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Cardiacs - Guns CD (album) cover





3.62 | 66 ratings

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

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

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

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

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

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

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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