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Cardiacs - Sing To God CD (album) cover

SING TO GOD

Cardiacs

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.31 | 197 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
5 stars "And now for something completely different.... the Eraserhead of Prog"

"Sing To God" is an album that I had to check out due to the glowing praise it receives here, the album cover appears like a rash all over the forums, those staring eyes and white faces burned their image into my brain. I thought it would be something different. I was right. It is. I can only describe this music as I hear it. And at times it is impossible to describe, so here goes my attempt. I am just going to post my notes as I don't want to spoil my initial reaction with any edits. Hope this makes sense and you can comprehend them. So this is a different review from me, but one that I think is appropriate as the initial reaction to this music is one of astonishment.

1. Eden On The Air (2:21) nice intro to the band, a chiming bell, vocals are unusual, plain weird and surprisingly original. Challenging though to hook onto this at first. Queen harmonies and accented ocker vocals from Tim Smith.

2. Eat It Up Worms Hero (2:33) Hello Frank Zappa! Playing all the wrong notes over a fast tempo and loud noisy vocals. It fades and piano starts up for no reason and ends abruptly. At this point I am thinking either they are geniuses or just sending up the music scene. No, they are geniuses.

3. Dog Like Sparky (4:53) time sig change heaven. The British accents are strong, The Kinks revved up to maximum overload, or maybe it's The Living End with time changes thrown in. Love the way the chorus changes sig and speeds up absurdly. Hard to make out what the song is about but I think it's about a dog like Sparky because ; "we never ever sing like Sparky, crawling is my world (?)." Interpreter please.

4. Fiery Gun Hand (5:13) a fast rollicking quasi-punk song, notable for one of the weirdest manic lead guitar solos by Jon Poole which I read is actually over 40 edits of a guitar solo just collaged together, but its effective and very memorable. A lot of this music sounds like takes montaged together to create those razor sharp time changes and chord progressions. The sound is very random but keeps the ear jarring wonderfully. The keyboard breakdown at the end is also all over the place, but its refreshing to hear such inventiveness on a song. Brilliant.

5. Insect Hoofs On Lassie (3:00) the time sig switches bizarrely from 4/4 to a swing time rag. It is akin to what might be described as circus jazz. The keyboard motif that ascends and descends is effective. The staccato harmonies that blast out sound like Queen. Indescribable music with dramatic tension and the songs don't go for long which is a good thing so we can prepare for the next slice of weirdness.

6. Fairy Mary Mag (3:44) by the time this one strikes up I am already used to Cardiacs, and expect bizarre time changes and loud processed multi tracked singing. This one has a medieval feel in the music and then some splashes of colour especially the of kilter ending. The sweet child's voice is very peculiar but more of that will be nice to balance Tim's abrasive vocals.

7. Bellyeye sounds like the alternative indie bands from the 90s overflow of such bands, were talking Ash, Blur and others similar. Tim is fantastic on vocals here, loud, brash and with straight tough ocker British accent. This one is a lot more straight forward than the hyper strangeness previous. The melody is a lot easier to latch onto and I really liked this one. It soon lapses into some odd meters but feels less patched together for my ears which are already beginning to cope with the interchanging musical shapes and keep up with the vocal gymnastics.

8. A Horse's Tail (3:47) a manic intro and vocals that go up and down the scale following the circus riffs. One part chilled me with some snarling shouts. The weird melody is always changing and sounds like about 6 songs spliced together. I like that though as you never have time to get bored. That's one thing it isn't; boring. Anyone who says that clearly didn't hear it properly. The metal riff at the end is great but fades before you have time to enjoy it. Once again the band are really pushing the envelope with all these time sigs and its original to say the least.

9. Manhoo (4:59) has psychedelic processed vocals and some high pitched munchkin voices which are okay for this type of music that is now reminding me of The Sweet on helium. Weird but that's how it sounds. It even has a 70s feel like bubblegum pop such as 'Poppa Joe' or 'Co- Co' from the glam era. As I write that the time sig changes and become quite serene before it bursts open into a thrashy loud nasty section. Then an orchestra is heard sounding like it is spliced backwards, back to the main theme, and the verses return. So after all these detours it actually goes back to the original song. The Beatles 'I Am The Walrus' style is a strong contender here for how it sounds.

10. Wireless (8:22) is the longest piece on the first part of this oddity. The sigs chop and change ridiculously and I love it, especially that repetitive rhythm figure, it's beginning to lock into my skull. The ending of this track sounds like someone splashing water, a narration about the power of boats on waves, and then a sweeping mellotron cuts through with astounding impact. If you listen to this music and then turn on the commercial radio station, your ears will go into overload just trying to adjust to the straight 4/4 rhythm. The Cardiacs are wildly inventive and splish splash melodies all over the place and it actually becomes a compelling experience. Then I remember looking at the track listing that I have another CD of this stuff to listen to! Bring it on, this is great.

I am now converted by this stage to Cardiacs style, my ears are adjusted to odd time changes, and I want more so eagerly turn up the volume for the next CD to infiltrate my senses.

1. Dirty Boy (8:54) is another lengthy belter. It starts with a slow plodding rhythm, reminding me of Alice Cooper's 'Devil's Food' for some reason, and some excellent guitar riffs. The lead breaks are simple here but effective. Tim's vocals are harmonised together with I don't know how many layers of vocals but it is a solid sound that is generated; a veritable wall of sound. This is noisy and anthemic and gets weirder as it goes, with very high vocals and almost non stop guitar clanging on a ruptured percussion beat. An absolutely addictive classic track. The lengthy 2 minute held note at the end is ear piercing but effective in jarring the senses.

2. Billion (0:41) the shortest thing on the album, which is basically a cathedral keyboard driven with processed vocals. reminds me of The Residents short tracks; a melody, a short verse and an abrupt end.

3. Odd Even (3:18) this has a warbled guitar distortion and Tim's vocals are non stop with some more harmonies. The shimmering music is rather off kilter and even has a medieval guitar solo with random notes, and a finger pop in the cheek to signal it in. What else are they going to throw at us?

4. Bell Stinks (1:19) nice title, the band have a wicked sense of humour, and this is a prime example.

5. Bell Clinks (2:54) nicer title, nutty music that may be punk prog; The Living End put through a blender. This is loud brash and abrasive and crunches with razor time changes. The lead break is even humorous as it is just a scale played over and over.

6. Flap Off You Beak (3:44) a whimsical melody, piano, lots of layered vocals, kerangging guitar clangs, and a low organ drone is what you hear. A side show circus of punked up prog.

7. Quiet As A Mouse (1:28) a short sharp shock of prog comedy. Voices are heard conversing about keeping mice alive, what are they, scientists doing experiments? "This one looks too quiet, quiet little mouse". Then a screaming sound ending with a ding. Hilarious.

8. Angleworm Angel (2:24) well the energy level is turned up to 11 on this fast frenetic hyper speedy thrasher. The guitars scratching metal chunks are great. Tim doesn't let up and sings flat out like a punk on speed. This is uproarious fun after the silence of the previous track. My ears are jelly now and I need a break. What's next?

9. Red Fire Coming Out From His Gills (2:14) a slower beat thankfully and I like Tim's vocals here and the chorus is terrific with that orchestra sound that chimes in. This is another highlight for me. Wow, those drums are incredible. It's over just as I start enjoying the rhythms.

10. No Gold (3:31) a nice falsetto vocal, backwards chiming keyboards, reversed strings, even sounds like variations of the melody of Big Ben's chimes.

11. Nurses Whispering Verses (9:53) is the lengthiest song on the album. Where are the nurses? I love the riff! That is just killer and so technical with all the chaotic time changes. That lengthy esoteric sound at the end generated with keys and effects is eerie, but a great way to end it. The album has not run out of steam and this is one of the greatest Cardiacs songs on offer here. But there's one more song!

12. Foundling (5:27) The last song is nice and long to end on a high note. This is softer, gentler and I can actually hear the lyrics; "I could walk with angels but I'd rather walk with you, the foundling" and "in the life everlasting, here comes the bride but he knows where she came from." Perhaps at the end my ears are fully adjusted now. There's some seriously weird stuff happening here. The melody is fractured with some low drones that have spacey sounds. A creaking door is heard. What, is it over already? This was a great album. The rollercoaster ride is over. Time to play it again.

So at the end of this album my ears are still ringing with odd time changes and noisy brash guitars and Tim's high warbling vocals and it has been a pleasant journey into an original sound. Cardiacs should be commended for their hyper originality if nothing else. Punk meets prog. Is it possible? Their inventiveness is off the map and some of the songs are killer classics. With 2 CDs of strange loud songs it could be hard to accept for many listeners and indeed the band are not going to appeal to one and all, but in a similar way to the nutter alert of Magma, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, The Residents, Frank Zappa or Van der Graaf Generator, once the style hooks into your system you are probably going to revel in the work of the band and listen to nothing else for a while. The album takes some getting used to, especially the time sigs and Tim's vocals, but it is out of the box and delightfully so. It is ferociously original and daring, taking risks that no other band would dare. This RIO (Rock in Opposition) group is exactly that; music that is in opposition to everything else out there. One of a kind and definitely worth a listen, parts are brilliant, parts are confounding but it is always compelling and jam packed with more inventiveness than most bands out there in the alternative scene.

EDIT: I was going to give it 4 stars then listened a few more times...... Scratch that down for another 5 star review. Sorry those who disliked this, it is an incredible original sounding masterpiece and deserves more recognition than it is currently getting. It is addictive and I will never get some of those delirious time sigs out of my system.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |

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