In typically complex fashion, the title song of the new album by the intellectual Canadian rock trio Rush has a dual meaning. On the surface, "Test for Echo" is a snide critique of the U.S. justice system, which sometimes turns criminals into media darlings. But it's also a comment on human nature.
"It's about the numbing process that happens when we are exposed to great tragedies and then we're exposed to moments of hilarity," said singer-bassist Geddy Lee, whose band returns Tuesday to Target Center in Minneapolis. "I feel that that's the condition of contemporary man now - when we read the paper or when we watch TV, we're not sure if we're supposed to laugh."
Rush separated for a year and a half after the tour supporting its last album, "Counterparts," ended. Drummer Neil Peart put together a tribute album called "Burning for Buddy," which honored late drummer Buddy Rich. Guitarist Alex Lifeson formed the band Victor and released an album. And Lee and his wife became parents of a daughter.
When it came time to rejoin, everyone was rejuvenated, especially Lee. "I had had a great year and a half with my family, and I had been pretty well totally away from the music business, so my natural cynicism of all things connected with the music business had subsided. I was really ready to work. I was really dying to write some music. So I wasn't going to do anything to disturb that vibe. I was sitting there like a kid on the first day of camp."
Lee didn't feel, as he said, that he "needed to go out and make a great solo statement."
But Lifeson and Peart came from a different perspective.
"Neil's project was partly driven by charity - all the money was going to charity - and it was partly driven by his love of big-band music and his desire to explore that area of his drumming." Lee said. "I was very supportive of that. Alex had been dictator of the world on his project; he'd got a taste of running the entire show. It was probably more difficult for him to adjust, because he was coming from a dictatorship back into a democracy. The first couple of days, [we] were kind of circling each other a little bit - we did a lot of talking, and then everything was fine."
*When: 8 p.m. Tuesday.
*Where: Target Center, 600 1st Av. N., Minneapolis.
*Tickets: $25 and $35. 989-5151