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CARDIACS

RIO/Avant-Prog • United Kingdom


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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


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

3.85 | 28 ratings
Cardiac Arrest: The Obvious Identity
1980
3.85 | 28 ratings
Toy World
1981
4.19 | 114 ratings
The Seaside
1983
4.30 | 300 ratings
A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window
1988
4.38 | 167 ratings
On Land And In The Sea
1989
4.01 | 84 ratings
Heaven Born and Ever Bright
1992
4.30 | 365 ratings
Sing to God
1996
3.62 | 73 ratings
Guns
1999

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

3.50 | 15 ratings
Rude Bootleg
1986
4.07 | 23 ratings
Cardiacs Live
1988
4.13 | 28 ratings
All That Glitters Is A Mares Nest
1995
4.16 | 30 ratings
Garage Concerts Vol. I
2005
4.16 | 22 ratings
Garage Concerts Vol. II
2005

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

3.33 | 3 ratings
Seaside Treats
1985
4.45 | 11 ratings
All That Glitters Is A Maresnest
1992
3.60 | 5 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
4.20 | 87 ratings
Songs For Ships And Irons
1991
2.00 | 2 ratings
Greatest Hits
2001

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

4.00 | 1 ratings
Seaside Treats
1984
3.80 | 5 ratings
There's Too Many Irons In The Fire
1987
4.00 | 9 ratings
Big Ship
1987
3.83 | 6 ratings
Susannah's Still Alive
1988
3.80 | 5 ratings
Is This The Life
1988
4.00 | 2 ratings
Night Tracks
1988
4.00 | 2 ratings
Baby Heart Dirt
1989
4.00 | 1 ratings
Baby Heart Dirt (12 Version)
1989
4.06 | 14 ratings
Day Is Gone
1991
4.78 | 13 ratings
Manhoo
1995
3.97 | 10 ratings
Odd Even
1995
4.00 | 1 ratings
Bellyeye
1995
3.86 | 7 ratings
Signs
1999
4.02 | 12 ratings
Ditzy Scene
2007

CARDIACS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Sing to God by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1996
4.30 | 365 ratings

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Sing to God
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Lupton

5 stars Duke Ellington said that there are two types of music- good music and the other kind. I concur but for myself would go even further and say there are two types of music-music I like and music I don't like. I really like Cardiacs. Why? Their music is incredibly well crafted, extremely melodic, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes a bit silly (humour does belong in music as Frank Zappa would suggest) sometimes quite moving, challenging in the best possible way and most importantly just plain fun. Sing To God is effectively a summation of their music going back at least to their debut A Little Man but cranks things up a notch which is no doubt why many fans rate this as their best album. Even so the album actually starts with the gentle if slightly weird "Eden In The Air". Then they are off-Track 2 "Eat It Up Worm's Hero" is where the shear lunacy begins. Its mash up of styles sudden stops and starts and what for all intents sounds like a bit of Gregorian chants all in the first minute is surely one of those "Marmite" songs which will either leave you grinning with delight or leave you screaming from the room or huddling in the corner a gibbering wreck clutching your precious "Close To The Edge" LP close to your chest for comfort. Yes my friends- welcome to the wonderful world of Cardiacs. Most of the songs are actually quite short and some are even quite poppy such as "Bellyeye" and "Dog Like Sparky" (which for some reason reminds me of Kate Bush mainly because of the female vocals) but with enough twists and turns to get your teeth into."Manhoo" actually remind me a lot of XTC for some reason and is such a joyful and playful track.Then there is the short but exhilerating instrumental "Bellstinks" which recalls Frank Zappa circa his Uncle Meat period. I particularly love the medieval flavoured "Fairy Mary Mag" with its heavenly mellotron choir and some beautifully detailed instrumentation especially at the end which really could have been Uncle Frank .Particularly affecting is the final track on the first album "Wireless" about a girl on her deathbed. The scissors snips in the background are presumably representing the mortal coil being cut off so she can move on and when the snipping finally does end she is lifted off to heaven accompanied by exquisite keyboard instrumental section, This song is so beautiful and deeply moving. The track which gets the most attention is of course the monumental "Dirty Boy". This song about a messianic figure just sounds HUGE -it just builds and builds with massive chords and continually shifting key signature moving ever higher until the song shifts gear at the five minute mark-well my hair just stands in edge. Genius

A Modern Prog Rock masterpiece

 On Land And In The Sea by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1989
4.38 | 167 ratings

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

Review by Lupton

5 stars More musical mayhem from those crazy Cardiacs. If anything they ramped up the sound and overall intensity make this album initially harder to appreciate.However repeated listens ultimately reveals the shear brilliance of the music.The opening track "Two Bites Of The Cherry" is a great Prog Rocker and fairly conventional for them which still means head spinningly complex with a myriad of tempo changes. "The "Duck and Roger The Horse" (I'm fairly sure that is a naughty pun) is one of those tracks that delights fans and draws disgust from their many detractors.Its rapid-fire cut-n-paste collage of musical themes instrumentation is probably the best example.I can actually understand why many listeners simply cannot cope with this aural madness.I also like music to flow and settle into some kind of groove.Cardiacs simply do not allow you to do that. I find it strangely exhilarating to have what seems like a whole album worth of music whizz past in a space of a few seconds.The music is not true chaos rather than intensely complex which is why repeated listens are required at least by slowcoaches like me to "get it". "Leader Of the Starry Skies"is another great anthemic rocker although still with plenty of key and tempo changes to keep things interesting. "I hold My Love In My Arms" is pure Music Hall but shot through with their usual madness.It actually reminds me of Queen's similarly cod-music hall inspired "Lazy On a Sunday Afternoon" or "Seaside Rendezvous".Just a bit more aggressive and intense. Robert Smith's lyrics are as dense as the music and equally as obscure though not meaningless.He appears to be inspired by the Irish Poet George Darley and even paraphrases him occasionally as in "Mare's Nest".Punk inspired they may be but these musicians were far from lowbrow. The closing track "The Everso Closely Guarded Line" is another epic similar in terms of its sheer grandeur to the previous albums's close "The Whole World Window" and is frankly brilliant and a contender for the best Cardiacs song ever.Another highly complex amalgam of styles -Symphonic Prog,Punk, Medieval,(yes you read that correctly) Music Hall and Music Concrete. An absolute masterpiece from beginning to end.Pure genius.5 stars
 Sing to God by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1996
4.30 | 365 ratings

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Sing to God
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by jamiethomas

4 stars Was really looking forward to listening to this, especially after hearing A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window & Songs for Ships and Irons, but it didn't quite live up to my expectations.

A large part of that may be due to the line-up changes. This is really not bad music, I'm still giving it 4 stars, but for me this does not compare to the completeness and clearer sound of their second album. I'm always very reluctant to listen to double albums, because I find there's either too much filler material, or it's the other extreme with no room to breathe and take a step back. I think for this album it's the latter. I'm sure that if I heard these songs in isolation I'd think they were great, but in the context of this huge album it's all a bit too much.

Perhaps in a few months time when I'm used to this album I'll change my mind and it'll grow on me. But for now, 4 generous stars.

 The Seaside by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1983
4.19 | 114 ratings

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The Seaside
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Ian McGregor

5 stars This is the album The Cardiacs went off the grid. A record that features their trademark avant-grade and a far better combination of silliness with eccentricity. This album features the classic R.E.S. a song so memorable with its over-the-top chorus and a brilliant instrumental breakdown where the band goes absolutely crazy with the time changes. It also features demo versions of songs that would later be remastered in upcoming albums like Is This The Life & A Little Man And A House from A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window or Nurses Whispering Verses from Sing To God.

It might sound bold, but for me this is a masterpiece.

 Sing to God by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1996
4.30 | 365 ratings

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Sing to God
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Ian McGregor

5 stars Obviously a masterpiece. After many years it's still my favorite avant-garde album of all time. It has twenty two tracks that flow very well, they're split into two CDs. This record sounds like a combination of the heavy metal aspects of Dream Theater and the raw avant-garde of Frank Zappa. Tim Smith provides an iconic performance and the other musicians did some very tight playing. Some favorites are Fiery Gun Hand, Angleworm Angel, Manhoo, Bellyeye and Nurses Whispering Verses.

Recommended not only to Avant-Garde fans, but prog fans in general. A masterpiece of its genre and yet another proof that Tim Smith was a genius.

 On Land And In The Sea by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1989
4.38 | 167 ratings

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

Review by Ian McGregor

5 stars An underrated gem of avant-garde and the Cardiacs discography. It's undeniably a masterpiece, and a follow-up to the masterful A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window which defined their signature pompous sound. The album features the classic line-up which included Tim Smith's saxophonist sister Sarah Smith, so you'll hear a much more prominent saxophone than in albums like Heaven Born And Ever Bright and Sing To God.

Standouts would be The Duck And Roger The Horse, Arnald, Mare's Nest, Stench Of Honey and one of their best tracks to date, Buds And Spawn. One of my favorite Cardiacs albums, five stars.

 The Seaside by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1983
4.19 | 114 ratings

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The Seaside
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by King Brimstone

5 stars - Review #31 -

A slightly more obscure (than usual) Cardiacs release, The Seaside was the first CD by the Cardiacs, featuring their classic avant-garde style combined with some sweet and heavy punk. Best songs from this album are Jibber And Twitch, Hello Mr. Sparrow, A Wooden Fish On Wheels and Hope Day. The last one mentioned is the most quintessential song from the album. This is a pretty accessible album and it works as a great starting point if you want to start listening to Cardiacs' music.

I definitely recommend this album, it's pretty underrated and works very well despite being one of their early works. Five Stars.

 The Seaside by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1983
4.19 | 114 ratings

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The Seaside
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Gorgut Muncher

5 stars Last Cardiacs cassette. Well, I'm someone who loves this band with all my heart and to be honest I can't help but give it five stars as well. Very few bands were so inventive since their beginnings. The Seaside features a good amount of tracks that would be used in the following album, such as R.E.S. and A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window, which would also become the title for their first CD. I actually believe this is one of the most solid Cardiacs albums and it's, surprisingly, very accessible as well. It's not as Avant-Garde-ish as their subsequent releases, but it does feature a lot of post-punk or prunk.

I don't think there's a single song that I can call "the best" because they're all very good. It's five stars for me.

 Heaven Born and Ever Bright by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1992
4.01 | 84 ratings

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Heaven Born and Ever Bright
Cardiacs RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Gorgut Muncher

5 stars This album is SO underrated! I don't understand why its rating is lower than the other albums before and after it. Sure, it isn't their best, but the genius of Tim Smith is still there, and the music itself is as amazing as always. Seriously, the only band I can name that makes more insane albums that this one is Frank Zappa!

This album is the first after very strong line-up changes going from a six person band to just four? Songs like the opener feature majestic use of duplicated vocals. Anything I Can Eat is an intense and crazy track (even more than the rest of the album!). This album is definitely more accessible than the rest of their discography, but that doesn't mean it's accessible.

Seriously underrated. Ignore the ratings, go check it out! This band was always creative and very consistent. Five Stars.

 On Land And In The Sea by CARDIACS album cover Studio Album, 1989
4.38 | 167 ratings

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

Review by King Brimstone

5 stars - Review #29 -

The third Cardiacs album is as much of a milestone as Sing To God or A Little Man And A House And The Whole Window. It's just as inventive and creative as those two albums, and without a doubt a cornerstone of modern Avant-Garde and Prunk (progressive punk).

The Duck And Roger The Horse is the best song from the album, mostly because it features all the key elements in this full-length. The silly and manic vocals, the fast paced and technical instrumentation, along with the constant dynamic present in each track.

Absolutely recommended to all Avant-Garde lovers and it's without a doubt one of my favorite releases from this great band. Five Stars.

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

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