5 fundamentally flawed albums you need to own
2. Cardiacs – Sing To God
Sing To God is the seventh album by Cardiacs – one of those bands who have managed to influence almost every band in existence despite never having had a hit themselves. It was initally released as a double album in a run of 3,000, and later as two separate CDs. It was named after a children’s hymn book owned by William D Drake, though is in no way a religious work. It was the first album that was written collaboratively between the band’s members: previous outings were generally entirely the musings of (lead singer) Tim Smith.
Like every double album I’ve ever heard – certainly Pink Floyd’s The Wall or Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile – there just wasn’t any need for it at all. As with those, if you’d cut it down to 12 tracks, you’d have unadulterated perfection, but as it stands you have unadulterated perfection diluted with extraneous fluff. Not that you could describe any of these tracks as fluff, but they’re definitely not perfect. ‘Dog Like Sparky’ is the first track that’s particularly interesting, and it’s only when you get to ‘Fiery Gun Hand’ that it’s apparent that Sing To God is one of the finest albums you’ll ever hear.
Why you need to own it
Because it only gets better from there. ‘Manhoo’ is one of the few songs I’ve ever heard that gets The Beatles. Their other copyists – Noel Gallagher take note – ape the sounds without any concept of the spirit that made the band so loved. Cardiacs echo The Beatles’ mania and mischief, crafting densely layered and unpredictable nursery rhymes. (Ignore the picture, enjoy the song:)
‘Wireless’ features Tim Smith reading from kids’ story Dawn Of The Sea (by Cardiacs’ Dawn Staple), and is a perfect example of psychedelic minimalism, evoking everything from Terry Riley to early Foetus via Battles. It’s a twitchy, hypnotic dream of a song, both rapturously shambolic and jarringly precise. It’s a sonic itch; a prickly fairground ride, like one of those rickety ghost trains on the end of the pier that leaves you terrified you’ll plunge off any moment into the sea, all the while hearing the rhythmic clackety-clack of the wheels running over the tracks.
‘Dirty Boy’ is a devastating, sprit-shattering anthem beloved by fans and admirers (and can reduce grown men to tears) that isn’t even the best song on here
and ‘Nurses Whispering Verses’ – a superior version of the song from Toy World and 1984’s The Seaside – is the full realisation of what it means to combine “punk” with “prog” – all the vitality of the former on the scale of the latter: it will leave you breathless. ‘Odd Even’ makes Blur sound like a shite Kinks tribute band … and by this point we’re long past even deciding which the best track is. I remember the gigs that promoted Sing To God as being events, the likes of which I’d never forget. It’s soul-affirming, as if by not listening you’d forget you’re alive. So many tracks, so many of them incredible, that you just think if someone had trimmed it back a bit you’d see what a life-changingly, tear-inducingly, soul-shreddingly fucking astonishing record you have in your hands. Dear God! It’s the type of album you should be getting down on your knees and thanking whatever deity that you worship that you were ever fortunate enough to have it cross your path, but you almost missed it because the first three tracks were a bit meh.