published: 9 /
In our 'Re: View' section, in which our writers look back on the albums from the past, Mark Rowland reflects on English art rockers the Cardiacs' recently reissued 1996 album. 'Sing to God'
It is hard to keep up with all the sudden key and tempo shifts that take place over the course of a Cardiacs song. The pace and shifts barely let up on 'Sing to God', but, believe it or not, it marked a period of simplification compared to earlier incarnations of the band. Previous line-ups included saxophone and keyboard players. But by the mid-90s the band had fashioned a more overtly guitar oriented sound.
That didn’t stop 'Sing to God' being any less epic in scope when it came out in 1996. The band’s previous album, 'Heaven Born and Ever Bright', came out five years previously, and in that time frontman and primary songwriter Tim Smith had written enough to fill a double album – which has recently been reissued on vinyl.
To put it bluntly, the Cardiacs' sound isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you like your music oddball, complex, arty and very English this is for you. There are elements of Soft Machine and early Pink Floyd in the Cardiacs' sound, as well as punk, the Kinks and creepy carnival music. If one was to give it a high concept soundbite, it would be "Blur jamming with Mr Bungle (the side project of Faith No More singer Mike Patton)." For the most part, the songs are intricate and fast paced, lurching from one section to the next.
After 'Eden on the Air' gets the album started in Robert Wyatt-esque fashion, we’re shoved into the quasi metallic thrash of 'Eat It Up Worms Hero', which you can barely keep up with. It doesn’t let up from there.
It is fair to say that it’s a bit much in one sitting, though it has plenty of gems on offer. Then again, most double albums are in a bit much in one sitting. At least 'Sing to God' never gets dull – if anything, you feel over stimulated over the course of the two discs.