Review special: Cardiacs – Sing to God (1996)


Listening to Cardiacs, I get the mental image of a deranged gerbil in a hole somewhere composing music. Although at one point he may have been content to write jingles and fine- tuned pop ditties in exchange for sunflower seeds, Cardiacs represents everything past the point where the gerbil loses his grasp on reality and becomes wrapped up in creative fervor. Now unabated by mundane rodent things, the gerbil and his music fall deeper into madness. Although this may not do well to describe Cardiacs’ manic mix of punk rock and avant-prog, it should give a good indicator of the feeling “Sing to God” gives me as a listener. It’s catchy, experimental, and about as close to the peppy end of a manic depressive episode as I imagine music could aptly depict. Really, it’s pop music beyond words or sense, and I can’t seem to get enough of it.

Among other things, punk music arose as an opposition to the bombast and overcomplexity of progressive rock. In lieu of this, it’s quite the irony to see Cardiacs not only fusing the two styles together, but doing so as if prog and punk were made for each other. “Sing to God” runs the gamut in terms of styles: a sense of symphonic bombast comparable to Yes is mixed with Beatles-esque baroque pop sensibilities and injected with the venom of pub- dwelling punk rock. These sounds- which would often conflict with each other in the ‘real’ world- are all fused with a viciously tongue-in-cheek attitude pleasantly reminiscent of Frank Zappa. I could also compare the band’s overdubbed vocal harmonies to Queen, or the general ‘what-the-hell-am-I-listening-to’ atmosphere to Mr. Bungle, but Cardiacs ultimately stand on a ground of their own. Did I forget to mention that the band manage to make this experimental chaos as catchy as the plague?

Many of the songs on “Sing to God” rest on a tightrope between order and chaos. Many of the songs enjoy a level of comfort in catchy instrumental hooks and quaint vocal melodies. With the exception of a few tracks (most notably the cinematic-worthy “Dirty Boy”, the unsettling soundscape “Quiet as a Mouse” and some of the shorter musical sketches), the majority of “Sing to God” boasts a foundation in good old fashioned songwriting. Vocalist and mastermind Tim Smith has a zany and wildly charismatic voice that would have even fit comfortably into British alternative rock canon, were it not for the extent Cardiacs take their basic elements and contort them. Although some elements are best kept as a surprise for fresh listeners, be sure to expect everything from ‘chipmunk vocals’ to film score flourishes, classically-influenced pianos, circus music, hyperpunk rhythmic energy and everything in between. Of particular note are the extra-wacky tunes “Dog-Like Sparky”, “A Horse’s Tale” and “Dirty Boy”, a longer piece that gets remarkably profound and damned near celestial by the end of it. Tim Smith’s lyrics are a world of their own, and though there’s not often the sense that there’s an explicit meaning behind the absurdity, they’re absolutely fascinating within the context of such a chaotic album. Although- at an hour and a half- the album may be a little long for one comfortable sitting, there is no filler to speak of, although the first half is decidedly better than the latter.

In spite of the zany effects, absurdly surreal lyrics, wall-of-sound production and mile-per- second flow of ideas, Cardiacs remain- at their core- a pop band, and “Sing to God” remains a pop album. In the end, it’s the interplay between the hyper-weird and catchy elements therein that makes the album so bloody fascinating. Depending on where your mental state may be at the time of listening, it will either be a trip through the most euphoric hyperparadise dreams could forge, or a reality-distrupting soundtrack to nightmares. Whatever way it may strike, “Sing to God” is pretty unforgettable, and it just may be the greatest experimental rock record I have ever had the strained pleasure of listening to.


“Sing To God” Part One
Catalogue Num. ALPH CD023
1. Eden On The Air (2:21)
2. Eat It Up Worms Hero (2:33)
3. Dog Like Sparky (4:53)
4. Fiery Gun Hand (5:13)
5. Insect Hoofs On Lassie (3:00)
6. Fairy Mary Mag (3:44)
7. Bellyeye (4:09)
8. A Horse’s Tail (3:47)
9. Manhoo (4:59)
10. Wireless (8:22)

“Sing To God” Part Two
Catalogue Num. ALPH CD024
1. Dirty Boy (8:54)
2. Billion (0:41)
3. Odd Even (3:18)
4. Bell Stinks (1:19)
5. Bell Clinks (2:54)
6. Flap Off You Beak (3:44)
7. Quiet As A Mouse (1:28)
8. Angleworm Angel (2:24)
9. Red Fire Coming Out From His Gills (2:14)
10. No Gold (3:31)
11. Nurses Whispering Verses (9:53)
12. Foundling (5:27)


* Tim Smith – guitar, vocals, keyboards
* Jim Smith – bass
* Bob Leith – drums
* Jon Poole – guitar
* Claire Lemmon – backing vocals


  1. gabriel

    July 7, 2013 at 3:50 am

    Wrong picture

  2. Sue Xian

    July 9, 2013 at 2:19 am

    Um… the photo you posted is a Cardiacs cover band, Re-Cardiacs.

    • taylor

      August 3, 2013 at 8:38 am

      Nope, that’s not a photo of Re-cardiacs. It’s late 80s-era Cardiacs.

      • Sean K

        July 1, 2014 at 11:21 am

        How incredibly strange that anyone thought that photo was of a different band! What planet are you on people??

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

%d bloggers like this: