Giant Electric Pea 2019
With independence as the best defense, venerate neo-proggers look for a way to break direction.
Once upon a time IQ recorded a piece titled “N.T.O.C. (Resistance)” that reeked of surrender, so a quarter-century of gradual descent into penumbra had to pass before they delivered this belligerent album… or two, because “Resistance” is neither its predecessor “The Road Of Bones” where a second disc was optional, nor "Subterranea" where the group’s plunge in the gloom began in earnest. Now, there are two different narratives, each occupying specific place to complement the other and enrich a concept – which might or might not be present here. “How can I be on your side, if the line divides?” sang Peter Nicholls in “Came Down” from "Ever" – and he’s finally able to receive the long-gestating answer (although “nothing doing” must be anything but respite from attack) in “Stay Down”: the most defiant number, stricken with electronic groove and adorned with piano and strings, a ticking sign of the last change, taking drama to the paranoid limit just to dance away the fear.
Still, in order to find the same closure, the listener is bound to don the full metal jacket of “A Missile” – arguably, the heaviest cut in the band’s repertoire, as Mike Holmes’ chthonic riffs and the theatrical swells of Neil Durant’s keyboards create a stifling expanse, its oxymoron nature stressed by soft textures that creep in on the coattails of Tim Esau’s supple bass and linger on, contrasting and caressing the menacing bombast the ensemble bring to the fore for a bout of soul-cleansing. And while catharsis seems to be out of bounds here, “Rise” has the usual claustrophobia shaken, stirred and shattered, so doesn’t feel possible for the piece’s sweet tune is anchored to the ground not only with orchestral tether but also with rags of raga, which turn the reservations of “Shallow Bay” into mellifluous, if anxious, triumph. After this readjustment of direction, there’s perfect logic in wrapping acoustic lace around “If Anything” and in undermining its ethereal drift with Paul Cook’s military drums whose march will go silent when solemn strands of organ replace the calm and usher in a fairground wobble that gives “For Another Lifetime” an air of adventure yet, unfortunately, results in generic prog romanticism and common wisdom getting new gravitas.
Whereas the group restrict their epic sweep on the first disc, the second compensates for it in spades, with two out four pieces which didn’t fit the album’s mood rippling around the 20-minute mark – but somehow they are an antidote to the preceding darkness: “The Great Spirit Way” offers an existential musing that’s gradually gaining momentum as soon as instruments engage in an exquisite interplay – the play of tension and release – and “Fallout” proposes a rock swirl and celestial uplift in a single package. Between these milestones, the heartbeat woven into “Fire And Security” infuses the flow with eternal hope, yet “Perfect Space” resolves peaceful worry in rage, thus circling back to the album’s main theme and finally providing the closure one has been longing for.
The longest studio effort in the IQ canon, “Resistance” is not the easiest but it might be their most dignified work.