NEW YORK - In typically complex fashion, the title and corresponding song of the new album by the intellectual Canadian trio Rush has a dual meaning.
On the surface, the song "Test for Echo" is a snide critique of the American justice system, which often 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," singer/bassist Geddy Lee said.
"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."
The concept of the echo is especially crucial in the context of the band itself. Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart act as each other's system of checks and balances.
"I tend to be Alex's echo when it's his turn to do the guitar parts," he said. "Neil has a tendency to be my echo when it comes to bass parts. And Alex seems to be Neil's echo when it comes to him working out his drum parts and his drum sound. We all trade off producing each other."
There's a special bond between Lee and Peart, who writes all the band's lyrics.
"I have to be very connected with what he wants to say and agreeable to what he wants to say and be able to sing that sentiment with sincerity," Lee said. "Neil is an incredibly professional writer ... he's very happy to take my input as an objective editor."
The Band had separated for a year and a half after the tour supporting their last album, "Counterparts," ended. Peart put together a tribute album called "Burning for Buddy," which honored late drummer Buddy Rich. 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 found myself to be far more relaxed than I've ever been about making a record," Lee said. "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 to a certain degree.
"I was really ready to work. I was really dying to write same 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."
"For me, Rush is a very big job - it takes a lot out of me," he said. "I'm very involved in a lot of different aspects of the band, so it's very satisfying for me."
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."