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IQ - Tales From The Lush Attic CD (album) cover

TALES FROM THE LUSH ATTIC

IQ

 

Neo-Prog

3.83 | 317 ratings

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4 stars If you're new to Neo, not a bad place to start

IQ were the band that got the whole neo-prog "movement" into trouble; The most constant criticism levelled at neo-prog is that it can be perceived as a re-hash of "old school" prog - particularly Genesis. And nowhere is that more apparent than in this album, "Tales From the Lush Attic", as the majority of the textures, rhytmic features, song constructions, vocal style and even lyrics are almost pure Gabriel-era Genesis.

However, it would be very unfair to dismiss IQ (or any other neo-prog band) as mere Genesis clones, as IQ went on to greater things, and there is also much in "Tales..." that is experimental and original - even if it doesn't all work.

"The Last Human Gateway" begins with a simple, if uninspired flute motif combined nicely with guitar harmonics and gentle keyboard pads. Nicholls lyrics and vocal style are set firmly with Gabriel - which sets up my expectations for this piece to pan out along the lines of "Supper's Ready". There is none of the improvised feel of the latter, however - this first section is in almost pure basic song structure. At around 2:30, a very 1980's sounding keyboard provides a somewhat intrusive ostinato - but this does shatter the illusion of the Genesis expectations aroused earlier. The drums enter around 3:00, but this is not Collins, and the 16ths sound busy and somewhat hurried. At 4:15 there is a return to the Genesis sound - but more in the symphonic vein, with a big guitar sound and a short solo worthy of Hackett himself. There are changes a- plenty in this 20-minute epic, and covering them all would quickly get tedious; Highlights include lyrics like "I can't go any faster, stuck like alabaster, white, I know" and some incredibly inventive moments, such as the "floaty" section around 7:30 - which reminds me of the "Amanda" section of "Creepshow" by Twelfth Night. IQ then get into a gentle groove which mixes up the Genesis sounds with bits of Marillion - but you can distinctly feel them trying to break into their own style, which they almost manage aroud 12:30. I'm not struck at all by the wierd keyboard noises, and this section seems somewhat superfluous - the sense of any drive or drama gets a bit lost in the desire to go all the way to 20 minutes, and we get more of a sense of "this section, the next section" rather than a free-flowing piece. However, IQ work hard at maintaining some kind of structure, the curiosity is engaged, and anyone that likes constantly changing pieces of music will find much to enjoy in here, including some nice melodic work and blustery noodling from Holmes.

The lyrics to "Through the Corridors" are a little disturbing ,smacking slightly of paedophiliia... and as a piece, it's unremarkable, over-busy generally in the guitar and lame in the keyboards department - but it's clear nonetheless that IQ were desparately trying to establish an original sound, so full kudos to them for that.

"Awake and Nervous" could really have done with a better keyboard sound for the intro, but settles into a cool groove before moving into a slightly metal vein and back again until the obligatory choir sound around 1:15 heralds Nichols' familiar Gabriel strains. To give him his credit, the impersonation is very realistic, and his own melodic inventiveness very strong, and despite the fact that this sounds very much like a missing piece from "Selling England..." - or maybe because of that fact, this is a very strong track generally - although Cook is no Colllins. The heavier break around 4:45 gives a nice clue as to where IQ really wanted to take their own style, but move into a sound that is very close to Mann/Twelfth Night.

"My Baby Treats Me Right īCos Iīm A Hard Lovinī Man All Night Long" wins the longest title for the shortest track award, and features Orford doing a party piece on the piano with quick ostinati in the right hand and very simple melodic figures in the left. This is one of those pieces that is generally more flash than content, although Orford does briefly show a slightly higher than intermediary approach to harmony in welcome places. More generally, not "Firth of Fifth", but enjoyable!

Another treat for fans of pieces longer than 10 minutes, "The Enemy Smacks" manages to escape the Genesis style on the whole, with a more personal lyric and vocal style. If only they could have escaped the cheesey 1980s keyboard sounds, this could have been a really great piece - ie among the greatest that prog has to offer, as it moves through time, key and harmony changes very smoothly and really shows the IQ style emerging. The main issue I would have is that early in the piece, where there should be a smooth groove, there tends to be a general feeling of lumpiness, and some of the changes are over-abrupt, which spoils some of the continuity. On the flip side of the same coin, where IQ make it work, especially later, it really works and the changes and textures - including those of the keyboards - are deeply satisfying and colour the lyrics well and show why IQ were one of the leading lights of neo-prog, and why neo-prog as a genre is not simply a rehash of what went before. This track really is an unpolished natural diamond - replete with flaws, and worth buying the album for alone.

Since I am reviewing the original vinyl LP, this review ends here, with a strong recommendation not just to fans of neo-prog but to prog fans in general - particularly those who think that neo-prog is somehow lesser or of lower quality than 1970s prog. This incredibly strong debut is proof that in fact, neo-prog is simply "old school" prog's little brother - not an inferior entity, but a younger one, which is still maturing.

Certif1ed | 4/5 |

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