Giant Electric Pea 1993 / 2018
The quarter-of-a-century edition of Brit art-rockers’ resurrection shuffle – enhanced and expanded.
Measuring mortality and embracing eternity: that was the brief for IQ’s fifth full-length studio release – the release of the artists’ grief over the losses of family members and a friend, bassist Ledge Marshall. This, plus Peter Nicholl’s return to the front, fueled the ensemble’s flair, so “Ever” became their definitive record before concept ideas such as "Subterranea" started to erode profound immediacy of collective creations. Still, even a definitive offering can have its flaws: while the music has stood the test of time, Mike Holmes’ mix proved to be imperfect – which is why he had to not only preserve the already-deteriorating tapes for posterity but also remix the tracks to give the classic a new lease of life.
To make this an ultimate artifact now, the group added a lot of content to the 25th anniversary edition of “Ever” – placing it in a context, where a companion DVD contains demos, outtakes, unused pieces and rehearsal documents, alongside surround sound mixes of the album and its live delivery from February 2018, present here on CD as well and showing how brilliant and relevant the old songs are. Still, of course, the fresh perspective of those is the reissue’s principal focus: while the quintet’s aficionados will revel in some previously unheard detail, a more casual listener has to delve in the record’s lush gloom for an almost transcendental experience.
Full of waterfall-like intensity, the opening passages of “The Darkest Hour” may feel overwhelming, as Paul Cook’s dry drums and Martin Orford‘s multi-layered keyboards set the scene for Holmes’ lucid licks whose flurries are anchored by newcomer John Jowitt’s bass rumble until Nicholl’s vocals lift the veil to reveal the ensemble’s optimistic outlook – bolstered by the choruses’ polyphony, the axis of the title track’s 2005 version “Lost In Paradise” – whereas instruments strike a balance between prog opulence and rock energy. The equilibrium seems even more obvious in the “Solos That Got Away” addendum to “Come Down” that could enhance the number’s lyrical panorama yet were discarded in favor of alternatives serving the whole picture much better.
There’s a solid, if playful, riff in “Out Of Nowhere” to infuse the FX-spiced drift with funk but, awash with delicate ivories and taken to celestial heights by soaring guitars, “Fading Senses” must be the pinnacle of the group’s grip on balladry, of which “Leap Of Faith” is sculpting a hymn, but the many parts of “Further Away” stress the band’s ability to wrap their faux-symphonic complexity in sincerity and shine on the brink of desperation. That’s how IQ arrived at their triumph: by seeing the light and finding strength to turn the darkest hour into the finest one.