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Cardiacs Guns album cover
3.61 | 82 ratings | 6 reviews | 25% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1999

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Spell With a Shell (3:17)
2. There's Good Cud (2:17)
3. Wind and Rains Is Cold (3:20)
4. Cry Wet Smile Dry (3:27)
5. Jitterbug (Junior Is A) (7:31)
6. Sleep All Eyes Open (2:58)
7. Come Back Clammy Lammy (4:07)
8. Clean That Evil Mud Out Your Soul (2:25)
9. Ain't He Messy Though (2:03)
10. Signs (4:25)
11. Song of a Dead Pest (2:37)
12. Will Bleed Amen (7:30)

Total Time: 45:57

Line-up / Musicians

- Tim Smith / lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, arrangements, producer
- Jon Poole / guitar, keyboards, vocals, arrangements
- Sarah Smith / saxophones, vocals (1,3)
- Jim Smith / bass, vocals
- Bob Leith / drums
- Sharron Saddington / vocals (1,3,8,12)
- Joanne Spratley / vocals (6,7)

- Rob Deschamps / trombone, French horn

String quartet:
- Chris Brierly
- Catherine Morgan / violin
- Mark Pharaoh
- Robert Woolard

Releases information

CD The Alphabet ‎- ALPH CD 027 (1999, UK)

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and to Quinino for the last updates
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CARDIACS Guns ratings distribution

(82 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(25%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(38%)
Good, but non-essential (26%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

CARDIACS Guns reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by russellk
2 stars This 1999 album is, sadly, likely to be CARDIACS' last full-length release. Even more sorrowfully, of all their incomparable catalogue this is the least essential.

What's missing? The energy, the vibrancy. The songs here are fine, but are played without the fire I worship them for. In fact I can't make up my mind whether they sound more like a BOWIE/MARC BOLAN glam rock pastiche or like a 70's SPLIT ENZ side project. This is certainly an enormous step down from 'Sing To God' released only a few years earlier.The flat, glossy production is partly to blame, but I think the fire has simply damped down too much.

But then there's 'Will Bleed Amen,' the album's last track. This song is right up there with the best in their canon and, for the serious CARDIACS fan, 'Guns' must be purchased for this song alone. Manic, glorious, playful, creative, enjoyable. The rest of the album, less so. If you are new to CARDIACS, please start somewhere else.

Review by frippism
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I've been most careful with "Guns". It was either loved or rather disliked by many people, so I thought quite carefully about whether eventually getting it or not. The sound can be described many times with one word: Underwhelming. That is not a bad word at all. When I finally got it I listened to it once, and loved it. Many of them songs here are less in your face punk prog train smashing into a gigantic beehive made of steel. But they are beautiful. So very very beautiful. There always were so many layers in Cardiacs songs, that after more than 2,000 plays I have listening to this bands that I love more than words will ever be able to describe, there are always new things to find. And eventually even in the noisiest wildest moments of Cardiacs, I will find sincere and touching beauty. Here on "Guns" there are many moments of this beauty. After tens of listens I can say, that Cardiacs still had it back in '99, and managed to create a genius album and a worthy follow up to the sensational, mind blowing "Sing To God". Underwhelming is not a bad word at all.

A few things about the sound: it is more or less the same as any Cardiacs album, but different. It is quieter, more pastoral. It seems to me Tim Smith has been influenced by his mesmerizing side project "Spratley's Japs". The sound here at times is more psychedelic, more spacey, breathes more. The studio effects are put here to very good use, as these wonderful sound effects coat the songs in a supernatural aura.

A few things about the songs: They're spectacular. "Spell With A Shell", opens this album, and it's a bit of surprise. You can hear a change of sound. But it's grown on me and is a classic. "There's Good Cud" explodes with the insane energy you'd expect from Cardiacs, and wakes you up. "Cry Wet Smile Dry"- now that is a song. My god you can cry from the energy of this song, this wailing incredible chorus. "Jitterbug" has this long and twisting development until it slides into a very long and hypnotic psychedelic outro. Just bliss. "Clean That Evil Mud Out Your Soul"- this song is heaven. Cardiacs heaven. It takes this most hysterical and ridiculous line, twists it into so many time changes that I can hardly breathe, and opens into a chorus that always makes me think of go-go dancers (I don't know why don't ask me). "Signs"- this song is GENIUS. Tim Smith quivers like a mouse here on vocals, and it makes me grin. "Will Bleed Amen"- not much to say of this song. All there is to say it- it is the best thing to have been summoned to Earth by Tim Smith. It's bluesy riff (as bluesy as Cardiacs can be) gives me goosebumps especially when they get to the singing. I can't understand how someone can write something so beautiful and be human.

Unfortunately, "Come Back Clammy Lammy" is probably the one song separating this album from 5 stars. It is not a bad song, Cardiacs will never, ever write a bad song (Tim Smith himself said that he hates bad songs- proof right there). It's just not great as the rest of the album, and goes on a bit too long. "Sleep All Eyes Open", while having a great chorus, is not a masterpiece.

Musicians? All great. I don't really need to elongate. Listen to "Clean That Dirty Mud Out Your Soul". Case closed.

I really cannot think of a world without Cardiacs. Tim Smith is still recuperating from a stroke from '08 and is yet to get better. There is nothing as genius and pure, just pure music as Cardiacs. A world without them will just break the status quo of this planet.

Tim get well soon, all the best to you.

Review by Lewian
4 stars A number of people don't seem to love Guns as much as pretty much all other Cardiacs albums. Why is this? Certainly it's a fully valid Cardiacs album with excellent Cardiacs music on it.

Well, one explanation may be that the album is off to a somewhat weak start with Spell with a Shell, and people may not then be able to shake off the first impression. This comes with a fairly thin sound, a not particularly interesting rhythm, a single chord for quite some time and just two for some more time and some not particularly catchy singing from the first moment. To be fair, at some point it takes off into a more intense chorus and actually starts to make some sense.

Anyway, from then on things go uphill. With There's Good Cud the album certainly hasn't yet reached the peak. It's a fast and hard rocking punk orgy which will appeal to headbangers. Wind and Rain is Cold is the first highlight, more folky and poetic, with typical Cardiacs theatre spirit and some rare but great and dreamy Sarah Smith vocals; she returned for this album and is extremely welcome. Cry Wet Smile Day is again rocking harder and has one of these iconic crowd singing choruses, ah, the choruses! You want to join in so much but it's not that easy. OK, then Jitterbug (junior is a). This starts like a typical energetic Cardiacs song and then from the 3 minute mark get caught in a strange slow outworldly succession of chords in spacey sound over which Tim's voice meanders around, for almost 5 minutes. Depending on your mood this may be very annoying or genius; I'd be interested in whether anybody has followed this often enough to know exactly where it's going in the next moment, this is probably a half life's project. Sleep All Eyes Open is another fast rocker; nice how they already start fast and then give you the feeling of ever getting faster, wait, there's some illusion somewhere in it, like Escher's stairs that go upwards all the time. Come Back Clammy Lammy is again fast and quite straight for a Cardiacs song. It has another addictive crowd chorus but the Cardiacs can be accused of recycling some of their own older ideas in places (also in the odd other song).

The band then calms down a bit; Clean That Evil Mud Out Of Your Soul doesn't go for speed generally, although it has a weird and fast guitar melody in its instrumental bridges, but also they wind it down at some moments, this is melodic and rich in contrasts. Ain't He Messy Though is also about the melody and the chords, it's very nicely crafted with the typical twists, a strong keyboards sound and some very nice sax by Sarah.

Then Signs, which alone is strong enough to justify buying Guns; it's my no. 2 favourite Cardiacs song (behind Big Ship) and has the most memorable and intense chorus of them all, which is most effectively build on some very calm and vulnerable almost standing still ballad parts in between. I can listen to just this song for ages.

Song of a Dead Pest is a rather straight keyboard oriented melodic song, which sounds rather uplifting and relaxed, in stark contrast to its title and the lyrics. Will Bleed Amen is again a fast and hard finale with once more fascinating melodic turns. Attached to it is an epilogue that has Tim singing to the organ, leading up to a closure by the full band.

Perhaps I shouldn't have written that much on the individual songs, ultimately it's the Cardiacs and they totally defy description. Anyway, overall this has developed into something pretty strong again. OK, in the context of the Cardiacs universe it may not be seen as one of their peaks and there are some self citations in this one, and also (as usual) one can criticise the mix at times. On the other hand, when it comes to memorable addictive (but still twisted) melodies and choruses, Guns is second to pretty much no other Cardiacs album, with some real crackers on it, notably the stunning Signs. So this is the real deal, not some kind of second rate album, just if you test-listen to it, don't start in the beginning.

Get well soon, Tim, you're missed!

Review by siLLy puPPy
4 stars The 90s was a busy time for Tim Smith best known as the indefatigable leader of the cult band turned superstars CARDIACS who have been cited as a major influence from bands as diverse as Blur and Napalm Death to Mike Patton's band Faith No More and Mr Bungle. Outside of CARDIACS, Smith spent the 90s in and out of bands like The Sea Nymphs and OceanLandWorld but devoted much time to what is called the second classic lineup of the CARDIACS which featured Tim Smith and guitars, keyboards and lead vocals along with his brother Jim Smith on bass, Jon Poole on guitar and keyboards and Bob Leith on drums.

After the musical perfection and fan favorite "Sing To God" which emerged in 1996, Tim Smith divvied up his time between working on the next CARDIACS album and another more psychedelic band called Spratleys Japs formed together with Joanne Spratley. Given this division of Smith's energies it comes as no surprise that when CARDIACS released their fifth and final studio album GUNS that hardcore fans were a bit underwhelmed by what they heard. Whereas "Sing To God" has gone down by many to be the strongest album of Smith and company, the following GUNS has pretty much has the distinct honor of being the weakest. While weak is a relative term of course, in the case of the CARDIACS it simply means not OMG beyond the grace of god perfect!

GUNS was released in 1999, the same year as the album "Pony" by Spratleys Japs and in many ways these albums were different versions of each other. While "Pony" paraded around in full psychedelic regalia, GUNS on the other hand seemed more like a stripped down version of "Sing To God" that retained the spastic zolo infused psycho-pop with proggy punk = pronk ferocity but eschewed the outlandish production and over-the-top accoutrements however the psychedelia as heard on the mind-melting "Jitterbug (Junior Is A)" was unleashed like the kraken to wreak havoc on unsuspecting eardrums. The result of this rather thin production and a bit of a musical retrograde has been the main complaint of prog snobs ever since but when all is said and done, GUNS is an excellent album that simply fails to live up to the magnanimity of its predecessors.

Considered by some to be a more accessible example of CARDIACS music, the truth does point in that direction but once again in relative terms. Sure there are not brutal avant-prog assaults in the vein of "R.E.S." or "Eat It Up Worms Hero" but as far as crafting super catchy pop infused hooks embellished with razor sharp punk guitar attacks and crazy hairpin chord changes and time signature frenzies, GUNS retained the essence of the CARDIACS spirit throughout the entirety of its 12 tracks and 46 minutes of playing time. Once again the songwriting duties were shared between Tim Smith and Jon Poole with some of the lyrics contributed by Bob Leith so stylistically speaking GUNS followed in the footsteps of "Sing To God" only toned down a bit.

Like "Sing To God," the core quartet of the lineup employed several session musicians including Tim Smith's ex-wife Sarah Smith on saxophone and vocals as well as a vocal cameo from Joanne Spratley. Add to that a trombone and French horn from Rob Deschamps and a reprise of the string quartet and after a few dedicated listens it's not difficult to conclude that GUNS is very much an intricate and even excellent piece of work that may indeed be the ugly stepsister of its blemish free older siblings but nonetheless still beautiful enough to flaunt at the prom! The wackiness and diverse nature of the songs is its high point as well as crafting a unique mood that is unlike any other CARDIACS album.

My personal main complaint for GUNS is the shoddy production which seems unforgivable considering how well "Sing To God" came out with its sparkling polished sheen but in the end i can overlook the inferior mixing and production job in favor of focusing on the outstanding songs that grace this final chapter of the CARDIACS universe. True that if you are a fly by night sampler who only wishes to pick up a token album or two, then it goes without saying that GUNS was not made for you but if you are like me, a dedicated indoctrinated member of the cult of CARDIACS then this album is just as essential as the four albums and several EPs that came before because when all is said and done, CARDIACS did not churn out a single bad track in its two decade existence. Only OMG good and OMG freaking too great to believe exists! GUNS is the runt of the litter that inevitably a hooked CARDIACS fan will eventually get around to after fully digesting the more prominent gems that came before but once that person gets here, disappointment will not be experienced! (Production faux pas aside).

Latest members reviews

4 stars Like many other reviewers, Cardiacs, have only become known to me in the very recent past. Though this group is labelled under the RIO/Avant-Prog sub-genre, I can attest that this a very thin affiliation at best. Unlike the remainder of artists found in this genre, Cardiacs are highly accessib ... (read more)

Report this review (#1323180) | Posted by suomynona | Thursday, December 11, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Cardiacs is a band. I love them Cardiacs people and having read sundry reviews of their noise on this site it is clear that they is a quicksand minded band who pull you into their world and not lets never. So I guess I'm preaching to the converted in my scribblings. But hey ho, nothi ... (read more)

Report this review (#331155) | Posted by raggleman | Tuesday, November 23, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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