Whenever someone tells me why they hate Rush, they sound like they're describing 2112.
There's the 20+ minute suites, Geddy Lee's helium squeal, Neal Peart's Ayn Rand-inspired lyrics, Alex Lifeson's drawn-out solos...and we're not even done with the first song on the album.
Rush tends to bring out the worst tendencies in music elitists. Most music critics have a more thorough grasp on writing than music, thus they attack Rush's music on the basis of their pompous lyrics. If Leonard Cohen penned these stanzas, I'm sure that Rolling Stone would find a way to enjoy the music.
Personally, I've also wondered if rock critics are trying to distance themselves from Rush fans, who form the nerdiest and most male-dominated base in all of music. But the nerds are right, and the music here is spectacular.
2112 is an almost comically epic concept album that never takes itself as seriously as its detractors would like it to. Rush never claim to have any answers, they just sound like earnest, sci-fi loving music theory students turning in a thesis. The amazing part is that 2112 stretches prog-rock's sensibilities further than any band before and still rocks, throwing headbanger-friendly measures and Peart's boundless fills into perfectly-structured, unpredictable and yes, catchy compositions. The friendly bounce of "Lessons" could rest on a prime Led Zeppelin album, and the rhythm-driven melodies on "A Passage to Bangkok," "Something for Nothing" and the title track are required listening for anyone with an interest in rock n' roll.
The fact that 2112 inspired so many second-rate imitators only underscores Rush's greatness. Prog-rock concept albums are difficult by definition, but making one as irresistible as 2112 is almost unfathomable. I can't imagine what the year 2112 will be like, but it's a safe bet that rock bands will still be struggling to catch up to Rush.