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CARDIACS

RIO/Avant-Prog • United Kingdom


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Cardiacs picture
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


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

3.84 | 19 ratings
Cardiac Arrest: The Obvious Identity
1980
3.89 | 19 ratings
Toy World
1981
4.02 | 91 ratings
The Seaside
1983
4.26 | 267 ratings
A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window
1988
4.30 | 131 ratings
On Land And In The Sea
1989
3.92 | 61 ratings
Heaven Born And Ever Bright
1992
4.26 | 320 ratings
Sing to God
1996
3.58 | 58 ratings
Guns
1999

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

3.35 | 11 ratings
Rude Bootleg
1986
4.05 | 20 ratings
Cardiacs Live
1988
4.47 | 23 ratings
All That Glitters Is A Mares Nest
1995
4.49 | 26 ratings
Garage Concerts Vol.I
2005
4.27 | 21 ratings
Garage Concerts Vol.II
2005

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

3.67 | 3 ratings
Seaside Treats
1985
4.50 | 10 ratings
All That Glitters Is A Maresnest
1992
3.75 | 4 ratings
Some Fairytales From The Rotten Shed
2017

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

3.87 | 21 ratings
Archive Cardiacs 1977-1979
1989
4.33 | 74 ratings
Songs For Ships And Irons
1991
3.00 | 2 ratings
Greatest Hits
2001

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

0.00 | 0 ratings
Seaside Treats
1984
3.67 | 3 ratings
There's Too Many Irons In The Fire
1987
3.96 | 6 ratings
Big Ship
1987
3.67 | 3 ratings
Susannah's Still Alive
1988
3.75 | 4 ratings
Is This The Life
1988
0.00 | 0 ratings
Night Tracks
1988
4.00 | 1 ratings
Baby Heart Dirt
1989
0.00 | 0 ratings
Baby Heart Dirt (12 Version)
1989
4.00 | 10 ratings
Day Is Gone
1991
4.81 | 8 ratings
Manhoo
1995
4.00 | 6 ratings
Odd Even
1995
0.00 | 0 ratings
Bellyeye
1995
4.00 | 5 ratings
Signs
1999
4.02 | 9 ratings
Ditzy Scene
2007

CARDIACS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Guns by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.58 | 58 ratings

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Guns
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

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

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).

 Sing to God by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1996
4.26 | 320 ratings

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Sing to God
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

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

5 stars Considered the pinnacle of the Mark II phase, SING TO GOD was the fourth studio album from the CARDIACS which came out in 1996, four years after the previous album "Heaven Born And Ever Bright." Having landed on his feet as the leader of a trimmed down four-piece band, Tim Smith shifted the band's eclectic keyboard drenched sound to a heavier progressive punk = pronk style which focused on the more aggressive twin guitar attacks accompanied by those indefatigable time signature workouts with beyond bizarre jazz-tinged chord changes. SING TO GOD took everything the CARDIACS had done up to this point and threw it all in a steaming hot cauldron and turned up the heat even more.

After losing the four key members that resulted in the band's first album as a quartet on the last album, drummer Dominic Luckman followed suit and left the band after "Heaven Born And Ever Bright" and was replaced by Bob "Babba" Leith thus completing what is called the second classic lineup which would only release this classic album SING TO GOD and the following final CARDIACS album "Guns." Guitarist / keyboardist John Poole took on a greater role in the songwriting department and within the course of the three years between albums the band accumulated a huge reservoir of material which resulted in a double album of 22 tracks that collectively add up to almost 89 minutes of spastic progressive art punk infused with new elements of psychedelia and catchy pop hooks. Other members also contributed more liberally to the creative process thus making SING TO GOD the most diverse sounding CARDIACS albums of their canon.

Although technically a quartet SING TO GOD still benefited from myriad guest musicians including vocals and saxophones by former member Sarah Smith, violins, trumpets, a string quartet, orchestral arrangements and even a musical appearance from a pair of scissors! While clearly an unmistakable CARDIACS album, SING TO GOD sounds like the band was phasing in and out of reality thus providing the soundtrack for another dimension or state of consciousness. Fortified with the usual crafty pop hooks infused with punk rock guitar heft, CARDIACS went for the angularity jugular on this double dipping of musical surreality. The first noticeable thing about SING TO GOD is the return to a more diverse palette of instrumentation with more keyboard parts courtesy of Jon Poole and a greater expansiveness of dynamics with tracks shifting from slow crawlers to bombastic punk fury without notice.

"Eden On The Air" starts the show with an introduction to the more atmospheric side of the band with those contorted rhythms, twisted time signatures and everything-in-opposition approach to songwriting without sacrificing the buttressing pop infused hooks that keep it all rather accessible. The following "Eat It Up Worms Hero" explodes into punk guitar fury but also goes for the brutal prog jugular with sudden stylistic shifts, flirtations with near metal music orotundity and an almost religious devotion to mondo-bizarro on the altar of unorthodoxy. While the main emphasis of SING TO GOD is much like "Heaven Born And Ever Bright" with the monstrous guitar riffs and theatrical vocals all fluttering around in frenetic zolo art punk style, the more psychedelic and orchestral elements that were added gave SING TO GOD a much more epic feel as opposed to previous CARDIACS releases.

SING TO GOD also showcased a new infatuation with production as that intangible extra instrument to take the music into even stranger worlds. Along with the punk fury barraging at quickened tempos, CARDIACS employed krautrock techniques more famously associated with the early 70s from bands like Faust, Neu!, Can and other German classics which adds a somewhat smoothing out of the incessant barrage of high octane derangement of the punk fueled avant-prog escapade resulting in one highbrow autistic episodic outburst after another. The addition of orchestral arrangements and the string quartet that serves as background supplementation only adds to this.

SING TO GOD was a slow burner for me having always preferred the classic Mark I lineup but after these 90s albums started to get under my skin i was a convert and now find all phases of the CARDIACS music to be equally ingenious thanks of course to the mastermind prodigy Tim Smith whose beyond eccentric idiosyncrasies required decades of the general public to catch up with to be able to handle such a barrage of creative genius. What's amazing about SING TO GOD is the diversity of tracks and an utterly brilliant attention to detail beginning with well-crafted melodic developments for all of the bells and whistles to wrap around. Sure it may require a number of spins to wrap your head around this menagerie of psychotic lunacy but once you adjust your antennae to receive the proper signals, this one will blow your mind even after you've heard it a number of times! Tim Smith has stated that the title SING TO GOD referred to an imaginary child's hymn book and if such a soundtrack existed in some twisted reality this would surely be it.

 Heaven Born And Ever Bright by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.92 | 61 ratings

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Heaven Born And Ever Bright
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

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

5 stars Tim Smith's CARDIACS had a lineup as volatile as the music performed but the band had a nice run of the so-called classic lineup that lasted from 1984 to 1989 and produced some of the band's wackiest and most revered material beginning with the zolo pronk freakfeast titlted "The Seaside" and lasted up to the band's second full-length album "On Land And In The Sea," but much like the musical cadences of any given CARDIACS tune that jitters around all over the place, so too did this particular phase of the band's career. Change was afoot but Tim Smith was all about that and sallied forth to reinvent the CARDIACS sound after keyboardist William Drake, saxophonist Sarah Smith and drummer Tim Quy jumped ship and left the new version of CARDIACS a mere quartet. Despite this trimmer grouping, Tim Smith rose to the challenge and focused on heavier guitar oriented prog + punk = pronk attacks.

The result of this leaner band lineup was the third album HEAVEN BORN AND EVER BRIGHT which originally was released in May 1992 but quickly become a rarity due to the Rough Trade label which released it going broke soon after. The album didn't become readily available again until Alphabet Business Concern picked it up and re-released it in 1995. Long deemed by fans as one of the weaker releases between the more highly esteemed "On Land And In The Sea" and "Sing To God," HEAVEN BORN AND EVER BRIGHT has been cited by Tim Smith himself as one of his favorites and the one he is most proud of and while it's true that this one may take a little more time to get under your skin, the fact is that HEAVEN BORN AND EVER BRIGHT measures up as an extremely strong CARDIACS release that captures all those manic chord changes, frenzied time signatures, punk infused energy and zolo art rock taken to ultimate extremes.

Described as a mix of hardcore punk in the vein of Dead Kennedys with the prog highbrow sophistication of eclectic bands like Gentle Giant, HEAVEN BORN AND EVER BRIGHT tamps down the keyboard wizardry and focuses on beefier double guitar attacks courtesy of Tim Smith and newbie Jon Poole along with the bombastic bass grooves of Jim Smith and drumming heft of Dominic Luckman. Given that some of the tracks were recorded before the former band members jumped ship, a few feature Sarah Smith's saxophone playing and there's even a William Drake cameo on "Helen And Heaven." Tim Smith's vocal style seems to have grown even more agitated and unhinged as he traversed much louder soundscapes over the booming banter of the guitar distortion. The songwriting is as sharp as ever with instantly infectious melodious twisted and contorted in some sort of musical Cirque du Soleil but the brilliance of the CARDIACS albums is that they intermingle so many musical elements extremely efficiently.

While just as complex and unpredictable as ever, HEAVEN BORN AND EVER BRIGHT sounds like the ultimate schizoid sessions come to fruition with bouncy marchcore beats jerked around the musical scale like a school of fish fleeing a hungry predator. In the absence of a talented keyboard taking the lead, the twin guitar nuances become the canvas upon which Tim Smith allows his frenetic vocal style to unleash its idiosyncratic neuroses. The opening "The Alphabet Business Concern (Home of Fadeless Splendour)" starts with what sounds like a music box that releases a psychotic school choir of some sort that quickly becomes self-aware and releases its discontent in a fit of punk infused rage and then commences to force the complexities of Henry Cow into the art form of the Sex Pistols. Eleven tracks of these late 20th century schizoid men crafting some of the most intense CARDIACS tunes ever heard.

While HEAVEN BORN AND EVER BRIGHT very well be a pubic hair shy of the mastery of the previous and following albums, this album is absolutely no slouch and is nearly as perfect in every way if taken on its own terms. Perhaps more focused on songwriting rather than the flashy solos of William Drake or the future psychedelic accoutrements as heard on "Sing To God," the album doesn't fail to please the hardened CARDIACS fan who has already digested the masterful madness that is unparalleled. Like any other album by this eclectic and eccentric band, this one is literally unclassifiable as the band continues its ability to disregard conventions by fusing everything from ska and punk to hymns and school marching band music. Sure this one took a bit longer to really sink in but in reality, HEAVEN BORN AND EVER BRIGHT has really elevated itself on my playlist as a worthy equal of the Tim Drake years. After all, it's still ? Smith, the musical mastermind's baby and he didn't slouch off for one little bit and when all is said and done the CARDIACS project never produced even a single bad song in its entire existence. For me, this is another masterpiece.

4.5 but rounded up!

 A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1988
4.26 | 267 ratings

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

Review by ScorchedFirth

5 stars (10/10)

The studied art of insanity in music form. I'm talking of course about the mad mad world of the Cardiacs. Out of their two indisputable masterpieces (the other being 'Sing To God') this one is actually the more accessible. However, beware, that's all a matter of relativity, and this is probably one of the most bizarrely wonderful albums I've ever had the pleasure of listening to.

Each song is basically the audio equivalent of the TARDIS - bigger on the inside. Usually there are an insane number of fantastical ideas all crammed into about 4 minutes, in a way that feels appealing and driving, but never crowded in a bad way. Sort of like the more bombastic songs of Gentle Giant, although the music is very different.

The saxophone is especially cool and adds colour to the music. What is most exciting is the way they can pull of the stop start nature of some of the section, with complex time signatures, dramatic shifts and contrasts, and sharp turns more often than not all in the same song. And yet once you see it all somehow it all flows beautifully like a 4-dimensional river!

R.E.S. Especially has so many changes in a minute. Sounds much improved over the original version. There are a few other re-recorded songs that have all been improved as well that Cardiacs fans will notice. Sometimes the band repeats a mad synchronised section a second time just to show it isnt random!

Tim smith's vocals are brilliant and unique, sometimes infused with panic/fear, other times unbridled mania, other times plaintiff and full of thought. Sometimes he just sounds like a mischievous child, gotta love him. By now I'm sure we can all agree, one of the all time greats. Often bizarre lyrics to go with the music that adds to this effect.

A friend of mine, upon first listen to the Cardiacs described it as 'like being assaulted, in a good way', and that's probably how you will feel upon first listen. After a few listens you begin to get to know the songs, and enjoy them in a different way.

I see very few people being indifferent to the cardiacs. This sort of music demands strong opinions, and for those who get it, it becomes quite special. For me personally, the Cardiacs are about as unique as a prog band comes, so if this grand madness sounds at all like the sort of thing you'd be interested in, if you consider yourself a jolly odd creature, if you have an off kilter sense of humour, then definitely give it a try. It'll probably blow you away.

But for something this unique the true mistake would be to never roll the dice. Even if you hate it you might learn something about yourself!

R.I.P. Tim Smith : 'I have desired to go / Where springs not fail / To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail / And a few lilies blow.'

 A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1988
4.26 | 267 ratings

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

Review by Lupton

5 stars "Now you have created your own monster"

Take the grandeur of early Genesis, the aggressive punk of the Sex Pistols, the intensity of "Pawnhearts" era VDGG, the madness of er.. Madness, the sheer complexity of Gentle Giant the snarly vocal delivery of The Cure and you will get some idea of what is in store for you if you decide to listen to this album. Of course most critics simply could not deal with this group's music especially as the could not pidgeon-hole it so decided it must be rubbish.Simply labeling this music "Pronk" ie Progressive Punk is not really useful easy as it implies that this was a Punk group trying to play Progressive Rock which is totally inaccurate. Make no mistake- these guys can really play and have a very sophisticated musical vocabulary.

In a parallel Universe The Cardiacs first album A Little Man A House And The Whole World Window would be hailed an all time Classic.Instead it is known to a few almost insanely enthusiastic fans.The opening track is a stunner fusing a morose Brass Band backing with strange industrial noises morphs and ends with a rousing Musical Hall chant-"That's The Way We All Go!"I must admit I have never fully worked out what the lyrics are referring to. They are clearly very personal and I am guessing the opening track is about hating work and adult responibilities "I'm Eating In Bed" sounds like Gentle Giant on speed with sudden shifts in tempo and time signatures."Is This The Life" is probably the best known track on the album and was even a - gasp- minor hit for them. It is driven along by a particularly catchy and insistent guitar riff similar in some ways to early U2. "The Breakfast Line"is one of the best tracks on the album starting off with some crazy false starts swirling circus organ music rapid tim,e signature changes before finally settling down to a truly satisfying and very proggy guitar solo over a ever rising chordal sequence.I so love this music. The mellotron soaked (IQ's Martin Orford's apparently!) finale"The Whole World Window" is truly beautiful and melancholic.Lyrically the album seems to be a corollary to the opening track -a sort of flashback to childhood and being forced to grow up and enter the adult world. This is Progressive Rock at it's most extreme and as such you either get it or you don't ie you love it or loathe it.Not surprisingly the other reviews appear to back this up- not many 2 or 3 stars! Personally it is one one of my absolute favourite albums. A solid 5 stars.

 On Land And In The Sea by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1989
4.30 | 131 ratings

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

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

5 stars CARDIACS have gone down in history as one of the weirdest rock bands ever to exist for good reason and this is true dating back to the very earliest origins when they existed as Cardiac Arrest which was formed in 1977. After a few lineup changes, a few cassette only releases and a taste of blowing minds in the live performances, the upgraded band simply known as CARDIACS hit its stride with the absolute perfect chemistry of musicians in the classic lineup that consisted of manic mastermind Tim Smith (guitar, lead vocals, producer), brother Jim Smith (bass, vocals), Dominic Luckman (drums), Tim Quy (percussion, keyboards), Sarah Smith (saxophone, vocals) and the extraordinary keyboardist / vocalist William Drake.

After this septet was discovered by Marillion's Fish who invited the band to tour with them, despite the head scratching responses to the freak-a-zoid fusion that existed in a seemingly parallel universe where Devo, Madness, Oingo Boingo, Gentle Giant and the Sex Pistols all somehow were forced to play together, the band began recording longer albums for release. Starting with the EP "Big Ship," the newly formed septet honed their chops into a progressive punk powerhouse and with the full-length debut album release "A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window" the band took their bizarre herky jerky zolo progressive art punk to even stranger new realities. Few were prepared to accept this bizarre Island of Dr. Moreau musical madness and few did. Greater acceptance would have to be shelved for a few decades while the masses caught up.

Despite the cognitive dissonance response to the CARDIACS 80s output, Tim Smith and company persisted and released the followup ON LAND AND IN THE SEA the following year in 1989, a year when both glam metal and dance pop were ruling the music charts. This was a time when bands like the CARDIACS were like Mesozoic mammals hiding out in the shadows while the dinosaurs still ruled but little did anyone realize that the extinction event was coming soon. In many ways ON LAND AND IN THE SEA continues where "A Little Man" left off but the band sallied forth into ever greater complexities making this one a bit less accessible than its predecessor. Firstly the album didn't focus on a concept. While "A Little Man" ruminated over the existential qualities of childhood, warfare, professional life and the loss of innocence in general, ON LAND cast its gaze on the works of the 19th century Irish poet George Darley with direct quotes and similar references.

ON LAND AND IN THE SEA is a much heavier album that finds punk infused guitars in conjunct with Tim Smith's frenetic vocal style as the main focus. While "A Little Man" found William Drake's equally spastic keyboard prowess finding a spotlight at key moments, on this one his keyboards are more integrated into the overall compositional fabric that finds the tracks tackling punk infused guitar chops with zolo spasticity made even stranger with bursts of avant-prog bombast yet somehow creating a jazzy swing. This was the album that made it clear that CARDIACS were a veritable force of the musical world that crafted a strange new niche that no one ever even considered let alone mastered and taken to its logical conclusion. Despite what sounds may sound as a forced interplay of genre juggling, this album accomplishes the most surreal hybridization of what many would consider the most incompatible musical styles to coincide together and yet CARDIACS pulled it off with grace. Spastic grace but grace.

While many have accused this album of being avant-garde for avant-garde's sake, those accusations only display the lack of a deeper understanding of where this album is coming from for despite it all the hooks are irresistibly catchy and despite this album not registering as higher as "A Little Man" upon the first few listens has over time sunk in deep and become its "difficult" cousin but nevertheless just as satisfying. In fact this is one of those albums i can literally just put on replay and never tire of it is so satisfyingly good. Every track stands on its own. Every melody is unique. Every performance is mind-blowing and each cadence makes you wonder how this music ever came to be in the first place. How can such tortured music be so utterly enjoyable to listen to with incessant tempo changes, off-kilter time signatures run amok and yet the melodic flow is absolutely perfect. And so it has become in my world that ON THE LAND AND IN THE SEA has earned an equal billing with "A Little Man" as top dogs in the CARDIACS universe as both these albums find this classic lineup in top form. While this one is the more esoteric, it still retains the quirky charm of the previous.

This album has been released in two versions. The Alphabet label's original 13 track version has at long last seen a reprinting as the appetite for CARDIACS albums has increased dramatically. The Torso version which was the first CD version out the same year included several bonus tracks some of which appear on other compilations. No matter how you find this, you must! It has become one of my all time favorite albums and continues to blow me away every time i hear it. Sadly this brilliant classic lineup would end with this release. Sarah Smith left the band before the album was even released whereas William Drake and Tim Quy left before the next studio album "Heaven Born And Ever Bright" was released in 1992. While Tim Smith's genius would carry on for a few more albums, never did it shine so brightly as with this particular lineup. Both Sarah Smith's saxophone skills and Drake's godly keyboard playing took the CARDIACS sound to unthinkable perfection. While this album was a slow burner, once it fully sunk in, it leaves me in complete awe of how magnificent it is. A true touched by God moment here.

 Big Ship by CARDIACS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1987
3.96 | 6 ratings

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Big Ship
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

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

4 stars

BIG SHIP EP

The classic CARDIACS lineup was settled by the end of 1984 when the band released the last of the cassette only releases and would appear on the final "The Seaside" however it would take two more years for Tim Smith (lead vocals and guitar), Jim Smith (bass and vocals), William D. Drake (keyboards and vocals), Sarah Smith (saxophones and vocals), Tim Quy (percussion and bass synth) and Dominic Luckman (drums) to unleash their first real product into the underground scene beyond the cassettes available only albums at live shows and through mail order. After this septet found a new chemistry the band was discovered by Marillion's Fish and was invited to tour with them which despite the exposure was not well accepted by the neo-prog crowds as the rowdy boisterous and staunchly avant-garde antics of the band were too hot to handle.

The band would continue to tour for the next couple of years and would finally release the first real product of the band in the form of an EP titled BIG SHIP in January of 1987 on a vinyl 12" that was played at the speed of a single at 45rpm. While the little EP of just shy of 19 minutes was sort of a fluffer for the first "real" album "A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window," the title track became a staple for the live shows and was performed at almost every concert appearance and "Burn Your House Brown" would also be played regularly during the 90s and 2000s. While the EP itself would never see an independent reissue, the five tracks have been included on the 1991 compilation "Songs For Ships And Irons."

While approaching the stylistic fusion as heard on "A Little Man" album, the tracks on BIG SHIP are noticeably lower key (relatively speaking) than the frenetic power prog punk to come. At this point the power septet was keen on developing the intricately designed atmospheric constructs along with the more proggy time signatures as heard on the most outlandish track "Tarred And Feathers" which sounds the most like what would appear on the "A Little Man" album which came out the next year. The rest of the tracks resemble the more mellow moments on that album but the band were also developing the interesting melodic escapades that implemented the carnival show vibes into the merry pronkster mix of art punk and psychedelic prog.

As with almost every CARDIACS release that came out while the band was in its prime, it was all a little too much for the critics who almost universally panned it as rubbish and likewise the neo-prog fans who were keeping the progressive rock scene on life support failed to grasp the magnanimous nature of this bizarre amalgamation of sounds that evoke a sordid love affair between Devo, Madness, Oingo Boingo, Gentle Giant and whomever else decided to attend the party. I've yet to hear a CARDIACS release i didn't like and it's obvious how songs like "Burn Your House Brown" were the primarily influence of bands like Mr Bungle and the other hardcore circus acts to follow. While not as OMG perfect as "A Little Man," this EP shows the band closer to that divine awesomeness and should not be missed.

 Toy World by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.89 | 19 ratings

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Toy World
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

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

4 stars The decidedly unclassifiable antics of one of Britain's strangest bands known as the CARDIACS, or technically just CARDIACS started all the way back in 1977 by brothers Tim and Jim Smith when the band was thrown into the catchall punk world and then known as Cardiac Arrest. While the atmosphere of the era was that punk had dethroned prog as the dominant rock based genre, CARDIACS performed the unthinkable circus act of actually becoming both simultaneously. Described as an unearthly lovechild of Gentle Giant, Madness, Frank Zappa, Van der Graaf Generator, Marillion, Dexy's Midnight Runners, The Stranglers, Devo, the Damned and King Crimson, this band defied all easy pigeonholing and created one of the most bizarre idiosyncrasies of any genre. Known for their outlandish theatrical live settings as well as a form of prog fueled punk later described as pronk, this band of choppy rhythmics blasts and unbridled musical energy was too much for most to handle at the time (and still is for some).

After releasing the cassette only debut "The Obvious Identity" in 1980 which was sold only at live shows or through mail orders, the band went through a few changes which found not only the moniker change that would dropped the "Arrest" and become the better known CARDIACS but would see a lineup change that found the addition of Sarah Cutts (later Sarah Smith) who would steer the band closer to their classic 80s sound with her unique contributions of sax, clarinet and keyboards. Only when keyboardist William Drake jumped aboard in 1983 would the band become fully take full flight, at least in terms of ingenious musical integrity. As far as popularity was concerned, the band would remain firmly in the underground for a few decades and wait for the rest of the world to catch up to their unsurpassed originality. Part punk, part prog, fully spastic and fully fueled with Zappa-esque quirkiness, CARDIACS were on their way to even stranger worlds.

The second release TOY WORLD (first as CARDIACS) appeared in 1981 and was a mix of previous unreleased Cardiac Arrest material as well as new material with Sarah Cutts. As with its predecessor, TOY WORLD was released on cassette only and sold at live shows as well as available through mail order. The rarest of all CARDIACS releases, this one has never been rereleased and pretty much only available for your listening pleasure on the internet unless you were one of the minuscule samplings of humanity who actual was around in the early 80s London scene and was warped enough to be attracted to this bombastic musical mayhem. The album features two proto-versions of "Is This The Life?" and "Nurses Whispering Verses" which were re-recorded for "A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window" and "The Seaside" re-release.

Despite the absence of the keyboard virtuosity of William Drake, TOY WORLD is the first sign of the brilliance of future CARDIACS releases with primary songwriter Tim Smith honing in on the perfect marriage of the aforementioned influences which would remove CARDIACS from its underground status and become one of the modern day world's most revered lost bands of the past. TOY WORLD exudes the whimsical carnival atmosphere, the tightly knit rhythmic drive punctuated with angular time signature freak outs as well as Smith's instantly identifiable British thick accented lyrics sung in musical freneticism that led the maelstrom of madness to conquer the underground music scene. Also finding their full firing power were the atmospheric touches of the keyboards, the unorthodox compositional styles and the wider range of dynamics that allowed less frantic psychedelic passages to trade off with the more spastic outbursts of unrelenting mind-fuc.kery as well as that undeniable "avant-swing" that allowed the whole thing to coalesce into the sum of the parts.

While never having been re-released (and i sure hope that changes), individual tracks from TOY WORLD have found their way onto various releases such as the "Archive Cardiacs" compilation as well as various live releases. The only tracks that have never found a home on any other releases are "Over (outtake)", "Over + Over + Over + Over", "A BIG NOISE In A Toy World", "Verses" and "A Time For Rejoicing" and like all the tracks on TOY WORLD are essential listening experiences. Perhaps the only negative of this release is the production quality but it's this very self-produced, self-released quality of this early artifact that really displays that DIY ethic that made CARDIACS what they were, so in some circles that may actually be a good thing. Musically speaking, the compositions would need a little tightening up for prime time but all in all this is an enjoyable slice of musical excellence that clearly demonstrates why Tim Smith's compositional genius has been compared to the likes of Frank Zappa.

 A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1988
4.26 | 267 ratings

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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
4.26 | 320 ratings

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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.

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

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