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IQ - Are You Sitting Comfortably ? CD (album) cover





2.79 | 321 ratings

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3 stars (6/10)

People seem to rate both Menel-era IQ albums as roughly equivalent in quality, but to my ears "Are You Sitting Comfortably?" is clearly the superior of the two. Yes, some of the mistakes of "Nomzamo" are repeated. We still have a couple of cheesy cheap sounding keyboards on overly commercial sounding songs like "Drive On", but it doesn't reach the same level of annoying as "Promises (As The Years Go By)", it's just rather forgettable - not really anything. The mistakes made are also more forgiveable because the songs that do succeed are a lot better, even at times evoking a feeling of IQ's sophomore triumph "The Wake".

We start off with "War Heroes", which has quite dark lyrical content, masked by the bright lead vocals (a trick that Menel has actually pulled off a few times with IQ). Menel utilises his range well here too, and the song sounds like something that might appear on Fish's debut, "Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors". Not bad, but then we launch into the previously mentioned "Drive On", which is a rather poor effort. It's a bit like something out of pop-era Genesis, but crossed with any soft arena-rock band at the time. The keyboard backing is just cliché poppy rather than proggy.

But then the album really takes a turn for the better. The dark atmospheres, excellent guitar over ethereal keyboards, complex rhythms, of "Nostalgia" and "Falling Apart At The Seams", hark back to "The Wake" in the best way possible, and are undoubtedly the highlight(s) of the album, easily worthy of inclusion in the IQ catalogue with all their Nicholls-led classics. To me, "Nostalgia" is really just an introduction to "Falling Apart At The Seams", the intense build-up of dark keyboards and intense guitar leads up perfectly to it.

Unlike the more forgettable songs from the Menel era of IQ, "Falling Apart At The Seams" is given enough room to breathe, and enough time to develop. It benefits greatly from this, allowing for more imaginative and epic songwriting. The same could be said of the other long song, "Wurensh", which progresses really well, and is full of great prog moments. It has a good sonic variety, and a pleasing complexity to it.

Aside from "Drive On", the Album is also let down by "Sold On You" and "Through My Fingers", the first is just bright and catchy, but not much else, and the second (though laid back and pleasant) is also rather unremarkable. They are followed by "Wurensh" and the thoroughly enjoyable album closer "Nothing At All".

"Nothing At All" really wraps up the album well, despite it's short length it manages to achieve a strong feeling of grandeur, probably due to the main driving keyboard theme. Again, the vocals are pretty cool and go well with the music. The guitar solo also works very well with the epic backing. Quite a wonderfully compact song, really.

With some really quite fine compositions to balance out the blander tracks, "Are You Sitting Comfortably?" ends up being a decent album. Not all good, but perhaps one could make a whole album of strong material from the Paul Menel era, and be happy with that. The albums with Paul Menel were the last two IQ albums I listened to, and I wasn't expecting much, but on this one at least, there is enough to consider the venture worthwhile. A lot of what made the first two IQ albums good is back, and lot of what made "Nomzamo" bad is toned down.

ScorchedFirth | 3/5 |


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