Up the Downstair

Being a weeklie podcaste from Madison, Wisconsin featuring several remarkable curiosities therein occurring being a compendium of live music from divers artistes

Show #229: Still Awash in Seas of Ivory

November 23rd, 2010

It’s hard to believe but I don’t think I’ve ever posted an IQ show here yet. I’ve been meaning to for a while but seemingly have just never gotten around to it. So let’s change that.

iq 6 85 Show #229: Still Awash in Seas of Ivory

IQ are still around hoisting the neo-prog banner after nearly 30 years. Defining neo-progressive rock is no easy task but I generally think of it as being prog bands formed in the late 1970s/early 80s who generally carried on in the symphonic traditions of Genesis, Yes, and the like. The major bands in the genre are Marillion, Pallas, Pendragon, Twelfth Night, and IQ. Twelfth Night stands out here as they arguably mined a New Wave vein to the detriment of Mellotrons. Still, their music along with Geoff Mann’s singing had all the drama associated with prog.

In 1981 IQ was starting to be pieced together. At first keyboardist Martin Orford and guitarist Mike Holmes joined forces. By the following year the line-up solidified with the additions of bassist Tim Esau, drummer Paul Cook, and singer Peter Nicholls. There were certainly a lot things that pointed at classic prog. Holmes was not afraid to do his best Steve Hackett imitation with echo and sustain while Orford was happy to lay down the Mellotron chorus sound. For his part, Nicholls had that slightly raspy Peter Gabriel voice and took to wearing grease paint.

The homemade cassette-only Seven Stories Into Eight was released in 1982 and the band’s first proper album – Tales From the Lush Attic – came out the following year. IQ toured constantly and a more solid and polished group recorded the follow-up, The Wake, which hit shelves in 1985. The Wake has gone down as perhaps the classic IQ album. It certainly builds on and refines the ideas in Tales From the Lush Attic but it also is conscious of having been made in the mid-80s and not the mid-70s.

There’s plenty of proggish time signatures, Hackett-like guitar work, and Mellotron, but there’s also a pop song, drum machines, and, in general, some songs that feel more of the time instead of being throwback for the most part. “The Thousand Days” is an honest-to-Christ pop song with Holmes’ fluttering guitar notes that remind one of The Edge and a lovely, catchy chorus. The title track has a rather sludgey guitar riff which sets it apart from Holmes’ usually more delicate work. Drums machines may have been the bane of 80s Genesis but they’re used to great effect in “Corners”. A drum pattern starts things out with keys and guitar gradually layered atop it. The tension slowly builds until Cook comes crashing in with his kit. A great example of prog coming to terms with the neo. “Corners” is one of the most achingly beautiful songs ever, in my book, and the version here is fantastic with some really intense jamming after the vocals are done.

One great thing about IQ is that they have a sense of humor. Not everything has to be a 20-minute prog epic and, in concert, the band have covered a variety of songs. In addition to the odd Genesis number, IQ have done songs by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Motorhead, and other decidedly non-prog bands. And, as you’ll hear here, they also take the time to be goofy with the faux-reggae of Barbell Is In, an original song which was released as a single. (?!)

This week’s show was recorded on the tour in support of The Wake on 21 June 1985. The venue was the Hammersmith Odeon in London and IQ were supporting Wishbone Ash.


Outer Limits
It All Stops Here
The Wake
Magic Roundabout
The Thousand Days
Widows Peak
Awake and Nervous
Barbell Is In

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This is a live version of “Awake and Nervous” from British TV recorded in May of 1985.

Related posts:

  1. IQ – Corners
  2. Show #25: Steve Hackett Acostic Trio
  3. PROG @ The Overture Center
  4. Show #47: Genesis – It's Been A Long, Long Time (Mini)
  5. New Steve Hackett Remasters Immanent

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