The neo-progressive movement of the 1980’s is replete with near-success stories. Pallas‘ The Sentinel was hacked to pieces and released in a form far-removed from the band’s original vision, Twelfth Night looked poised for a career with Charisma Records right up until the apathetic Virgin Records bought them out, and IQ had just signed a deal with Vertigo records… only their iconic lead singer/sleeve designer, Peter Nicholls, had recently jumped ship.
Their first album without Nicholls, Nomzamo, came out in 1987 and – as you can probably gather – flopped… but then, so did many prog albums of its time. Today, it’s something of an also-ran in IQ’s 30+ year legacy since Nicholls returned to the band a few years later – but does it deserve its low place in IQ’s canon?
To be honest, it does; but that’s merely being relative. IQ have never been a band to eek out a batch of lengthy Tolkein-esque epics in 7/8 and have done – the quality of their work echoes the time and effort they spend on it. To be fair, with the exception of Nomzamo and its follow-up, the band were always working for themselves without having to appease the commercial interests of a major label; and it’s these concessions that make Nomzamo a relatively weaker album.
That’s not saying it’s without decent music – “No Love Lost”, “Nomzamo” and “Human Nature”, which collectively make up half of the album, are stand-out tracks. Okay, they’re noticeably more ‘sanitized’ than the Indie approach of The Wake, but they’re not difficult to get into. The side is let down whenever they try and create some kind of ‘single’ – while songs like “Promises” and “Passing Strangers” are okay, they do sound like a band outside of its comfort zone and, as pop singles, they’re not all that convincing. Still, you’ve got to keep the new bosses happy, haven’t you?
But, to reiterate, Nomzamo is only weak compared to the strengths of their more progressive works. It’s not like they shunned their Prog roots and completely sold out – if you can accept that, you’ll find that Nomzamo is the IQ album you won’t reach for very often, but still can’t do without.