Cardiacs – Sing To God

Almost everyone who tries to sound like The Beatles gets it wrong. They aim for simple, sing-song melodies, and forget about the richly-layered, teetering-on-the-brink-of-total-insanity Wall Of Sound that typified The Beatles at their best. Cardiacs can pull it off as easily as breathe.

Sure, I mention Cardiacs a lot, partly in anticipation of the forthcoming tribute album, and partly because not enough people have yet realised how much they need Cardiacs in their lives.



Sing To God was the double album that should have been to Cardiacs what Dirty was to Sonic Youth. They wouldn’t have been huge – we have to take our miracles where we find them (Tim still breathes, thank God!) – but they should have been bigger than they were. These songs, whatever you might have been led to believe, are very easy on the ears.

Perhaps that’s Sing To God’s problem: the first two tracks are … difficult. They’re noisy and cacophonous in a way that made me feel on first listen that, for the first time in Cardiacs’ 33-year career, they’d made an album I plain didn’t like. Then Dog-Like Sparky bounds along like an adorable puppy and we’re back to why this planet needs Cardiacs like it needs nitrogen.

Sing To God is English psychedelic guitar pop. That’s a simple enough idea, but in its execution, it’s breathtaking. This is Sgt Pepper and The Kinks and Syd Barrett sipping tea at Grantchester Meadows – channelling each while avoiding pastiche and the usual trappings. If early Blur were Cardiacs-influenced, here Cardiacs return the favour with a guitar sound that’s distinctively and entirely Graham Coxon’s.



The Cardiacs’ musical vocabulary is much broader than mine, so I’m lost when it comes to the monumental disc one closer, Wireless. It’s an eight-an-a-half-minute lunatic ride through Battles, Foetus and Terry Riley. The syncopated stop-start rhythms are vintage Cardiacs, as is the childish vocal, but that insistent looping piano riff and oddly metallic clanging that jitters its way through the whole track like one of Einstuerzende Neubauten got lost on the way to the fairground repeats endlessly until you are thoroughly hypnotised. This is where psychedelia becomes truly mind-altering.



I’ll admit that I didn’t actually like Dirty Boy the first time I heard it. Well, I didn’t dislike it, but I just couldn’t work out what the fuss was about. Then it crept under my skin and demanded to be played endlessly. It’s all those things like “epic”, as well as being a darn fine rock song, and most fans regard it as one of the top ten Cardiacs songs ever. It’s not even in my top 30 Cardiacs songs, but it’s a bloody great song. It reminds me a bit of some sort of psychedelic-gothic take on Boulevard of Broken Dreams.



I’d link to Manhoo, my overall favourite track on the album, but it’s another of those fabulous Beatles-ish tracks of which you’ve heard plenty tonight, so I’d recommend you just look it up if you want to hear it. The whole album’s on iTunes in two parts, or you can pay through the nose for one of the limited edition CDs on ebay.

Instead, I’ll leave you with the truly bizarre A Horse’s Tail, which I mostly remember from the live shows, and is more typical of the progressive punk with a ska twist (and anything else they could find in the cupboard) that is more regularly associated with the Cardiacs sound. If Rufus stepped out of a phone booth and told me that the civilisations of the future were based on this music, I’d believe him.


4 comments on “Cardiacs – Sing To God

  1. For “Wireless” hooks in the past, you need to listen to Faust IV [“Giggy Smile, I THINK].

    I’ve been listening to Sing To God again a lot lately. With a bit of sadness, that we’re unlikely to hear from Cardiacs again. Maybe it’s that feeling projecting over it, but I’m struck by how emotional the songs here are – in a band that I’d at one point considered purely an intellectual pleasure.

  2. Pingback: #musicmonday: One year of Reinspiration « Reinspired

  3. Tim is a naughty man, he made me eat dirty things and sleep in a shed down that lane, he did. Crickets and mice all night in that shed, Click… CLICK EEEEEEK! Naught man with his block of strumming strings and spirally concepts.

  4. Superb album, superb band. In my opinion it´s the best Cardiacs album, closely followed by “On land and in the sea” and “A little man and his house…”. Great psychedelic pop mixed with prog, punk and whatever.
    Best tracks: Dirty boy, Dog like sparky, Bell clinks (smashing!), Bellyeye (I feel euphoric everytime I listen to it), Angleworm angel, Fiery gun hand, Manhoo and Odd even.

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