album with the included comic, seamlessly.
2112 was Rush’s fourth album. It was make or break for Rush, and they went ahead and made an album with six songs, one of them being a side-long 20 minute epic! That side would go on to be Rush’s best known epic, “2112”, which itself is subdivided into seven chapters (but not tracks).
Any truly epic album should open with an instrumental, and “Overture” is one of the best you’re likely to find north of the 49th parallel. This regal anthem of guitars, bass and drums quickly leaps into action as an Iron Maiden gallop, long before Iron Maiden did gallop. In this one brief intro, there are as many as four great timeless riffs. It’s guitar riff nirvana. All these musical themes will re-emerge later on in the “2112” story, but here they are condensed into one maelstrom of awesome.
The story is pretty simple, and is also nicely laid forth in the comic. Our protagonist, who lives in the oppressive Solar Federation, has found an ancient guitar in a cave behind a waterfall. He brings it to the Priests (of the Temples of Syrinx), to show them this wonderful discovery and the sounds it brings forth. He is crushed to find that the Priests do not approve of this “music”!
Pretty highschool, right? Maybe, but certainly no worse than what passes for Hollywood fodder today!
“The Temples of Syrinx” is chapter II of the story. This is a ferocious metal assault, with Geddy in full-on scream mode, introducing the titular Priests. They are the law, on this planet. In my opinion, this is one of Rush’s finest musical achievements. It’s heavy, concise and blazing fast. In surround sound, I will admit I was expecting more. The music fills the room in 5.1, but it’s not as enveloping as I had hoped. It’s hard to specifically describe what’s missing. Whatever it is, chapter III “Discovery” works better. This takes place in the cave behind the aforementioned waterfall, and the water sounds have some depth to them.
“Presentation”, chapter IV, is when it all goes to shit for our protagonist. It is here that he brings his newly discovered guitar to the Priests. The motion comic makes it quite clear that the Priests do not approve! “Yes we know, it’s nothing new. It’s just a waste of time!” The hero pleads with them, and tries to convince them that the world could use the music as a positive force! But the Priest smashes the guitar on the ground and has no more to do with this nonsense. “Another toy that helped destroy the elder race of man!” he claims of the guitar’s history.
“Oracle: the Dream” is chapter V, a mellow moment at first. Then the character’s dream begins, and Geddy returns in full voice. He dreams of change. Alex’s guitars have a nice shimmer, as they fill the field directly in front and to the sides. Waking from his dream, chapter VI is “Soliloquy”. Like “The Dream”, guitars dominate. Geddy’s pleading lead vocal is an album highlight, as is Lifeson’s Sabbath-y guitar solo. It all ends in chapter VII: “Grand Finale”. In a nice twist to the motion comic, Geddy Neil and Alex appear as characters from the invading and returned elder race of man! The era of dominance of the Priests is over, as is side one.
“ATTENTION ALL PLANETS OF THE SOLAR FEDERATION! WE HAVE ASSUMED CONTROL.”
The motion comic does not end here. Each song from side two of 2112 receives its own panels, and the band appear in each one — a very cool touch that I did not expect. “A Passage to Bangkok” was the lead track from side two. This crushing anthem with an Oriental feel is one of Rush’s few drug songs. In fact it’s the only one I can think of right now. “Sweet Jamaican pipe dreams, golden Acapulco nights…” Rush somehow had a way of making this all sound classy and cultured, and perhaps from their perspective it was. In the comic appearance, the Professor has his nose buried in a book on a train, as he often did. Once again I’m underwhelmed by the 5.1 mix. I want to feel enveloped by the music, but I don’t get that as much as I’d like. I do hear more of Geddy’s bass, and that’s never a bad thing. I’m noticing licks I never picked up on before.
“The Twilight Zone” is a different song for Rush, as it has a slower sway to it. Lyrically, I can identify several of the old Twilight Zone episodes that Geddy is singing about. Can you? I don’t think this will top anybody’s charts of Rush’s best lyrics, but it’s goofy fun and sometimes that’s enough. A Zeppelin flavour inhabits “Lessons” which has the acoustic-electric mix that Zep mastered. Likewise, the backing mellotron in “Tears” reminds me of John Paul Jones. This is a mournful slow song, not at all what many people expect from Rush.
“Something for Nothing” ends the album on a solid hard rock note. Thematically, it is full circle, as the character in this song also seeks answers in life. Rush close the album on a furiously jamming note, ending with a song that has all the Rush trademarks rolled into one short ride. If the last couple songs just didn’t have enough juice, then “Something for Nothing” ends it right. Side 2 of 2112 isn’t perfect, it has its ups and downs, but this is an “up”.
The vintage live CD bonus tracks are all unreleased. They include the first two parts of “2112”, and “A Passage to Bangkok”. Geddy coyly says that this song “deals with foreign matter”. I’ve no doubt! Incidentally I’m of the belief that “Bangkok” is better live than on album. Having said that, the Exit…Stage Left version remains definitive. Blu-ray bonus features include a goofy photo gallery of blow-dried haircuts, kimono, mustaches and concert shots. Looking at these photos, I’m reminded that Rush were for all intents and purposes, just kids when they created 2112. With that in mind, it’s pretty impressive.
As for this reissue, I’m not very blown away by the forgettable 5.1 mix. Too bad. It’s a blown opportunity. On the other hand, I very much enjoyed the included comic. I think it’s excellent, and geared straight to Rush fans. So:
For the album: 4.5/5 stars
For the reissue: 3.5/5 stars
Average rating: 4/5 stars