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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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4 stars Eventually, there comes the time in one's life when one must hear something by Cardiacs. There's nothing like it. It's an entirely new experience. And this album delivers their uniqueness on a platter, although I assure you that if this platter were in a diner, you would have no need for Tabasco sauce. Apparently, Tim Smith doesn't even approve of the phrase "Pronk" to describe his music (a term which so eloquently blends "Prog" and "Punk") although if I had to apply a label to it, that would be it, really. All of the music has raw power, shouted, off-key vocals, and sardonic goofiness, but also strange rhythmic complexity (including an unexpected preference for triple meter) and always unpredictable structures, chord changes, and melodies (when coherent.) If you like punk, you'll probably hate this, and if you like prog but are more closed-minded, you'll probably also hate this. But I and many others on this site like it. Why? Well, for one thing, they're all good musicians. Tim Smith, though sometimes off-key for effect, has certainly proved himself capable of singing well, and on this album does on many tracks, and he is a fantastic guitarist. Sarah Smith's saxophones offer a certain Gentle Giantiness, and at times also sound like a demented carnival. Regardless, the songs: 1: A Little Man and a House: Tim Smith has a characteristic "Squawky" sound to his voice, and of course a very thick estuary accent, but if you are not bothered by this, there may be hope yet. This piece has a couple verses, but the main stuff is in the chorus, which consists of many repeated phrases, all coming back to "That's the way we all go." Repetitive, and not the best on the album, but still a successful mood setter. 7/10 2: In a City Lining: Definitely the "demented carnival" comes into play here. A beautiful use of the lydian mode, and an amazing accelerando which one might hear on The Simpsons. One of the more punkish tracks, certainly, but not distracting from a bizarre harmonic progression. 8/10 3: I'm Eating in Bed: This one is a lot of fun. This one is much more proggish, but still has the plain silliness of Cardiacs. I certainly enjoy it. 9/10. 4: Is This the Life? Well, this song dates the album as the eighties. The production levels are very new wave and the progression is more straight ahead pop then the other songs. It's fun, but not that great. 6/10 5: Interlude: A bunch of trombones playing "heroic" sounding chords. That's it. 5/10 6: Dive: Another favorite of mine. Again, the punk's showing here, but the complex weaving melody in the middle makes sure you realize that it's not. 9/10 7: Icing on the World: More of the same, really. Rather similar to the other tracks, and not as remarkable. 7/10. 8: The Breakfast Line: This one is more harsh and dissonant than the previous tracks. Lots of steampunkish sounds in the percussion section make this one weird. At the end a huge and whole-tone guitar line is what takes the cake here. 9/10 9: Victory Egg: An almost Jiggish melody here, repeated over and over again. But it's good. 8/10 10: RES: Certainly my favorite, this was the track that introduced me to the band. A bizzare halting melody in the verse leads into a more traditional chorus and then a nice instrumental section which touts Cardiacs' signature charm. There is a fantastic guitar solo. 9.5/10 11: The Whole World Window: A quiet, ballady type, which my father compared to David Bowie. The only ballad on the album, really. Some might consider it over the top, but I'd say it's one of the most beautiful things they ever did. 8/10. Well there you have it. A wonderful album from one of the more baffling bands in human history. Buy it if you dare.
HURBRET | 4/5 |


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