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Cardiacs On Land And In The Sea album cover
4.39 | 182 ratings | 14 reviews | 49% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
progressive rock music

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Studio Album, released in 1989

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Two Bites of Cherry (3:40)
2. Baby Heart Dirt (3:33)
3. The Leader of the Starry Skys (3:52)
4. I Hold My Love in My Arms (1:11)
5. The Duck and Roger the Horse (3:56)
6. Arnald (2:49)
7. Horse Head (1:21) *
8. Fast Robert (4:00)
9. Mare's Nest (4:16)
10. The Stench of Honey (3:33)
11. Buds and Spawn (6:46)
12. The Safety Bowl (1:45)
13. The Everso Closely Guarded Line (8:23)

* Not on LP

Total Time: 49:05

Line-up / Musicians

- Tim Smith / guitar, lead vocals, producer
- William D. Drake / keyboards, vocals
- Sarah Smith / saxophone, vocals
- Jim Smith / bass, vocals
- Dominic Luckman / drums
- Tim Quy / percussion, keyboards

Releases information

Artwork: Steve Payne (photo)

LP Alphabet ‎- ALPHLP 012 (1989, UK)

CD Alphabet ‎- ALPHCD 012 (1989, UK) With a bonus track
CD Alphabet ‎ ALPHCD 012 (1995, UK) With a bonus track

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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CARDIACS On Land And In The Sea ratings distribution

(182 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(49%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(31%)
Good, but non-essential (14%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

CARDIACS On Land And In The Sea reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars My first taste of the Cardiacs, so I have no idea if this album is really representative of their style, but my guess is yes. I had always thought of The Cardiacs as a punkish group that was a cross of The Jam and The Clash and had sort of of left it at that, since at first glance, this group brought nothing new to what had been said in the late 70's.

So I picked up this album at the library, and I was rather taken aback with surprise and a sort of awe. I did remember correctly the sound of the band (see the groups mentionned in the previous paragraph), but the structure of the songs were rather much more complicated than those very groups. Actually, Cardiacs are probably closer to The Stranglers's best and most progressive works (and if Cardiacs arein... then Stranglers might as well be) and sometimes approaching The Resident's rockier (and saner) moments (ie: Third Reich And Roll).

However impressive the music structures may be, I am not sure they serve much purpose for the songs themselves. Yes, the work is impressive, but it seems a bit lost on the unwarned (and non-worrying) listener that probably does not expect (or want or even search ) for these complex arrangements. Somehow with the exhuberant and overpowering nature of the music, there is something rather awkward about Cardiacs' rather useless (IMHO) complex time sigs and other prog trademark. The overall feeling on such an album might just sound like The Jam or Stranglers stepping all over Miriodor or X- Legged Sally (sometimes, though)

Still much worth discovering, if not to love and cherish, just to know that such a music cross-overis possible, (prungk anybody? ;-),but I would definitely not classify the Cardiacs as RIO/Avant-prog, though.

Review by russellk
5 stars OK, there's this song. 'The Duck and Roger the Horse' it's called. (Roger the horse, hee hee, naughty scamps, these CARDIACS.) I can't describe it; you simply have to hear it. Well, maybe I can describe it. I'll use lots of words like 'chaos' and 'insanity'. There's this series of noises to start it off, then lyrics shouted so fast I can't make them out, but which apparently go 'Duck tells me I must look a treat/I look my best so I tell him/Scrub me head and feet, make me nice and neat/I'm a different man so they say/Ha ha ha ha.' Good-oh. Chaotic staccato stabs in ridiculous time signatures lead eventually into this short proggy section. And I do mean proggy. There's frenetic, raging metal moments, insane thousand-words-a-minute vocals, complete halts, amazing syncopated keyboards, drums and vocals all mixed together, incredibly tight musicianship - anything and everything, a full album's worth of creativity - and, best of all, it all makes glorious sense and is a fabulous fun-filled song. And it's not even four minutes long.

This is the sort of thing SYD BARRETT might have done had he been able to keep working: this album certainly has more than a whiff of psychedelica about it. It also has the same BARRETT wry humour, and the same deliberately naive songwriting style, borrowing from childish rhymes and simple tunes, splicing everything together in a complex fashion. What marks this album out from anything that came before it in CARDIACS' discography is the consistently high standard of composition. There's nothing less than completely compelling until one reaches 'Horsehead', the short seventh track, but there is no real weakness on this album. Everything challenges, everything entertains.

This is essential. It's punky, it's proggy, it's energetic, it's fun. They make you fall in love with them. And these songs sound even better live: check out the 'Maresnest' vids on YouTube and see what I'm talking about. If this lot don't move your feet, you ain't got feet.

And get well, Tim.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I've been listening non-stop to Cardiacs ever since I got my hands on A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window and so the next logical step was this album. It may not have the same high quality/minute ratio but that, by no means, should make this album less of a masterpiece that it really is!

The opener Two Bites Of Cherry is, in my opinion, the crown jewel of Cardiacs discography that should not be missed out on. This short three minute tune incorporates a strong melody, memorable interplay between the instruments and you just have to love the transitions between the different parts of the song!

Although On Land And In The Sea falls slightly short in comparison to A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window and Sing To God it's still as good album as any to begin your Cardiacs collection. An excellent album from beginning to the very end.

***** star songs: Two Bites Of Cherry (3:19) Baby Heart Dirt (3:32) The Leader Of The Starry Skys (3:52) The Duck And Roger The Horse (3:56)

**** star songs: I Hold My Love In My Arms (1:10) Arnald (2:49) Horse Head (1:20) Fast Robert (3:59) Mare's Nest (4:15) The Stench Of Honey (3:33) Buds And Spawn (6:46) The Safety Bowl (1:45) The Everso Closely Guarded Line (8:23)

Total rating: 4,30

Review by frippism
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Any of my thousands of fans who read my review of "Sing To God", know that I absolutely love this band. While "Sing To God" brings some of the more punkish elements Cardiacs have had to the forefront, "On Land And In The Sea" while punkish, is much more psychedelic. OLAITS is also probably the best Cardiacs album from the classic 84-90 period, providing some very fun insanity, while also showing some moments of sincere beauty, and most importantly, it's progressive!

The songs here are all excellent. Not one bad one. BUT of course some are great and some are even the best Cardiacs might have to offer. "Two Bites Of Cherry" opens this album more than nicely, being one of my favorites from this album. "The Ever So Closely Guarded Line" is an incredible finish, but the middle is incredible. "The Duck And Roger The Horse" is quite possibly the best thing ever made. The song is probably the best Cardiacs song and the best song of the albums. Though what comes after it is almost as good! "Arnald" is one very fun track, which leads to the "Horsehead"-"Fast Robert"-"Mare's Nest" trio. Now this is something very very special. "Horsehead" has some truly beautiful loop pedal effects, "Fast Robert" is hilarious and "in your face" and stunningly beautiful at the same time. "Mare's Nest" has some of the more beautiful Cardiacs songs. "The Stench Of Honey" has some very nice bass playing, and "Buds And Spawn" is stunning and headbanging at the same time. All songs here are masterpieces, and there is absolutely no filler.

The musicianship here is of course wonderful. Sarah Smith's sax has some very powerful parts. On this album she is probably her craziest. William D. Drake is at his keyboard best, and I mean that. His stuff here is probably the quirkiest and most asymmetrical from his whole Cardiacs stint. Tim Smith's vocals are wonderful as usual, and his guitar playing is as great as always, playing power chords when needed and playing some incredible lines when needed. Dominic Luckman's drumming is pretty ordinary punk drumming, which just really adds to Cardiacs' original sound. His drumming is probably what gives Cardiacs the punky feeling, which I love.

I love Cardiacs that it hurts, and listening to this album every time brings a huge smile to my face. This is as good as "Sing To God" and is probably up their in the list of my favorite albums. Anyone should get this and everyone should enjoy this, and I'm not being pushy or anything but I'm pushy and everything so you better like this.

Bassist Critique: Jim! Jim! Jim! Jim! Jim! Jim Smith provides his second best bass playing (his best is in "Sing To God", where it's some of the best bass I've heard ever). His lines are melodic and punky at the same time, which also makes him one of the more unique bass players I've heard. Bass players beware, Jim's stuff can be mad hard to play, and it sounds amazing.

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars Punk had its birth as a reaction to the megalomaniac attitude of the prog dinosaurs , everybody knows. So the late 70s saw a number of unskilled people playing a sort of rock&roll revival. Then somebody able to play tried to hide its skill by playing "punky". I mean bands like the Clash for example. But punk hadn't a long life. Soon somebody added some goodies to the punk and we had "new wave" artists like Lene Lovich and most of all the DEVO who had an old prog fart like Brian Eno behind the production.

This is where I think Cardiacs are from. Their music has its root in punk, but they have inherited the weirdness of DEVO and of course have added their own ears to obtain something that even with deeply British roots is still unique today.

One song for all: "The Leader Of The Starry Skies" has everything you need. Unusual signature, punk base and lyrics, a connection even with the ska and that crazy feeling which makes them so tasteful to me. I have actually loved bands like the DEVO and I honestly think that the Cardiacs are their "Evolution". I know that this sentence can seem a joke: evolution of devoluted.

Of course there are exceptions which make this band representative of the prog avant- garde. "The Duck and Roger the Horse" is an example. The sequence of chords and the changes in the signature are incredibly complicated. The sax played by Sarah Smith adds a further touch of jazzy crazyness, but apart when the drums are totally punk, we can hear much more. An epic condensed in less than 4 minutes.

A song like "Fast Robert" has a double face: from the musical side it's very complex, full of chords unusually jointed and at the same time has lyrics full of alliterations based on the sound of the words for than on the meanings. I have read Syd Barrett mentioned in one of the reviews of this album. This is a song in which I thing Barrett's influence can be seen. Luckily Cardiacs arrived at the end of the 80s and have had the possibility to avoid the worst of the decade.

As its predecessors this album is crazy. The songs is like they are sung by a happy fool even in the darkest moments. I think it's the insanity that makes this album so good. The weird smiles on the album's cover tell it clearly: this is a world of musicall madness. It's not allucinated like the world of Syd Barrett and it's everything but dark.

Of course a song like "Buds And Span" can't easily find a subgenre in which being inserted. The very good thing is that the quality of all the songs is excellent and the refrains (when there are refrains) are all great in terms of compositions. An excellent addition not to be missed from anybody's collection. Probably a lot of people will find them hard to digest like it often happens with RIO and Avant. Despite of that everybody with a bit of curiosity can proudly show this album in his collection.

Review by Dobermensch
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.

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.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Would you believe me if I told you that this is a mixture of Voivod, Gentle Giant, Supertramp, Frank Zappa, Genesis, Van der Graaf Generator and many more bands and sounds absolutely extraordinary? I would understand that you wouldn't, because this crazy statement seems very difficult to put int ... (read more)

Report this review (#2946821) | Posted by Argentinfonico | Tuesday, August 22, 2023 | Review Permanlink

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 liste ... (read more)

Report this review (#2756487) | Posted by Lupton | Wednesday, May 25, 2022 | Review Permanlink

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 saxophonis ... (read more)

Report this review (#2583052) | Posted by Ian McGregor | Monday, August 2, 2021 | Review Permanlink

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 T ... (read more)

Report this review (#2577773) | Posted by King Brimstone | Friday, July 9, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I can definitely say there's a holy trinity of Cardiacs albums, all three of them being cornerstones of Avant-Garde in my opinion: A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window, On Land And In The Sea and Sing To God. This album is my personal favorite of them. I can also say that it's pro ... (read more)

Report this review (#2577763) | Posted by Gorgut Muncher | Friday, July 9, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Yet another astonishing work from Cardiacs. I seriously believe Cardiacs are the best band after Frank Zappa (and The Mothers Of Invention). Their music is incredibly dynamic, creative, inventive, inspired and enjoyable. With many stand outs, On Land And In The Sea is no exception. Tracks like ... (read more)

Report this review (#2508749) | Posted by Isaac Peretz | Wednesday, February 24, 2021 | Review Permanlink

4 stars this is an amazing album, when i first hard it i couldn't quite believe my ears, but the mish mash of sounds that is cardiacs works superbly well on this album. from start to finish it is a rollercoaster of fun. they are an unusual band with real charm and if you want a refreshing change, th ... (read more)

Report this review (#33724) | Posted by | Thursday, March 24, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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