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Cardiacs - A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window CD (album) cover





4.24 | 235 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars Cardiacs are well known in prog circles for their incredible masterful "Sing To God" album, but before that there was "A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window". Each track signifies a highly original approach and a refreshing attempt to bring something vibrant and new to the table in a decade when prog really struggles to maintain respect. The upper class twit lyrics and style and contrasted by intelligent musicianship and inventiveness. It is a little like a deranged form of the band Madness.

'A Little Man And A House' features full blown orchestra and lots of shouting, but starts the album off with a bang, and we know we are instantly in the mad world of Cardiacs. 'In A City Lining' has good rifffing and wall of keyboards as Smith's punkish vocals have attitude. I like the way it speeds up like a manic circus theme. Much like the material on "Sing To God" which would eclipse this release for sheer inventiveness. There is a time sig in 3/ 4 and a Ska style thrown in for good measure. It speeds up frantically again at the end. Lots of fun and experimentation on this track, one of the album highlights.

The album continues to impress with raucous compositions such as 'I'm Eating In Bed', that begins with some footsteps and effects before the circus music chimes in. Smith sounds less serious and the music is rather delirious and often hilarious. After many time changes it slows to a satisfying conclusion. 'Is This The Life' is a catchy song, and a fan favourite, with a moderate tempo and some delightful saxophone. A definitive Cardiacs highlight, the song also had quite a disturbing film clip as a promo. The instrumental break features a high pitched lead guitar solo that cries out in pain over the steady tempo. This is followed by 'Interlude', a short blast of trumpets and some unusual revered effects with organ.

This leads to another highlight, the high energy pacey 'Dive' and the feisty vocals are very new wave punk here. It never detracts from the sound as there is a constant clever use of weird instruments or normal instruments played weirdly. The whole thing sounds odd and way off kilter, playful yet dangerously over the edge. The piano tinkling is especially effective, and the xylophone plink plonks insanely along with nasty guitar chords and a jazzy sax blast. Together it makes a wonderfully delirious spirited sound fit for an asylum.

'The Icing On The World' has a pronounced drum beat and odd tempo, with the circus jazz music an ever present force. Smith's vocals are relentless hammering out lyrics that never make sense, and almost self parodies the style of music, that is unreservedly RIO and carnivalesque.

'The Breakfast Line' begins with some banter, an argument at the table or something. The chimes and weirdness soon take over. Time sigs are off the scale for a while and the piece goes all over the place. The way it keeps slowing down and then breaking into a silly tempo is absolutely a Cardiacs template. There is a violin interlude and then a heavier guitar crunches over. The extended Coda at the end is excellent; a real wall of sound.

'Victory Egg' has a minimalist organ and some vocals for a while. Eventually it builds into an almost Elizabethan style, and the vocals are rhythmic and relentless. Finally the pace settles with a melodic break on guitar and keys. The brass section at the end is a good way to end a song.

'R.E.S.' sounds like King Crimson at the start with a lot of clinking and clanking until the playful organ strikes up with a quirky melody and Smith's vocals catches up with it. This one is very strange and certainly one of the funniest Cardiacs tracks. It grabs hold of you though and has a cool synth motif ad odd time changes. The break in the middle is absolutely out of the box musically, throwing in jazz blasts, woodwind, glockenspiel and brass with a feast of sax. One of the great songs on the album with a very complex structure and even an excellent lead guitar solo to revel in. It even returns to the main theme of the opening track.

'The Whole World Window' ends the album on a high note, with ambient sax and keys at the intro. Smith's voice is underplayed for a while. The melody and style reminds me of Gabriel for a while. There is a pleasant sax and piano trade off in the break, that is a more beautiful side of the Cardiacs. Eventually it gets to a very shouty part with Smith going off his head unintelligibly. It has an emotional impact and once again the music is soaring and majestic.

Overall the album does not measure up to the classic "Sing To God" but this lead to the release of that masterpiece and exists as a good blast of fun from some of the most original avant garde musicians to come out in the 80s.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |


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