The Cardiacs are one of the Uk’s most underrated and underappreciated bands who first formed way back in 1977. With their incredibly complicated music which encompasses a wide variety of styles as well as their surreal live shows, they have influenced everybody from Blur to Napalm Death and there are not many other bands who can say that. In addition to their eight studio albums, they have released a vast array of other material including live albums, compilations, and singles between the years of 1980-2007, after which they were forced to go in hiatus due to frontman Tim Smith’s ill health. Despite being very well revered by a wide variety of musicians across the rock spectrum, they have also gathered a fair amount of criticism from certain areas of the music press who think that their music is far to “out there” to be considered acceptable.
With the recent news of Smith’s death, it would seem that the Cardiacs are sadly no more. However, they have certainly left behind a brilliant legacy that will hopefully start to get more recognised. Here at Classic Rock, with this article we hope to enlighten people who may not have ever even heard of this band. So, without further ado, let us tell you what the ten best tracks are…
# 10 – Signs
We open up our top 10 Cardiacs songs list with a single from the band’s fifth album Guns released in 1999. It was their last with guitarist John Poole. This album is considered to be the band’s most accessible, and whilst it is closer to standard alternative rock than much of the group’s other material, that is not to say that it is an un-challenging listen by any stretch. This track is a particularly intricate composition, and the fact that it was chosen as a single showed that the band were not quite turning middle of the road just yet.
# 9 – Odd Even
This next track is the second single to be taken from the band’s fourth album Signs to God released in 1996. This album was the first with drummer Bob Leith and their second as a four piece. It was also their first album for four years, the previous having been 1992’s Heaven Born and Ever Bright. John Poole played a bigger role with this record, which is considered to be one their most eclectic outputs.
# 8 – Manhoo
This track was the first single from the aforementioned Signs to God, of which only 1000 copies were produced, making it long out of print. There was originally plans to release four singles from the album in honour of every band member, but for unknown reasons this never happened. With this track, you can definitely see the influence that they had on bands such as Blur as this track does sound like a crazy version of Blur.
# 7 – Susannah’s Still Alive
Up next is a cover by the band originally by The Kinks which appeared on the Kinks tribute album Shangri-La: A Tribute to the Kinks, as well as being released as a single on its own. It is the only cover song that the band have ever done. As expected, it is far from a straightforward cover of the original, instead sounding much louder and more chaotic. Arguably, it is better than the original in the sense that it is a generally more unique piece of music.
# 6 – Is This The Life?
Here we have the band’s third single taken from the album A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window. This release was actually the third time that the track had been recorded. Two previous versions appeared on both of the band’s previous two albums Toy Word and The Seaside. It is a very notable track in the group’s discography as it is their only track to achieve any chart success, where it peaked in the Uk at number eighty.
# 5 – There’s Too Many Irons in the Fire
This is the band’s second single released in 1987. A classic early track from the Cardiacs, it is a crazy mix of progressive rock and post-punk, sounding almost like Wire crossed with King Crimson. The single release has since been deleted and is thus now unavailable on its own. However, along with the other two tracks on the release, it was re-released on the 1991 compilation album Songs for Ships and Irons.
# 4 – To Go Off and Things
Here we have a classic track that was one of four songs contained on the twelve-inch single The Seaside. In addition to the single itself, a video of it was released containing three of the songs which certainly expressed the band’s bizarre visual side. Contained within it was a promo video to this song, which was rather reminiscent of British alternative comedy such as Monty Python. In 2013, Napalm Death released a brilliantly amped-up cover on it on their Sugar Daddy split with The Melvins.
# 3 – A Bus for a Bus on the Bus (As Cardiac Arrest)
This track is the title track from the band’s debut single released in 1979 when they were still known as Cardiac Arrest. It was their only ever seven inch and until the release of the 2005 live album The Special Garage Concerts Volume 2, none of the tracks on it were ever available on any other release. They originally planned to have four tracks on it as opposed to three but were prevented from doing so due to the limited seven-inch recording space.
# 2 – The Obvious Identity
This song is the title track from the band’s 1980 debut full length which was also released under the moniker Cardiac Arrest. Upon its initial release it was not widely available, merely being a cassette that was only sold at the band’s gigs. It has never been reissued and as a result is a very rare item within the Cardiacs back catalogue. However, many of the tracks are available on several other releases.
# 1 – Big Ship
This anthemic track is a key Cardiacs song and is the title track of their 1987 mini album. Not only was it an essential staple of their live concerts, it is also featured on most of their live albums. The releases was the first to feature what is considered to be the classic line-up of Smith, his brother Jim on bass, keyboardist William D Drake, saxophonist Sarah Smith, percussionist Tim Key and drummer Dominic Luckman.