Friday, 4 September 2009
Cardiacs - On Land And In The Sea
Quite how I have managed to reach the fourth month of a blog without posting this, I don't know. One of my favourite albums ever, and almost certainly the most listened-to.
Cardiacs are an acquired taste, certainly. Their near-obsessive band of fans experience such joy from their music and amazing live shows, that it is undoubtedly easy to lose sight of this, and wonder why they aren't massive. If you do acquite the taste, though, there are unrivalled joys to be had. I think this album is their best, because it is the most psychedelic, with the most amazingly layered and detailed production, yet is still chock full of brilliant tunes. The mix is almost head-spinningly overloaded at times, with tiny little voices and distant exclamations vying with saxophone parps, pots and pans, and fine-tuned kitchen sinks rattling around. All this detail, though, is cleverly orchestrated chaos that never forgets that it is there to embellish the songs, and it never drowns them out. Produced by Tim Smith (vocalist and main songwriter), this full-on style was reined in on subsequent albums (all brilliant) in favour of a more stripped down sound. As usual, the songs veer from snotty, jittering stop-start punkers; to grandiose prog anthems, from one line to the next. The addition of sax player, percussionist and keyboardist to the traditional band line up meant that they could pull this off live, too. I was lucky enough to see them with this line up 20 years ago: although Sarah Smith and William Drake would continue to contribute to albums, the live band would soon slim down, before expanding again in later years.
I forget how many versions of the band I've seen. Living in London has its tedious sides, but being able to see the Cardiacs regularly over the years has been fantastic, and I feel very grateful now.