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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Cardiacs: Sing To God

CARDIACS: SING TO GOD (1996)

1) Eden On The Air; 2) Eat It Up Worms Hero; 3) Dog-Like Sparky; 4) Fiery Gun Hand; 5) Insect Hoofs On Lassie; 6) Fairy Mary Mag; 7) Bellyeye; 8) A Horse's Tail; 9) Manhoo; 10) Wireless; 11) Dirty Boy; 12) Billion; 13) Odd Even; 14) Bell Stinks; 15) Bell Clinks; 16) Flap Off You Beak; 17) Quiet As A Mouse; 18) Angleworm Angel; 19) Red Fire Coming Out From His Gills; 20) No Gold; 21) Nurses Whispering Verses; 22) Foundling.

If you want a really gushing, salivating, over-the-top-laudatory review of this record, go read this glowing account by Sam Shepherd, who either genuinely believes that Sing To God is one of the greatest records ever made, or must have been so heavily bribed by Alphabet Business Concern that all past and present members of the band should have been left penniless. Granted, the man is not alone in his judgement: the sheer sprawl, scope, loudness, epicness of the record was enough to convert many fans, and there is no denying that a huge mass of creative ideas and painstaking work was involved in its preparation.

I am, however, not impressed — at least, not from a general chronological perspective. First and foremost, if I wanted to make a case for Sing To God as the band's magnum opus in anything other than length terms, I'd need to see what sort of advanced level it represents. Has Tim Smith, on this particular occasion, managed to expand the borders in a clearly perceivable manner? Is he providing any new insights? Are the songs ostensibly improved since last time, or the time before last? I do not get that feeling; as far as I can tell, there may be more of them, yes, but they are still typical Cardiacs songs that share all of the Cardiacs' virtues and vices.

And honestly, with four well-produced, well-pronounced, idea-filled records under their belts, a double album that gives you the same old shit — no matter how complex and technically unpre­dictable that same old shit is (and, actually, at this juncture the Cardiacs' unpredictability is itself becoming almost boringly predictable), it is rather hard to go on being amazed by it. How many times can you shuffle a kaleidoscope (getting different results every time) before the process be­comes monotonous and irritating? The worst thing about Sing To God is: I have listened to it four times, all of its ninety minutes, and I was never once amazed or astounded — yet, clearly, like everything the Cardiacs did, this is an album that is supposed to astound you, and if it does not, and the magic does not work, then it is a failure.

Or maybe not; maybe the worst thing about it is how it presents itself as far more ambitious than anything they did before. From the pretentious title, to the pretentious opening (chimes! soft waves of electronic tinkle! choral harmonies! trying to find the perfect piano chord!), to the 22-track length, they do seem to be telling us, "this is the Cardiacs like you've never heard us before; this is the meaning of life in ninety minutes; this is our Lifehouse and SMiLE all in one, only we succeed where the ancestors have failed". And to me, it just sounds like one big senseless put-on: an album that's 100% style, 0% substance. The songs come and go, deconstructing and inter­mingling genres like bits of chopped liver, but never bothering to make a proper point.

It's not like there aren't any cool ideas — it's that the album suffers even more than its prede­cessors from excess, not knowing when to stop and explore the full potential of a good idea be­fore surrounding it with half a dozen mediocre ones. It's almost maddening: a tune like ʻDog-Like Sparkyʼ, for instance, which has a couple really cool, Sparks-style lines in the chorus, but they are always over before you can properly enjoy them, and on the whole, the song is just a quick suc­cession of different disconcerting tempos and time signatures that represent complexity for com­plexity's sake, and I will not pretend for a single moment that I enjoy any of it. At least a band like 10cc had some sense of measure.

When the band goes into fast-'n'-furious rocking mode (ʻEat It Up Worms Heroʼ, ʻFiery Gun Handʼ, etc.), they are not doing anything new, either, and they are not generating any true rock'n'roll energy, because it's all tongue-in-cheek, and because it can all stop and become a waltz or a ska piece or an oratorio at any given moment. These songs have literally no purpose other than masturbatory — oh how clever! this is punk, but this is not really punk! we'll let you figure out what it is, or, rather, let you wonder all about it until the end of your days, in stupefied amaze­ment never ending. But what if it is... nothing?

I mean, something like ʻDirty Boyʼ off the top of the second disc sounds like it's poised to be sung on top of Mount Everest, addressed to any of our alien friends if they happen to float by. With big, thunderous bass riffs, screechy lead guitar, wall-of-sound production, and a fin-du-siecle feel that could put Radiohead to shame, it could be the decade's biggest anthem... but there is one thing that it lacks: a killer chord sequence or vocal line that could be endowed/imbued with its own infallible meaning. But its lyrics are undecipherable, its vocals are neither triumphant nor lamenting, its atmosphere neither celebratory nor apocalyptic, neither friendly nor hostile. When it all comes together in the final "over and out!", with vocals artificially enhanced and stretched over at least a minute-long coda, I am almost inclined to fall under the song's mammoth spell, but some little voice in the back of my head keeps telling me that I've been had, and I have a nasty habit of trusting that little voice.

Technically, we could discuss all the complexities and twists of the individual songs until dawn, with occasional detours into the area of mutual influence (ʻManhooʼ sounds like classic Blur circa ʻFor Tomorrowʼ, etc.) or self-admiration (ʻNurses Whispering Versesʼ is an old, old song from the era of shit quality cassette tapes — maybe that is why I find it the most memorable of all the tunes here?), but I do not believe it will do much good, because if there is a «strength» to this record, it is exclusively in its piecemeal nature. Dissect these songs and put them under a micro­scope and there will be no evidence of any significant musical discoveries, since all of these elements can be found scattered across a million pop, prog, and punk records. Tim Smith's sca­venging nature can be admired, yes, but even the seams are too crude, and ultimately, «dementia» and «narcissism» are the only generalizing terms that come to mind.

As of now, I tend to view this whole thing as the turning point where the Cardiacs lost their collective mind — not so much their SMiLE, really, as their Tales From Topographic Oceans, a record that has its sturdy army of fans, too, of course, so if excess and sprawl is your cup of tea, feel free to indulge. Maybe one day when I encounter somebody's positive description of the album that goes beyond trivialities like "oh, there's so much going on here, it must be great!" and actually tries to explain what about it is so great (particularly in comparison to earlier, more restrained Cardiacs albums), I will want to reconsider. Currently, I'm just bored to death, and the album gets a certified thumbs down.

54 comments:

  1. Ah haha you might end up with some angry responses to this review. I, of course, respect their gal and ambition and the technical nature of the shifting arrangements, but I haven't yet fallen under its spell either.

    Perhaps I will, perhaps I won't. I think I miss the saxophone and the second set of drums.

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  2. Not angry - confused! As a longtime reader, I have to say: these Cardiacs reviews seem beneath your observational powers. You're making straw-man arguments about why fans love the band, and far too many assumptions about Smith's intentions. If you're admittedly not interested in discussing the complexities of this material, then just say "No sir, I don't like it" and be done with it. I can't stomach thumbs ups to utterly uneventful and unimaginative late 70s Camel records and thumbs downs to classic Cardiacs records happening during the same week (ha ha).

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    1. Also - I would like to add that this band and your reviews present a clear example of the limitations of pop music criticism. To explain why the record is great, without venturing into music theory or history, involves sentences like "the melodies are always brilliant and exciting" or "they do violent dynamic shifts better than Pixies" or "the surrealistic lyrics paint bizarre and unique literary atmospheres" or "Smith sings from his gut, and never seems phony or nerdy - always emotionally driven."

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  3. Camel was a second rate prog act going pop. The bar is far lower than for the cardiacs, a "super genius" band going for broke trying to prove their own genius.

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    1. At least, that seems to be George's point of view.

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    2. Cardiacs never made such claims. Nor did Camel for that matter.

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    3. George did. Unless my reading comprehension has taken a dive.

      The Cardiacs are supposed to totally blow your mind. George's mind was not blown. Camel is supposed to sound pleasant etc. George thinks they do.

      I haven't listened to either of these bands or albums. I'm just going by what I read in the reviews.

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    4. I think it's nonsensical to dislike albums such as Breathless. It is derivative and not really prog and it is a sellout, but the songs are catchy and pleasant. You might as well consider denying the thumbs up to the Eagles debut or whatever.

      With regards to the Cardiacs, my listening experience with them is that I heard Toy World on youtube a few years ago and I picked up on Is This The Life? and Nurses Whispering Verses as good songs, but much of their other music eluded me and I could not bother getting into it.

      But the band intrigued me, so when George reviewed them I saw it as a chance to listen to them as well and I have to say that I still think those two songs from Toy World are their best. I just don't think that's a compliment to the band.

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    5. I certainly can't abide by the idea that professionally bland and safe music automatically gets a pass. (Side-note: The dreadful "complexity for complexity's sake" cliche gets my goat. I rarely hear claims made like that outside of pop music forms. It's like "too many notes" in Amadeus).

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    6. I have no stake at all in the Cardiacs, but "complexity for complexity's sake" is a criticism also made about literary works. And, just as in music writing, sometimes that criticism is justified and sometimes it's not. In my opinion if you're asking the listener/reader to work harder in order to grasp what you're doing, you are setting the critical bar higher by definition. One of GS's strengths as a critic, in my view, is the way he calibrates his response to the aims of the music under consideration: does it do whatever it apparently sets out to do well?

      Thus a Britney Spears album that sets out to be simply entetaining may get a "thumbs up," but it's a different "thumbs up" than an album by Bob Dylan that aspires to move you deeply/make you think deeply.

      At least that's the lens I read GS's reviews with.

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    7. I think it's a cop out as literary criticism as well. I hear it mainly about the "post-modernists" like Pynchon and Gaddis. It's an assumption about the author's intentions. And are Ramones "simplicity for simplicity's sake?"

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    8. >Thus a Britney Spears album that sets out to be simply entetaining may get a "thumbs up,"

      Even Femme Fatale didn't get a thumbs up, and that one seemed to be George's favorite. There's a point where the bar is set so low that clearing it doesn't even matter.

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  4. I'm as confused by this album as I am of George's thumbs down.

    Having a soft-spot for outliers & oddballs--hell, I regularly read this blog, don't I?--I figured I'd allow myself a single Cardiacs purchase. I was warned away from SING TO GOD by trusted fans on the grounds that, though it is THE masterpiece, it is a journey intended for the converted faithful of Smith's and "may take years to fully appreciate." Well, I heard that about Rush 30 years ago, and all I hear now is what I heard then: complicated musical juggling tricks without genuine complexity or emotional depth.

    Fortunately, I do not regret the StG purchase nearly as much as HEMISPHERES, but I do feel a bit locked out of whatever the hell attraction is going on inside the tent. I'll revisit it over the years anyway, because I don't believe what I'm hearing is a snow job or simply proggy pretension as GS obviously does. Frankly, I think he may have o.d.'d on Cardiacs before he even got to SING TO GOD. Such may be the price of alphabetical, chronological completism. Me, I did my YouTube homework on their earlier stuff, found it crazy-making, sarcastic in the extreme, and largely unpleasant; yet StG I find much less so. There is something authentically insane about it, and dammit that counts for something! Not exactly a rave review, but, not being an obsessive blogger on a tight schedule, I can afford to take my time when it comes to forming judgements.

    Judgement: postponed. Indefinitely.

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    1. George only listened to it four times I guess. For me three listens to On Land and On Sea was enough to decide I no longer wanted to put Cardiacs albums on my mp3 player, but maybe it is not good enough for a definitive judgment / review, in case someone thinks that the Cardiacs require more exposure than your average band to absorb?

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  5. I love this band. And I enjoy a great deal of their music. I think we'll just have to accept George either has a chip on his shoulder about this band, or just doesn't get them. A shame, but understandable.

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  6. I do not trust blog writers who cannot spell judgment.

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    1. Thanks for the spell check. But I suppose I can't really regard an anonymous critic who a) confuses blog writing with commenting on blog writing, and b) discards an opinion based on a perceived spelling error, and c) is himself only partially correct in his (American?) perception, since the spelling of judgement with an 'e' is as common now as without in a country that sounds a lot like the word 'English.'

      You see, word spellings morph over time. Frustrating for sticklers and etymologists like you, I know, but you can blame the British for this particular spelling atrocity (and for the Beatles too -- which I suppose you don't trust either since they can't even spell their own band name).

      For added fun: see if you can spot the spelling error above!

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    2. He wasn't referring to you, Carlo you fool.

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  7. To be honest, it took me a little while to warm up to this album, but I started out as more of a fan of their earlier works. It took a while, but the Sing to God bug finally did bite me.

    But it, like many of the crazy and wild records out there, just isn't for everyone. Maybe someday you'll get bit hard by the Sing to God bug, or maybe you won't. The most important part is that you did at least give it a listen and gave it a chance.

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  8. A small disclaimer: I am new to Cardiacs having only come across them 7 months ago. However, much like the Blob they have enveloped me whole and I am sold wholesale to their music. That said I think I come at them from a different perspective from most (though very much not all) Pondies in that it's not the random nature and perceived insanity within that pushes the buttons. I actually find that on the whole everything Cardiacs does has an internal logic and order that makes it accessible and fun. Which is why I found reading this blog a little odd, as if we were listening to completely different albums. Not enjoying it is fine, that's just your personal opinion, however your arguments are ephemeral at best. You appear to see Tim as a fraud who writes and records his music purely to piss people off, reveling in all those who look at him in disgust. Again, that's your opinion. You just don't see a musician having fun (because he is having shed-loads of fun; they all are). There are stylistic and thematic elements throughout StG that have been there since the beginning (arpeggiated organ lines, tempo shifts, intricate guitar etc.). This isn't because Tim enjoys f*cking with us, it's because they're fun to play. It's because they're fun to write. All it is is one person expressing himself in unconventional ways. We can't all fit inside the box.

    Sorry, I realise I'm beginning to go all fanboy. I'll balance it out by admitting that I don't understand all the love for 'Dirty Boy' (even though, unlike you, I actually let the climax sweep me away). That said, the way 'Billionaire' brings us down to earth in time for 'Odd Even' to present the climax's chords in new clothing is pretty satisfying from a compositional perspective. Pretty obvious threads connect these songs.

    One final note. I don't get why you feel this album has to make any musical discoveries just because it has a perceived prog leaning? Especially considering you see it's eclectic melding of genres as a negative. Yet surely that's the future now; the only place to move freely is at the sides. There is no new. The 1950s shattered music and we can never go back, so we might as well combine the pieces that are left into something enjoyable. We trusted the Avant-Garde and they were found lacking; burning the fields as they bumbled in circles. A plague on the avant-garde.

    As for StG; you just don't enjoy it, which is fine. You just haven't explained why very well.

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  9. Sing to God is like the trifle in the final scene of the Gourmet Evening of Fawlty Towers. It's revealed from beneath the lid of the silver salver having been presented as Duck. Look at it, it's ornate and delicious. I was expecting duck but, that trifle looks superb. Basil clangs the lid down on it and then lifts it again. Still a trifle, it's still not a Duck. He parts the top layer with his bare hands and digs around in it. The Duck's off. But as far into the trifle as he digs, it's still delightful. I would happily eat it, despite not knowing where his hands had been because it's prepared with loving care and rearranged by the troubled genius, Basil. Sing to God has sponge and cream. It has custard and sprinkles. Sing to God will never taste of Duck but if you dig into it, it has the most delightfully unexpected tastes. Just enjoy it.

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  10. Honestly, get over it! As Tim Smith once pointed out "they're just pop songs with fiddly bits in them", and by god has he written some fine melody fuelled pop tunes in his time, yes they're a bit odd, but that's how he writes 'em.

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  11. Pop musicians have committed some hideous fashion crimes in the past, but I don't recall rock and roll musicians ever looking so blatantly SMARMY in any other decade before the 1990's. Sad to say, it's only gotten worse since then. And those song titles...Captain Beefheart's were funny or (on occasion) oddly revelatory. These ones just look made up on the spot with no other purpose than to troll critics and/or their fans. Full disclosure: Haven't heard a note, and choose to remain ignorant.

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    1. Mm, those are good reasons not to listen to an album. Titles aren't funny enough - they must have been designed purely to piss-take the fans! They're less original than Captain Beefheart's titles, therefore they must be less sincere in their craft.

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  12. We seem to be breaking the record - 23 comments and more than 1000 views in two days, and all because of one lousy thumbs down to a perceivably classic (but still cult classic) record.

    Anyway, I believe I owe some sort of collective response. Let me single out some statements in the above comments to reply to, then:

    "You're making straw-man arguments about why fans love the band...": I wish the fans were capable of providing me with enough material so I wouldn't have to resort to 'straw-man arguments'. Unfortunately, neither elsewhere nor here have I managed to encounter one proper account of what it is the fans love about this album, other than the same repetitive statements about how it has so many ideas and how they are brilliant because there's so many of them.

    "...and far too many assumptions about Smith's intentions". Nope. I assume his intentions were noble and ambitious, and if you are disagreeing with this, well, why do you care about the record in the first place? I just do not think the actual music matches the ambitions.

    "I think he may have o.d.'d on Cardiacs before he even got to SING TO GOD." Yes, that is highly likely. I do not see this record as a radical departure (or, in fact, any departure) from what they were doing before - and considering how long it is, that's twice the problem.

    "You appear to see Tim a"s a fraud who writes and records his music purely to piss people off, reveling in all those who look at him in disgust." Not necessarily. For all I know, he may be perfectly sincere in everything that he is doing, which does not automatically make him a genius. Likewise, they may well be having fun - indeed, I can easily imagine how recording and playing this kind of music (as opposed to listening to it) can be fun, just according to the "because we can" principle.

    "You just don't enjoy it, which is fine. You just haven't explained why very well." Well, I have tried to do my best to explain that this music carries no emotional charge whatsoever - because it is far more preoccupied with its complexity and unpredictability. That's the way it goes with my reactions. If yours are different, excellent. But, I repeat, nobody ever talks about emotional affection by Cardiacs records - because, I suspect, very few people show any, and I am hardly alone in this.

    "I do not trust blog writers who cannot spell judgment." For the record, 'judgement' IS the proper spelling. If we want to be picky about it, 'judgment' is an orthographically abbreviated and etymologically unjustified American variant.

    As for ducks and trifles, that sounds like a swell comparison, but I'd rather apply it to something else.

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    1. "I have tried to do my best to explain that this music carries no emotional charge whatsoever - because it is far more preoccupied with its complexity and unpredictability."
      I understand this reaction, although i'd argue it's all in there to serve the song rather than to show off. It just takes a few listens to piece together. Cardiacs aren't really a show-offy type band anyway, at least compared to many prog bands. You seem to be accusing them of being overly chaotic and having too many ideas and tunes crammed together rather than concentrating on one or two thus making the music more palatable. If you're not receptive to the often breakneck approach of much of Tim's music i can see why it'd do your head in, but many people find a lot to love in them for precisely this reason. At the same time we're not all sitting around going "ooh isn't this clever" and stroking our chins.

      "nobody ever talks about emotional affection by Cardiacs records - because, I suspect, very few people show any, and I am hardly alone in this."
      Don't know what you've been reading, but i respectfully call bullshit on this as pretty much all of the many (positive) articles and reviews i've seen have gone into the emotional attachment to these songs a great deal (it's a shame the 'testimonials' aren't on the main site anymore, as there were hundreds of old and new Cardiacs fans going into exactly that). I know Tim's music never fails to connect emotionally with me, but if you view it all as some kind of elitist prank it's hardly likely you'll have the same kind of reaction that many have. Again, you gave it a try and it wasn't for you, that's fine and to be honest i don't think it's for most people (that's not meant in a snobbish way, genuinely), but don't impugn others for arriving at a different conclusion. It's not the musics fault for not doing what you want it to.

      ps: Thought this was a good article if you're still interested in the mad love/utter contempt reaction to Cardiacs. http://thequietus.com/articles/12737-cardiacs-a-little-man-and-a-house-and-the-whole-world-window-25-anniversary

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  13. What has George actually ever done of musical worth at all, ever? I can't believe a track like Dirty Boy doesn't impress you. If without being technical, Dirty Boy is if nothing else the most original chord sequence ever conceived! Like, literally. You arw a terrible writer, George, This review is beige and uninteresting, if without taking it as a Cardiacs albumreveiw. Your reasoning for disliking the band is so ironically pretentious "well I'm supposed to be blown away but I'm not" well since you started the review loathing the band, I'm not surprised this is what you think. Let em eat Kasabian.

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    1. Could you please repeat this WITHOUT dozens of orthographic, grammatical, and stylistic mistakes? I'm having a hard time following this train of thought, although "beige reviews" is definitely a noun phrase worth appropriating.

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  14. This might be a shoddy smartphone and hard to write on, but have no excuse, your writing sucks. You're a hack.

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    1. Sorry. I write all my reviews off a smartphone too. We have more in common than you might imagine.

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    2. Also, for that matter, how could "Dirty Boy" even technically be the most original chord sequence ever conceived if most of its riff is taken from Alice Cooper's "I'm Eighteen"?

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  15. LOL! You gotta hand it to the Cardiacs brethren ..... its almost as if the silent reading majority loitered in the wings, waiting to react to any negative review of the band's perceived career peak ....... and HOW !

    I have been listening on and off to Cardiacs for the past 12 years, however it was NOT love at first sight, nonetheless I always found myself drawn back for more. Difficult to explain, but there was always something tangible that lingered with each successive exposure ..... a maddening riff sequence, an obtuse chord or melody that would rattle around in my head for days - manifesting as earworms that often entered my dreams, only to subside and be forgotten for another 6 months .... until about 2 or 3 years ago all the random components coalesced into clear focus. This was especially the case with Sing To GOD, finding it the most frustrating item in the band's varied catalogue, but like solving a Rubiks Cube, each deliberately sequenced track eventually revealed a facet of Tim Smith's genius to me. Now I go on catalogue listening binges for weeks at a time, shutting out all other musical contenders for the band exists in their own Bizarro universe. Put simply, everything else sounds second-rate and a distraction ...... then I come up for air.

    By no means would I recommend STG as an entry level listen for the curious ...... and I can certainly sympathise why 3, 4, or even 10 listens wont click, hence the wide spectrum of opinions within this response thread. At least George S recognised this possibility by embedding a link to a more positive appraisal from a peer reviewer , thus proffering 2 diametrically opposed views. In fact, for a broader indication of the fervent devotion this band elicits, one should take the time to read the current Cardiacs appreciation thread on the Progressive Ears forum - running continuously for the past 3 years and 95 pages long, one can clearly guage the low-burn impact the music has had on the most ambivalent listener/poster, only to have them return months or even a year later in a state of delirium ... reporting similar eureka experiences to the one I have just outlined. However for the greater majority, certainly an acquired taste.

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    1. Indeed, I totally reserve the right to change this negative opinion to a positive one in the future (never say never). The problem, however, with this approach is that prolonged exposure to anything may make it "click" after a certain period, just through the mere fact of becoming more and more familiar with each new bout of experience. However, this is as much a product of the music's influence as it is of your own organism's "counter-reaction", accumulated and mutated over time, and I am far more interested in describing the initial, pure, "untampered" reaction than the results of a lengthy and somewhat artificial "training course".

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  16. '.... However, this is as much a product of the music's influence as it is of your own organism's "counter-reaction", accumulated and mutated over time.'

    Wow! .... Intimating that an evolving taste for initially difficult to absorb work may be insubstantial grounds for appreciating true art is a little shallow and subjective don't you think? By declaring that you reserve the right to change your mind on StG's relative worth suggests that some kernels of musical radiance may have slipped through the cracks, perhaps meriting a return visit? This was exactly my initial reaction and I make no apologies for working a little harder to get into (the) Cardiacs universe. After all, some of the best 70's prog in my collection continues to reveal layers to this day (VDGG, Crimson, Gong, et all). Why elevate ‘immediate & visceral’ above ‘dense & complex’?

    As far as I’m concerned there is room for both.

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    1. No, I am intimating nothing of the kind. Nor am I equating "simple" with "immediate & visceral" and "complex" with "laborious & dense", because the correlation is far more complicated than that. My point is that "complex" may have a seductive influence on the mind through its sheer complexity, and that ANY complex work, when experienced many many times over, might enter into a symbiotic reaction with the listener's brain. This is precisely why I always prefer the middle ground: with a complex enough musical work, you rarely grasp everything there is to grasp on your first 3-4 listens, but 30-40 listens would be just as bad, a Stockholm-syndrome overdose that kills off one's natural reaction. I believe in the power of musical education and accumulating experience as much as the next guy (or else I wouldn't be rewriting those reviews as the years go by) - but I also believe in certain lines that needn't be crossed. Not that I'm saying I have reached that line with the Cardiacs, but they would certainly be among the type of artists that invite their listeners to cross that line. I mean, 10 years getting into somebody's work? I don't see the point, really. It's not like "getting the Cardiacs" brings one closer to nirvana or anything.

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    2. 'I mean, 10 years getting into somebody's work? I don't see the point, really. It's not like "getting the Cardiacs" brings one closer to nirvana or anything.’

      All fair comment .... and totally understandable given your mammoth commitment to dissecting an album per day for your readership. Not everyone ‘gets’ (the) Cardiacs ...... hell, I probably would have drawn the same negative conclusions as yourself if asked to review StG after only 4 listens. I had no problem appreciating its predecessors, in fact it was love at first exposure to The Whole World and On Land ....my point being that StG revealed its charms to me slowly, through intermittent listens (which only increased in regularity during recent years). Your Stockholm Syndrome analogy was amusing, but way-off in this instance. No one held a gun to my head .... I returned to it willingly, because as previously stated small random elements took hold, meriting return plays, albeit only one disc at a time – the format originally intended by the band (a full 90 minutes can be overbearing, even for me). This long gestation process was quite atypical of me, but apparently ‘par the course’ for their devout fan base; therefore if you can take anything away from my repeated insistence (and indeed the record length of this reply thread), there is definitely substance worth investigating.

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  17. I don't care much for this album (sorry, I know my comment doesn't add much to the splendid repartee. Sadly, I just wanted to be part of this thread).

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  18. What is this band that's worthy of having 36 fierce comments? I've never heard of them (or them) in my life but now I feel like I'm obliged to. Great job, fans!

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    1. Never heard of them as well, but now I just have to explore what's this discussion about))

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  19. I only know of them because GS started to discuss them in last couple of weeks. Needs some more listens but the reduction of the other three before Heaven .... changed the dynamic. maybe it relied much more on Tim to get it done

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  20. Following-on from the interest being expressed above, I consider the following to be appropriate entry-level releases for the curious Cardiacs newbie:

    From their 80’s septet guitar, sax & keyboards period (being less abrasive than Sing To God and predecessor Heaven Born & Ever Bright, but no less valid)

    A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window (GS thumbs up)
    On Land And In The Sea (GS thumbs up)
    Songs For Ships And Irons (should have merited a thumbs up)

    Less extreme is the more psychedelic/brilliant follow-up to StG “Guns” (yet to be reviewed by GS)

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  21. My recommendations from earlier: Nurses Whispering Verses and Is This The Life? from Toy World, since those songs are more simple and direct, before the band was completely corrupted by the lure of complexity.

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  22. Being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, surely.... If this album isn't in your top ten, you haven't a clue as to how music works...

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  23. how many cardiac songs are just rip-offs of better--more interesting songs? i've always thought that the songwriting process of the band went on-long the lines of 'take your favorite band and mix it with another favorite band and hope it works' (it doesn't)
    on my first listen of this album i could already spot a lot of direct queen lifts in a few songs and even an xtc riff lift

    wonder how many rips i could spot i find if i put together a team dedicated to finding cardiac rips

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    1. They weren't influenced by Queen at all as far as i know (or Sparks who seem to be mentioned a lot) The XTC lift (Fiery Gun Hand intro) is deliberate as they're big fans and i don't think a few seconds of a five minute tune is much of a rip off, more a reference.
      I actually don't think they sound like anyone other than Cardiacs.Sure you can
      detect elements of XTC, Zappa, Devo, early Genesis, VDGG etc but they're twisted into strange new shapes. Everyone has influences remember, it's not like the Pixies total ripping off the Gun Club's Fire of Love album ;-)

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    2. Well put .... was just about to post a similar response, suffice to state/reaffirm that Identifying a random selection of riffs or the occasional multi-tracked Queen-like choral attack do not warrant calls of plagiarism. Sure, Fiery Gun Hand's rhythm guitar bit is a clear homage/rip off of XTC's Wake Up (lovingly so, Andy Partridge is a fan of the band and contributed to Tim Smith's tribute album to fund his rehabilitation following a 2008 stroke that has left him paralysed to this day). Also, the odd Blur-like motif is not surprising given Cardiacs directly inspired Albarn & Coxon (and Mike Patton/Mr Bungle for that matter). What the band does well is appropriate seemingly disparate musical influences into a wholly unique context that requires multiple listens to appreciate, but boy when it hits, it hits HARD!

      I’m not really surprised that many find StG chaotic and difficult to grasp – one of their late 80's albums would be a better starting point, veering closer to early Split Enz on amphetamines whilst getting mugged in a blind alley by Devo and Sparks (no less challenging, just more .... fun).

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    3. Nope, it's definitely a plagiarism here-ho! On the track Eat It Up Worms Hero they hold no bares with it and lift a riff from a Wildhearts track called Suckerpunch and the operetta (for lack of better word) of early Queen.

      I hate this band and seeing as I've been a Ginger Wildheart fan for as long as I can remember you can't really blame me! Every so often Cardiacs comes into my peripheral vision because of how much the fanbase of Wildhearts and Cardiacs overlaps and it drives me nuts...

      I see where you are coming from with the Devo and Split Enz comparison but I'm sorry but the music here is more-so in the vein of the so wacky for the sake of being wacky music that they played on the sitcom The Young Ones...

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    4. You plagiarized that last bit from the above linked quietus review which said: "‘In a City Lining’ kicks off with a surge of mellotron and precise bursts of staccato guitar before winding itself tighter into the kind of Madness influenced singsong insanity that used to accompany the crazier parts of cult 80s TV show The Young Ones"
      Bloody thief!

      I agree that there isn't really much overlap musically with Ginger's many bands, although Cardiacs supported the Widlhearts in '04 and seemed to go down quite well from where i was standing (some of the audience were quite noticably baffled admittedly)

      If there's a anything approaching a rip off on STG it's Wireless which is more or less a cover of a song by Faust, another big influence. Ginger's music is totally original of course... (and i say that as a Wildhearts fan).

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    5. Maybe so, but it still doesn't mean the it isn't apt. When I first heard In a City Lining and a song called Drive I thought "what the hell is this? Isn't this a Madness song?"

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    6. Well, there are obvious Ska elements in both songs yes, but there the similarity ends. Does every lump of Ska you hear sound like Madness? When you listen to Ginger's music do you not think "what the hell is this? Isn't this a Ramones/Cheap Trick/Motorhead song?"

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    7. Just thought I would say that Madness weren't ska. They had ska elements, yes, but they were not even remotely close to the boring white ska revivalists of the time (looking at you Bad Manners). To imply that the only correlation between them is the ska-ness is foolish. When I listen to Ginger I more so think "isn't this a Kiss song?" LOL

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    8. And when Madness did do the odd boring white ska revival song they did a good job.

      Examples: Night Boat to Cairo, One Step Beyond

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  24. Jaded, old-ish git here. Hearing Sing To God for the first time a few years ago was, for me, a revelation, a giddy thrill not experienced since my teens. This review confused me but I don't suppose it matters really.

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    1. That’s Cardiacs for ya ... a band that confounds and delights in equal measure.

      It’s quite surprising to note that with this post Sing To God has accumulated 50 comments!? .... and GS thought passing 20 was an OSolitaire milestone (in fact the opening post was quite prophetic!). Just a small example of the almost religious devotion this band generates – and much of it spurred-on by forum/blog chatter that eventually leads the curious to access You Tube and other net sources. Inexplicably, the legend has taken-on a life of its own in the absence of any activity since 2008. If this thread signals anything, it’s that there’s something definitely worth investigating here (contrary review[s] notwithstanding).

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