At the beginning of the 1980’s, “progressive rock” was viewed, by many in the mainstream, as a dirty word. Those bands who championed the genre in the 1970’s had either broken up (see: Emerson, Lake & Palmer) or changed their sound entirely to be more well-received by the public at large (see: Genesis, Yes). This does not mean that progressive rock was dead and buried, but rather, just beyond the mainstream there was a bit was a slight resurgence among those who liked their music with odd-time signatures and theatrics. England seemed to be the most obvious of places for start of this resurgence, as one could make the argument that progressive rock had indeed started there. One of those new bands out of England that flew the progrock banner high and proud was IQ.
Originally formed in 1981 by guitarist Mike Holmes and keybordist Martin Orford following the breakup of their former band, IQ quickly burst onto the scene with ‘Seven Stories Into Eight’ in 1982. A cassette album only sold via mail order through the band, IQ (which at the time consisted of Holmes, Orford, Paul Cook on drums, Tim Esau on bass and Peter Nicholls on vocals) felt their newer material was worthy of a proper recording rather than one produced in their own rehearsal studio. With the majority of their new tunes worked out on the road over the better part of a year, the band took what little savings they had (plus a loan from Cook’s father) and went into the studio to record their new songs.
Recorded in just four days (and mixed in just one), ‘Tales From The Lush Attic’ is widely accepted to be one of the first well-known albums of the “neo-progressive” movement, a sound that many believe is based off of the style of Genesis’s 1976 album, ‘Wind And Wuthering’. The first side of the album was primarily taken up by the band’s signature opus, the twenty minute track “The Last Human Gateway”, whereas the second side consisted of [somewhat] smaller songs, including crowd favorites “Awake And Nervous” and “The Enemy Smacks”. Smaller, of course, is a relative term, as both “Awake” and “Enemy” are over seven and a half minutes long (with “The Enemy Smacks” being almost fourteen minutes in length). To counteract the lengthier numbers, there was even a short piano solo by Orford on the album that was humorously titled “My Baby Treats Me Right ‘Cos I’m A Hard Lovin’ Man All Night Long”. When listening to the album, the youthful enthusiasm is clear as the band tears through the material at an almost breakneck pace. Cook’s drumming and Esau’s bass playing are the cement that holds the songs together while Orford and Holmes weave around Nicholls’ at times cryptic vocals.
Released a mere six weeks after being recorded in mid-September 1983, ‘Tales From The Lush Attic’ was released by the band themselves (on a label they created, joking called the “The Major Record Company”) to fantastic reviews from both press and fans. A milestone of the progressive rock landscape in the early 1980’s, ‘Tales’ had everything that fans of Genesis and Yes craved, layers of keyboards, stirring guitar solos and a front man who wasn’t afraid to bring theatrics into the band’s live settings, thus painting a picture for the eyes as well as the ears. However, the band themselves were never fully happy with the finished product.
Holmes stated that the experience recording ‘Tales’ was a major help to him in the future, as “…it was such hurry that I personally didn’t really get a lot out of it, apart from how not to do something…” Nicholls agreed with Holmes, saying in a 2005 interview that the album “…was a very important first step for us (though I wish I could re-record all the vocals!).” Finally, in 2012, in honor of it’s 30th Anniversary, Holmes decided to give the album a proper remix. Once the master tapes were found in the IQ Archives, all of the material was transferred to analog tape to Holmes’ ProTools machine. What he found was, in his own words, quite interesting. “…unused vocals and bass pedals, backward guitars that were forgotten in the mix,” Holmes comments, “unused demos (“Just Changing Hands” and “Dans Le Parc Du Chateau Noir”), which we re-recorded the following year. In addition, there were alternate tracks of certain things, some of which are actually better than those used in the original mix.”
Holmes’ approach to the remix was simple, and that was to keep it as original as possible. “I wanted to stay as true to the original album as possible but at the same time I knew this was the only chance I’d get to make the album sound as good as it could….I took the view that I would mix the album as though I’d originally had enough time in the studio to make it sound the way it did in my head at the time.” Released in early 2013, the remix of ‘Tales From The Lush Attic’ brings forth the band’s original vision of what the album should have sounded like thirty years ago. Although ‘Tales From The Lush Attic’ is IQ’s second album, it’s this release that placed them firmly on the progressive rock map.
For more information on IQ, please visit the following websites:
The official IQ website
IQ on Wikipedia
IQ on ProgArchives