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Cardiacs - On Land And In The Sea CD (album) cover

ON LAND AND IN THE SEA

Cardiacs

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.31 | 135 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars CARDIACS have gone down in history as one of the weirdest rock bands ever to exist for good reason and this is true dating back to the very earliest origins when they existed as Cardiac Arrest which was formed in 1977. After a few lineup changes, a few cassette only releases and a taste of blowing minds in the live performances, the upgraded band simply known as CARDIACS hit its stride with the absolute perfect chemistry of musicians in the classic lineup that consisted of manic mastermind Tim Smith (guitar, lead vocals, producer), brother Jim Smith (bass, vocals), Dominic Luckman (drums), Tim Quy (percussion, keyboards), Sarah Smith (saxophone, vocals) and the extraordinary keyboardist / vocalist William Drake.

After this septet was discovered by Marillion's Fish who invited the band to tour with them, despite the head scratching responses to the freak-a-zoid fusion that existed in a seemingly parallel universe where Devo, Madness, Oingo Boingo, Gentle Giant and the Sex Pistols all somehow were forced to play together, the band began recording longer albums for release. Starting with the EP "Big Ship," the newly formed septet honed their chops into a progressive punk powerhouse and with the full-length debut album release "A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window" the band took their bizarre herky jerky zolo progressive art punk to even stranger new realities. Few were prepared to accept this bizarre Island of Dr. Moreau musical madness and few did. Greater acceptance would have to be shelved for a few decades while the masses caught up.

Despite the cognitive dissonance response to the CARDIACS 80s output, Tim Smith and company persisted and released the followup ON LAND AND IN THE SEA the following year in 1989, a year when both glam metal and dance pop were ruling the music charts. This was a time when bands like the CARDIACS were like Mesozoic mammals hiding out in the shadows while the dinosaurs still ruled but little did anyone realize that the extinction event was coming soon. In many ways ON LAND AND IN THE SEA continues where "A Little Man" left off but the band sallied forth into ever greater complexities making this one a bit less accessible than its predecessor. Firstly the album didn't focus on a concept. While "A Little Man" ruminated over the existential qualities of childhood, warfare, professional life and the loss of innocence in general, ON LAND cast its gaze on the works of the 19th century Irish poet George Darley with direct quotes and similar references.

ON LAND AND IN THE SEA is a much heavier album that finds punk infused guitars in conjunct with Tim Smith's frenetic vocal style as the main focus. While "A Little Man" found William Drake's equally spastic keyboard prowess finding a spotlight at key moments, on this one his keyboards are more integrated into the overall compositional fabric that finds the tracks tackling punk infused guitar chops with zolo spasticity made even stranger with bursts of avant-prog bombast yet somehow creating a jazzy swing. This was the album that made it clear that CARDIACS were a veritable force of the musical world that crafted a strange new niche that no one ever even considered let alone mastered and taken to its logical conclusion. Despite what sounds may sound as a forced interplay of genre juggling, this album accomplishes the most surreal hybridization of what many would consider the most incompatible musical styles to coincide together and yet CARDIACS pulled it off with grace. Spastic grace but grace.

While many have accused this album of being avant-garde for avant-garde's sake, those accusations only display the lack of a deeper understanding of where this album is coming from for despite it all the hooks are irresistibly catchy and despite this album not registering as higher as "A Little Man" upon the first few listens has over time sunk in deep and become its "difficult" cousin but nevertheless just as satisfying. In fact this is one of those albums i can literally just put on replay and never tire of it is so satisfyingly good. Every track stands on its own. Every melody is unique. Every performance is mind-blowing and each cadence makes you wonder how this music ever came to be in the first place. How can such tortured music be so utterly enjoyable to listen to with incessant tempo changes, off-kilter time signatures run amok and yet the melodic flow is absolutely perfect. And so it has become in my world that ON THE LAND AND IN THE SEA has earned an equal billing with "A Little Man" as top dogs in the CARDIACS universe as both these albums find this classic lineup in top form. While this one is the more esoteric, it still retains the quirky charm of the previous.

This album has been released in two versions. The Alphabet label's original 13 track version has at long last seen a reprinting as the appetite for CARDIACS albums has increased dramatically. The Torso version which was the first CD version out the same year included several bonus tracks some of which appear on other compilations. No matter how you find this, you must! It has become one of my all time favorite albums and continues to blow me away every time i hear it. Sadly this brilliant classic lineup would end with this release. Sarah Smith left the band before the album was even released whereas William Drake and Tim Quy left before the next studio album "Heaven Born And Ever Bright" was released in 1992. While Tim Smith's genius would carry on for a few more albums, never did it shine so brightly as with this particular lineup. Both Sarah Smith's saxophone skills and Drake's godly keyboard playing took the CARDIACS sound to unthinkable perfection. While this album was a slow burner, once it fully sunk in, it leaves me in complete awe of how magnificent it is. A true touched by God moment here.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |

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