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IQ - Nomzamo CD (album) cover





2.86 | 336 ratings

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3 stars The first IQ album to feature Paul Menel sees the band seriously compromising their music in response to commercial pressures. There's two types of songs on here, neither of which quite measure up to the band's best work.

First off, you have tracks which are actually decently written pop-prog pieces which are unfortunately compromised by some rather dated production values - the drum sound is particularly badly affected by this. I include album opener No Love Lost among these; the band have in fact produced perfectly acceptable live renditions of this song with Peter Nicholls on vocals (and kudos to Peter for being willing to tackle material from the Paul Menel era). (NOTE: I think GEP have sneakily provided more recent production runs of the album with, if not an actual remaster, then at least a bit of a spring cleaning, because I recently got to hear a more recently-issued CD of the album and this issue was mostly alleviated.)

The other type of track - such as Promises or Passing Strangers - are transparent attempts at hit singles. The band's performance on these isn't terrible - to be honest, everyone on the album gives a great effort except Paul Menel, who I feel is a somewhat inferior vocalist to Nicholls - but the songwriting itself will provide a major stumbling block for anyone used to IQ's usual fare.

That said, the material here has grown on me somewhat over the years, mind you, and it's perhaps better to approach this as the work of essentially a different band from the IQ we know - a slick 1980s pop-prog unit which happens to share a name and some personnel with the IQ we know and love. Promises is actually pretty catchy, and Martin Orford tells a story about how it actually got a lot of traction on German radio, only for the record company to completely drop the ball by not releasing it as a single there until that surge of publicity had already come and gone.

On the whole, Nomzamo - like Pallas and Twelfth Night works I cited earlier, and Pendragon's Kowtow album or Red Shoes EP - was part of a lamentable trend in the mid-to-late 1980s for neo-prog bands to compromise their sounds in order to chase after the commercial success Marillion had enjoyed. The wrong-headedness of this effort is all too obvious, since Marillion themselves never subverted their own musical approach to this extent - sure, Kayleigh was a catchy pop single, but it was a more lavish slice of pop-prog than the sort of material Asia or 90125-era Yes were offering up, and it was part of a super-proggy album-length epic for crying out loud!

On the whole, Nomzamo and its successor, Are You Sitting Comfortably?, represent a deeply misguided choice of musical direction on the part of IQ. I'm moderating my score on it up a bit because taken separately from the rest of the IQ discography and judged only on its own merit, it's a good but not great example of prog-leaning pop of a very 1980s vintage, but at the same time it clearly isn't an example of IQ playing to their strengths.

Warthur | 3/5 |


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