Cardiacs - Sing To God
Not that all Cardiacs albums aren’t under-appreciated, but even I didn’t regard this for a time, after reeling over their 'difficult' third album “Heaven Born And Ever Bright” (which I loved at first but went off, and have since grown to appreciate more), which saw them shedding the skins of their previous incarnation as a manic childlike dysfunctional family unit into a mature mania, heavily layered other worldly psychedelic pop band. It sprawls over two discs like a many-tendrilled beast, taking in influences from Krautrock to the Kinks in a lysergic soup like a scorpion sting to the head, sharp yet soporific, making me dizzy with intense spins and swirls of sound and colour. Coming in on a waft of King Crimson style percussion and a keyboard sound not unlike Jon Anderson’s “Olias Of Sunhillow” album, “Eden On The Air” sounds like spin-off acoustic project The Sea Nymphs, whose album is dreamy and beautiful and also under-rated. The lyrics state that people like things safe and in order, preferring even and dry, when odd and wet are fine. This song floats like a boat on a calm sea before the short blast of classic frenetic Cardiacs with “Eat It Up Worms Hero” followed by the skewed pop of “Dog Like Sparky” in which Tim Smith states that “crawling is my world” and the classic line “put your hands on the Holy Bible and scream wank”. Next up the big slice of pop pie that is “Fiery Gun Hand” which moves with a furious pace and contains one of the best guitar solos ever. The song seems to capture the story of the crucifixion as done by Terry Gilliam! At least that’s my take on it. “Insect Hoofs On Lassie” contains some weird lyrics and a wonderful bass line, which soars like John Entwistle. It seems to be re-telling the story of creation through Lassie as if Tim Smith has become God (whom he refers to as Daddy Long-Leg). “Fairy Mary Mag” is hymnal, again with some inspirational bass playing from Jim Smith, and some heavenly choir, sounding not unlike the Sea Nymphs again. A classic rock riff begins “Bellyeye”, a song of salvation. “Horse’s Tail” sounds like older Cardiacs like something from “A Little Man”, but with extra thick layers of heavenly cherubs. The lyrics contain the words “Bletching” and “Swankledged”! Although Tim Smith has previously said that this album isn’t about God, there is a spiritual theme throughout most of Cardiacs material, certainly a “joyful noise unto the Lord” does often spring to mind. “Manhoo” is a classic pop tune with snatches of Kinks, Madness and Beatles but sounding somehow very mid-90’s indie. “Wireless” has a scissor percussion taken directly from Faust, and sounding very Sea Nymphs again with the cracked little girl voice from Sarah Smith telling the story of Jenny who dies while listening to the radio. Towards the end Tim Smith seems to be telling a story using streams of consciousness about a ship, which fades into an orchestral seascape of vast proportions. “Dirty Boy” is the centrepiece of the album. A song that builds and builds in slow grace and seems to be a dirge for a dead boy. A lamentation about the boy’s passing, and a celebration of his life, and hope for his after-life – wherever that may be. “Billion”, although such a short and quiet song, was apparently written by a very young Tim Smith, the first song he wrote, and speaks of separation and sadness, which is taken further into “Odd Even”, a title referring to the theme of “Eden On The Air”, sounding not unlike their cover of Dave Davies’ “Susannah’s Still Alive”, strange and twee. “Bell Stinks” and “Bell Clinks” were both written by guitarist Jon Poole, the first a short frenetic guitar instrumental not dissimilar to Captain Beefheart, the second more like an outtake from “Heaven Born” in feel, which seems to be about a man scared of himself. “Flap Off You Beak” states “there is no God” and birds see no life from on high and are sad. “Quiet As A mouse” is a very strange piece that is spoken by different voices, featuring Tim Smith’s mum, and seemingly about killing drummer Bob Leith making him quiet as a mouse and therefore much prettier! “Angleworm Angel” is about the striving for perfection through generations of cross breeding. It is fast and heavy. There is a wonderful orchestral flavour to “Red Fire Comes Out Of His Gills”, almost a musical mixed up with a torpedo of a song, which sails across the red seas with drums crashing all around it. “No Gold” takes us right back into Sea Nymphs territory, with wonderful backwards effects floating us into a dark psychedelic dream. “Nurses Whispering Verses” has surfaced from time to time in different forms before, but this is an attempt at the definitive version, with its manic riff kicking into an epic of anthemic proportions, twisted askew with a sense of lurking evil – delicious. We’re treated to a long fade-out before the final treat “Foundling”, almost a gothic wedding ceremony song with a wonderful deep synthesizer refrain washing us with deep waves of sonic sound. “Sing To God” was released in 1995, right in the middle of the so called Britpop thing, and if anyone can lay claim to the Britpop crown it is the Cardiacs, largely ignored in a period which was desperately in need of a nostalgia for something that never really happened in the first place, instead of a celebration of what we Brits can achieve when we really put our minds and imaginations to it. The Cardiacs were probably the greatest band ever to come out of Britain, and one day they will be recognised.