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Cardiacs - A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window CD (album) cover





4.29 | 304 ratings

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5 stars I feel I must make this announcement before writing this review: I am a huge Cardiacs fanboy, who found them many, many years too late (two or three years ago, to be precise). I love every project I've heard from members of the extended Cardiacs family (Tim's solo work, Sea Nymphs, Spratleys Japs, Knifeworld, William D. Drake, etc. etc. etc.) and [i]especially[/i] in the case of Cardiacs themselves, hardly find a wrong/unpleasing note in the entire discography. Though this album, along with Sing to God (and very probably On Land and In the Sea) really, really tops the rest. Everything about this album is wonderful, beautiful, and basically beyond comparison.

From the opening of A Little Man and A House, I knew upon first listen that I had found something special from this group...again. After listening to Sing to God so many times and loving it so much, I was certain that no other album from the group could top it, or indeed match it. I was proven horrifically wrong after listening to this. That album is very hard-edged, lots of complex guitar riffs with a satisfying amount of effects, not to mention a very prominent punk feel throughout. The punk feel is still noticeable on this (earlier) album, though less pronounced. What we're presented with on THIS album is lush instrumentation, complex band arrangements, and a variety of sounds on display throughout. There's a lot of humor evident, both in the lyrics and in the music itself.

Tim Smith is the genius behind the group (main songwriter, guitarist, vocalist, etc), and this is one of the many albums on which my favorite of his co-conspirators plays keyboards, namely Mr. William D. Drake (currently a successful solo artist, not to mention his involvement writing/performing with North Sea Radio Orchestra). Drake's keyboards are absolutely [i]amazing[/i], and his ability to play complex material which puts most of the popular prog keyboardists to shame is constantly on display here (listen, for a great example of his talent, to R.E.S. sometime). Funny story I heard...apparently, Tim Smith heard Drake playing keyboards with another group, at which point he wrote him a supposedly fairly complex piece of music and asked him to play it. After he did it with relative ease, Tim supposedly informed Drake that he was now a member of Cardiacs, whether he wanted to be or not. I'm glad he didn't decline the "offer" because so much of their best music involves his talent.

After many, many listens, this album still regularly sends shivers down my spine. If I had to describe the music...I'd say it's something like new wave/post punk meets circus music meets symphonic prog meets Zappa's complexity meets some jazzy (for the albums with Sarah Smith's sax, at least). Cardiacs really were unique, that's all there is to it. Everyone should at least give them a chance, and this album is the one I'd probably recommend to most listeners to start with.

Personal highlights from the album (though every track's just about equally incredible): A Little Man and a House, In a City Lining, Dive, R.E.S.

This album is definitely deserving of a five star rating. It's one of the most perfectly concocted rock albums I've heard, full of care and detail and some of the best music around. Fifty, a hundred, several hundred years from now even, I think this is one of the albums from rock which, given enough notice, will be looked back upon as legendary, archetypal, and that goes for Cardiacs as a band as well.

SaltyJon | 5/5 |


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