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Cardiacs biography
Founded in Surrey, UK in 1977 (until 1980 as "Cardiac Arrest") - On hiatus since 2008

Complex, eccentric, defiantly different - Cardiacs are a unique, influential and sometimes overlooked force within the history of rock. Their status as a prog rock band is disputed by some, including frontman and composer Tim Smith himself, who notably prefers the term "psychedelic" or simply "pop".

Regardless, they are embraced by much of the prog rock community, as well as fans of punk, alternative, indie and pretty much every other permutation of rock music.

Their sound has gradually evolved over the decades from the raw DIY punk sound of their early cassette albums to the sumptuous grandeur and off-kilter pop of their most recent efforts, but all of it is shot through with Tim Smith's unique use of unusual chord progressions, Zappa-esque complexity, psychedelic overtones, catchy melodies and odd, often impenetrable lyrics.

Formed in 1977 (originally under the name of Cardiac Arrest), the band went through several line-ups, with Tim Smith and his brother Jim as the only constant members, before settling on the so-called "classic" line-up in 1984. This consisted of Tim Smith (guitar and lead vocals, primarily), Jim Smith (bass, vocals), William D. Drake (keyboards, vocals), Sarah Smith (saxophone, vocals), Tim Quy (percussion) and Dominic Luckman (drums).

This line-up was responsible for some of Cardiacs' most widely known albums including "A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window" and "On Land and in the Sea", as well as an eccentric, theatrical quality to their live performances including shabby uniforms, make-up, confetti and strange onstage banter.

After several departures (including Sarah Smith and William D. Drake) a pared-down quartet of Tim Smith, Jim Smith, Dominic Luckman and new second guitarist Jon Poole was established. William D. Drake was deemed irreplaceable and all future Cardiacs concerts featured the band playing to pre-recorded keyboard parts rather than a live musician, which took considerable skill, given the complex nature of much of the material.

This formula remained more or less constant from "Heaven Born and Ever Bright" up until the present, though Dominic Luckman and Jon Poole left at different points to be replaced by Bob Leith and Kavus Torabi respectively. For many the highlight of this period is the double album "Sing to God".

In 2008, Tim Smith suffered a major stroke,...
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CARDIACS discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

CARDIACS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.87 | 19 ratings
Cardiac Arrest: The Obvious Identity
3.82 | 17 ratings
Toy World
4.02 | 83 ratings
The Seaside
4.23 | 245 ratings
A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window
4.29 | 113 ratings
On Land And In The Sea
3.72 | 54 ratings
Heaven Born And Ever Bright
4.27 | 291 ratings
Sing To God
3.43 | 51 ratings

CARDIACS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.32 | 10 ratings
Rude Bootleg
4.07 | 18 ratings
Cardiacs Live
4.46 | 20 ratings
All That Glitters Is A Mares Nest
4.49 | 24 ratings
Garage Concerts Vol.I
4.25 | 19 ratings
Garage Concerts Vol.II

CARDIACS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

5.00 | 1 ratings
Seaside Treats
4.86 | 7 ratings
All That Glitters Is A Maresnest
5.00 | 1 ratings
Some Fairytales From The Rotten Shed

CARDIACS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.86 | 19 ratings
Archive Cardiacs 1977-1979
4.33 | 71 ratings
Songs For Ships And Irons
0.00 | 0 ratings
Greatest Hits

CARDIACS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Seaside Treats
4.50 | 4 ratings
Big Ship
5.00 | 2 ratings
There's Too Many Irons In The Fire
4.67 | 3 ratings
Is This The Life
0.00 | 0 ratings
Night Tracks
3.67 | 3 ratings
Susannah's Still Alive
0.00 | 0 ratings
Baby Heart Dirt
0.00 | 0 ratings
Baby Heart Dirt (12 Version)
4.00 | 8 ratings
Day Is Gone
4.81 | 7 ratings
4.00 | 6 ratings
Odd Even
0.00 | 0 ratings
4.00 | 5 ratings
4.02 | 9 ratings
Ditzy Scene


Showing last 10 reviews only
 A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1988
4.23 | 245 ratings

A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by mlkpad14

5 stars Cardiacs' album A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window is their most popular release to date. Cardiacs' style - part art rock, part punk, part prog, and extremely experimental - makes them one of the more interesting bands out there. The band is also very technical - they blow traditional time meter and structure out of proportion; they understand a lot about music, but are creative enough that they can break the rules and play around. In order to get a feel for Cardiacs' sound, one must truly immerse themselves in the music; A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window is not only a brilliant record, but it's also a great introduction to their huge discography.

The first song of the album, "A Little Man And A House", is classic Cardiacs: eccentric, theatrical, complex, varied, and intense. The song uses repetition and vocal delivery in order to build up overtime - we are but just into the album, and Tim Smith's unique vocals are already shining. Now, that is something!

Next, "In A City Lining" first showcases Dominic Luckman's intricate drumming. The song's message is controversial in that it makes fun of everyday life and progress. It really is not too bad, though. After all, black comedy exists in other forms far worse; and, Tim Smith gives off a very light and merry air as always.

"Is This The Life?" is Cardiacs' best known single, and it attained brief chart success, peaking at #80. It is well placed as the fourth song in the album. Tim Smith's guitar soloing and William D. Drake's grand keyboards - listen closely - make for a much heavier sound. Since side one is a little easier on the listener, this song helps to even things out. Afterwards, there is a short interlude.

"Dive" is fast-paced, dynamic, and has a fun outro: "Life's a part and it lies on top of me. Life is constantly on my mind." - and perhaps it's songs like these that lead so many people to compare Cardiacs to R.E.S., but in my opinion, the bands have nothing to do with each other.

A little over twenty minutes into the album, "The Icing on The World" kicks off side two of the album. Here, the album dips because Cardiacs were obviously trying to be heavy, at the expense of their distinct style. Perhaps if it was less orchestrated or the drums did not ring so loudly the song would work better.

With "The Breakfast Line'' the album quickly avenges itself. It introduces with people speaking in low tones; yet, it moves forward, and it has it all: tempo changes and a range of sounds as diverse and precise as the color palette are what define this song. Elaine Herman has some beautiful violin playing throughout, and it fits in extremely well.

"Victory Egg" is even better. The song is strictly vocal, with backing instruments that help to create a crescendo effect. The backing instrumentals help to add space to the music as well, just like in classical music and modern post-rock.

Nevertheless, "R.E.S." is, again, even better; actually, "R.E.S." is my favorite off of the album. That is because the keyboards sound like they belong in the chiptune genre; that is because "That's the way we all go" is slurred so beautifully, and the song is syncopated in all sorts of different time divisions. The guitar solo makes its grand entry about halfway through, and instrumentals are continually built on top - each a spark of an idea that lasts for maybe ten seconds. This song also draws comparisons to "Dog Like Sparky", off of Cardiacs' Sing to God; "R.E.S." and "Dog Like Sparky" are two of the most complicated "happy songs" that I know.

Now, Cardiacs have managed to create a world so unique and mesmerizing, and they have to end it off somehow. "The Whole World Window" is like "Impressioni di settembre" by Premiata Forneria Marconi and "Ad Gloriam" by Le Orme, but the bite of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds seems to interfere. "The Whole World Window" is your traditional ballad, but it so much more. The album ends with so much power - pure power. There happens to be another version of A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window with the added songs "Goosegash", "Loosefish Scapegrace", "I'm Eating In Bed", "There's Too Many Irons In The Fire", and "All Spectacular"; forty-five minutes is enough time for Cardiacs to make a statement - that is why the original is so much better.

 Sing To God by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1996
4.27 | 291 ratings

Sing To God
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by A_Flower

5 stars A few months ago, I discovered Cardiacs with this album. I fell in love immediatly Cardiacs are one of the most s spectacular program rock bands out there and this album proves it. I first listened with average expectations but was blown away by the creative yet complex music of Tim Smith. I had been looking for something really unique in prog and finally found it. Every song from Sing to God has it's own amazing creativity to make a perfect album.

Eden on the Air begins with random chimes and an atmospheric oceanic fade in. It is a swan song with high vocals thrown in the middle. I love how symphonic it is but so weird at the same time.

After the basic two minuets of Eden, things pick up speed with the advent grade Eat it Up Worms Hero. The song is messed up with random screams and hidden melodies. There is a lot happening and at the very end, after the fade out, we get some nice piano interrupted by a bang.

When I first heard this album, I was prepared for Eat It Up but not Dog-Like Sparky. The song has a sort of perpetual beat to it and picks up speed for the melody. The lyrics make no sense, but they don't matter. The melodIes just get better and better! I especially when the sing "Crawling is my Way." It's so strange because it has to be prog, but it just is so much more!

Now we get the quintessential prog-punk hybrid, Fiery Gun Hand. This one has normal punk like singing with random sounds that I could understand if most people would find annoying as help-I love it! In a few moments, it also becomes really symphonic and it even has a guitar solo and a keyboard solo. It has everything!

Things "kind of" calm down in Insect Hoots on Lassie-good title. I feel like this kills brain cells it's so advent grade and weird. The saxophone melody is awesome and son is the acoustic guitar. Another great one!

If the album had any weak tracks, the weakest link is Fairy Mary Mag-and even this is great! After the crazy intro, it becomes very medieval with a little girl singing after Smith. The ending is a random keyboard solo.

Now we get back into punk with Bellyeye. Such a good track. Some of it even sounds kind of polka-ish, Tim Smith is a genius!

Things get weird in A Horse's Tail. This song has so much fit into four minutes it feels like an epic! In the middle, you can hear more screaming and everything sounds like a demon circus. This is a personal favorite off the record.

Then we get what I think will end up being one of my all time favorite songs. Manhoo. The song sounds like possessive children singing with Tim Smith about spirits. Seems like a weird ghostly song turned into a rock song. I can't really describe how much I love it, just listen to it!

The first disk ends with Wireless. This one seems like a technological one for the 90s. It has an awesome repetitive keyboard riff that makes it feel very retro. As this moody plays off, it eventually ends and we are left with a tiny snapping beat over the sound of crickets. Tim Smith narrates some weird lyrics about buckets, eventually, the snapping stops. The first part ends with a beautiful orchestral overture.

Then it comes. The most messed up song ever. Dirty Boy. You want to turn it up but it hurts your ears. It sort of is like a hardcore version of The Beatles "I Want You". It takes many listens, like all the greats, but my favorite parts are...basically all of it. The buiild up in the middle is an eargasm. But the most notable section is the last two minutes. One note is held and is so loud but the guitar underneath is unbelievable!!!!

Billion is a short opener to Odd Even. Pretty cool.

Odd Even is probably the most accessible song off this weird album. It is dominated by acoustic guitar, strange feedback, and strings. It's a very sweet track, and in the middle is the same keyboard so at the end of Fairy Mary Mag. I feel it is heartfelt, and sort of a love song.

Bell Stinks is the instrumental prelude to Bell Clinks. It has a sort of crazy beat and a randomly beautiful and spacious middle. Pretty funny song!

Bell Clinks is really fast paced! You cannot understand a word. I read the lyrics and I think its about social rights or something. I don't know why, but it makes me think of Ballroom Blitz. Oh, and it has an awesome guitar solo!

Flap Off You Beak is not as weird but it's even better! First of all, look at the title-hilarious! I don't know if it's accessible or not, but it's got good vocals, good piano, and overall is one of my favorites.

Quiet as a Mouse is not a song but a really creepy bit about scientists experimenting on mice. Reminds me of the play I am currently in "Flowers for Algernon." One women is very creepy in this bit, some scary stuff here.

I have never done drugs, but if I do,I think it would feel not like listening to this next song, Angelworm Angel. The percussion is insane and super weird. This is just too much to take in!!!

Then we settle down with Red Fire Coming Out of His Gills. I like this strings, and the overall composition is a good one.

No Gold is probably the trippiest song off the album. It uses weird fade in piano, and this beats are followed by some even stranger percussion. The vocals also have a sound effect, as do the strings in the back. Weird song, but still great.

The album's climax is Nurses Whispering Verses. Pretty frightening song. It is dominated by an epic riff that fits it perfectly. Although the riff is kind of the only good part, the song also has a small build up and an ambient ending. The song fits best when with the whole album, but is a great climax!

Finally, Tim Smith treats us to an outstanding love song for the finale. Fondling brings a tear to my eye. After verses comes an overpowering synth riff each time. I can't really describe it because while I'm listening I have too many goose bumps to type it right now. If you listen closely, you'll hear chimes at the end, like the start.

Buy this album now. You will not regret it.

 The Seaside by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1983
4.02 | 83 ratings

The Seaside
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The last of the early Cardiacs tapes albums finds their classic sound really coming together. It's all here - the post-punk anarchy, the progressive creativity, and the off-the-wall carnival atmosphere which is the Cardiacs' special secret ingredient.

It should be noted that four songs - Nurses Whispering Verses, Is This The Life?, A Little Man And A House, and Dinner Time - are absent from many rereleases of the tape. On the one hand, this isn't quite the loss you might think, because all of those pieces were rerecorded for later albums - Nurses Whispering Verses is on Sing to God with different lyrics, whilst the other three appear on A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window. That said, the renditions here are sufficiently different to be interesting, so my advice to fans would be to hold out either for one of the rare original cassette releases or take the much more sensible approach of picking up the 2015 CD reissue, which finds the missing tracks restored at last.

 A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1988
4.23 | 245 ratings

A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I must admit I had a pretty big smile on my face as I read in the liner notes "Thank you to Martin Orford for the loan of his beautiful mellotron." Yes the former IQ keyboardist gets mentioned in the liner notes of one of CARDIACS most treasured albums. There's a lot of guests on this one as well adding brass, strings and voices. Yes this is a CARDIACS album that most fans would rank in their top three. Speaking of top three, it was fairly easy for me to pick my three favourite songs from this album as they are the songs that really spoke to me in one way or another.

"A Little Man And A House" opens with strings and horns not sounding very CARDIACS-like until almost spoken vocals arrive after a minute. We keep getting teased on this one that it's going to breakout but it doesn't as they reel it back in each time. Horns are back late in this interesting opener. "In A City Lining" is a top three track for me. A catchy beat with atmosphere and determined vocals. It turns circus-like around 2 minutes. Organ 4 minutes in then it slows down but at the same time becomes more powerful then the tempo speeds up. Lots of sax here as well. "I'm Eating In Bed" is a title that makes me smile and we can hear samples of that. So catchy. A variety of keyboards around 3 minutes. "Is This The Life" is another top three tune. It brings back the eighties for me and that guitar melody throughout is so appealing. And check it out when he starts to light it up before 3 minutes as the guitar goes on and on. So good! I like the synth/ drum section that follows as well. "Interlude" is less than a minute of solemn horns with keyboards arriving late.

"Dive" is hyper to say the least. A fast- paced Punk inspired track. "The Icing On The World" has lots of tempo changes and this urgent beat. Horns blast as vocals dominate. "The Breakfast Line" like "I'm Eating In Bed" features samples that you would expect from the title. Lots of tempo changes early on, it's all over the place, very entertaining. Strings only before 3 minutes then it turns fuller to the end. Nice. "Victory Egg" is catchy with vocals, drums and organ standing out early before strings and horns join in. "R.E.S." is catchy and uptempo but the highlight is the guitar solo after 3 minutes. "The Whole World Window" is my final top three and man this hits me emotionally. He almost speaks the lyrics early on then it all turns fuller including the vocals around 1 1/2 minutes. So good! He almost sounds like Peter Hammill here. I like how that theme is repeated, it's so moving and majestic. Some beautiful sax in this one as well. Tim starts yelling for some time during this majestic soundscape. Nice contrast.

A must if your going to check out the world that is the CARDIACS.

 Guns by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.43 | 51 ratings

Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

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!

 A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1988
4.23 | 245 ratings

A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Hercules
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Music for people with ADHD

OK, sometimes you just have to man up, bite the bullet and admit you were wrong. Very wrong.

I have always dismissed RIO/Avant as a genre because it very obviously just wasn't to my taste. And most of it absolutely still isn't. I've had a Cardiacs album in the past (Sing to God), listened to it once, hated it and sold it. End of interest. However, Darren Reddick played Is This The Life? on his excellent "One Man and his Prog" on Planet Rock, and rather than turn it off, I listened to it. And I liked it. So I got this album.

It's a bit like a mixture of Barrett era Floyd (absolutely not my taste), The Stranglers (very much my taste) and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (No thank you). Tim Smith's vocal delivery is weird and the lyrics bizarre; the band never settles on an idea for long, but flit from discordant passages to ones of considerable beauty, alternating rhythms and time signatures at random. It's the sort of music someone with a very limited attention span would compose and absolutely love. But it works because it's interesting

If you buy this, don't expect an easy ride. This is not music for background listening: it demands your attention all the time. Do I like it? Well it depends on my mood.

In the wrong mood, something like R.E.S. would make me want to smash the hi fi, with its frenetic vocals and vaguely irritating keyboards motif. But at other times, the wacky but brilliant guitar part makes me want to play it again and again.

Do I like it? Not all of it all the time. But in the right mood, its complexity, interest and sheer eccentricity make it a good listen. Favourites are RES (if I'm in the mood), In a City Lining, The Whole World Window and Is This The Life. At times I hate the whole album, at others I really enjoy it.

But I guess that's the brilliance of The Cardiacs. At last, I understand.

 Day Is Gone by CARDIACS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1991
4.00 | 8 ratings

Day Is Gone
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars DAY IS GONE is teeny weenie little EP that only runs for a mere 16:41 by CARDIACS that is sandwiched between their full albums "On Land And In The Sea" and "Heaven Born And Ever Bright." It is yet again another strong release from the jittery merry pronksters. This was the period when the band went through some serious lineup changes including the departure of William Drake who provided all those whacky and virtuosic keyboard runs on the previous albums which was one of the band's trademarks. DAY IS GONE pretty much finds the band licking its wounds and finding a new way.

To be honest, this stuff may not quite be up to par with the 80s albums but Tim Smith and company do an exemplary job at picking up the pieces and rolling with it. While CARDIACS have always been called "pronk" as far as musical style goes, i can't say their earlier albums come across that way but with this one that reference becomes more clear. The punk meets progressive rock label is more fitting here. The spastic zolo effect is still in play but the music isn't quite as quirkly. It is more like a regular hard rock band that happens to engage in strange time signatures with a punkish delivery.

While Drake's virtuosic keyboard runs have been demoted to Tim Smith's contribution of mere atmospheric generator, the exit of the instrument as a heavy hitter only makes the band focus on becoming a tighter quintet that focuses on the hard hitting rhythmic developments. The result is that CARDIACS sound closer to a "normal" band than ever before but have more than enough wild and unpredictable energy that oozes out every chance it gets. The title track was released as a single but success always eluded this whacky band despite actually being paired up with Radiohead at one point.

 Cardiacs Live  by CARDIACS album cover Live, 1988
4.07 | 18 ratings

Cardiacs Live
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Lewian

4 stars The highly energetic music of the Cardiacs works very well live, particularly because the musicians are so good that all the speedy twists and turns of their music are done flawlessly on stage. I know that the sound of live albums is not everyone's cup of tea, but I often perceive it as more dynamic and more direct than studio recordings. It helps me to feel more connected and closer to the band, which adds to my experience of the music. The sound here is good enough for following the details in the music, it's not of studio quality but just what is needed to produce this more direct live sound quality. I wasn't able to see the Cardiacs live at the time, so I'm not going to comment on how well or not so well this album reproduces the experience.

This album contains songs from their first albums up to " A little man and a house...". If I'm not mistaken, this is the first appearance of the marvellous "Big Ship" on a record (edit: that's actually not true, there was an EP Big Ship earlier), which has become my Cardiacs favourite (this is also on the apparently better known Mares Nest live album that was recorded two years later, I think, and has similar qualities to this one - it is well worthwhile having both because the intersection is not so large with five songs). The music is Cardiacs' trademark punky theatralic music with frequent changes in speed and time signatures, complex and surprising melodies (with some straight ones thrown in that surprise in this context as well), some ska and some middle age elements. Tim Smith's voice is even more on overdrive on this live record than in the studio; actually he isn't much bothered about hitting the right notes at times, rather he tells stories, shouts, whispers and does all kinds of things that a well behaved singer wouldn't do. I'm impressed by the variety of William D. Drake's keyboard work on organ, piano and synth, Sarah Smith's sax is very important particularly when the music is at its most intense and theatralic; she doesn't play solos but rather brings the energy out, seemingly emulating a whole brass section at times. Guitar and drums are very dominant, too (this has some hard rock qualities too, at times, particularly toward the end, where also the music has some more time to flow without all too sudden changes and all too dominating vocals); the bass and percussion rather work in the background (it's better going to the studio albums for appreciating them).

This is a great energetic document of a great show of a great band that shows its complex disturbing theatralic side here as well as some free flowing hard rock music. It's not going to convince regular haters of live albums of their merits but for those who appreciate live sound on records this is top notch.

4 1/2, kind of five for me but four acknowledging that certain sound deficiencies may keep some people at bay.

 On Land And In The Sea by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1989
4.29 | 113 ratings

On Land And In The Sea
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Dobermensch
Prog Reviewer

5 stars This is one of many superb albums in the 'Cardiacs' catalogue. The band that everyone either loves or hates. Amongst a miserable few years at the tail end of the 80's along come the effervescent and boisterous 'Cardiacs' playing their prog-punk without a care in the world.

Tim Smith's high pitched maniacal vocals dominate 'On Land and in the Sea'. He brings an intensity amongst the staccato stabbing sound that the 'Cardiacs' were so superb at executing.

At points the guitarist sounds like Brian May of 'Queen', but he's more delirious and frantic. I just laugh and smile at every verse Tim Smith sings. The guy is a quite frankly a genius. Possibly the the best singer-songwriter I've heard. He was influenced by 'Gentle Giant' and that's pretty obvious as you listen to the instrumentation on this album. It's 100 miles per hour stuff, without a dull moment, as if your two favourite prog bands were mashed through a food blender.

'On Land and in the Sea' is incredibly complex, with no regular beat appearing for more than a few seconds before stopping and suddenly changing at 90 degree angles.

Watching them live is like viewing a 'Three Stooges' movie as they slap and batter each other in a sea of verbal abuse. Along with the 'Residents' they surely have to be the most unusual artists on this website.

The 'Cardiacs' sound timeless and relevant in 2015, being completely undated with their fast, powerful and frantic tunes, which despite their really odd time signatures, don't seem to put a single beat out of time. For the likes of you and I this would have been absolute murder trying to record. So it's a big 'hat's off' to the drummer who somehow understands the mindset of his fellow musicians. I drum pretty competently, but I would never have got my head around this craziness for all its 40 minutes of psychedelic madness.

How on earth are human beings capable of doing this so perfectly?

Just listen to' The Duck and Roger the horse' - this encapsulates the whole album. Demented drums, stuttering keyboards and mental vocals run rampant where only 'Koenjihyakkei' of Japan come close in comparison.

The 'Cardiacs' were of the most unique and original bands you'll hear on this entire website - with nobody since able to advance and improve their complexity.

I hope you're feeling better Tim. You brought some happiness and sunshine to my life.

 Guns by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.43 | 51 ratings

Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by suomynona

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 accessible.

Guns is the final studio release from this gem of a band and seems to be a kind of change in direction from their previous efforts. Traditionally, the band exhibited an odd mix of high energy Prog instrumentation coupled with punk sounding vocals. Those elements still exist on Guns, but have been tempered somewhat. Loyal fans to the group would have likely perceived this effort as lacking because of this change in temperament; however, having the benefit of listening to their catalogue "out of order", one can objectively appreciate this album as being one of very high quality.

The songs generally have a musical coherence and are generally concise. That being said, there is little on this effort that would be viewed as straight forward and consequently Guns proves to give the listener something new and interesting to play with. In general, there are no weak tracks, though none are outright spectacular or memorable either. Taken as a whole, Guns proves to be very strong; the sum definitely being greater than its parts and ultimately a worthy purchase for most, if not all prog-heads.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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