The Cardiacs - The Seaside

by Sean Hewson Rating:7 Release Date:2015-11-30
After one minute of twinkling sounds, the insanity begins. The Seaside (which has been lovingly remastered and repackaged by Alphabet Business Concern) was Cardiacs' third album and the first to feature William D Drake on keyboards. It was also their last with Mark Cawthra and the last to be released solely on cassette. 
 
I'll be honest, Cardiacs frightened me as a teenager. Their records sounded weird in amongst the goth at the indie disco. On stage they were just too much, and too many.
 
They are an equally terrifying prospect for the reviewer. The sheer amount of ideas and influences coming at you makes it feel like your life flashing before your eyes. There's Fairground organ, Beefheart marimba, King Crimson ensemble playing, Ska guitar, Henry Cow weirdness, evil Magic Roundabout. It's scary that people would actually sit down and learn to play this stuff. Listening to the (to me) impossible bass line on Hope Day, one hopes that they didn't have to go to the extents that Captain Beefheart's Magic Band did when learning Trout Mask Replica.
But this is just half of the story because there are also Tim Smith's songs. They move around like Syd Barrett and Arthur Lee at their most out there. They have skewed pop choruses like XTC, but the lyrics are a nightmarish view of English stereotypes, similar to Peter Gabriel's on the Genesis albums (although I think Smith makes a better fist of it). He also has the knack of combining an unsettling lyric with a singalong chorus like 'And there's voices inside me, they're screaming, they're telling me, "That's the way we all go"' on A Little Man And A House and 'I'm so sorry, which I cannot show. But I can't say anymore, I've got to go home into my own world.' from Dinner Time.
Incredibly, the straightest song on the album - Is This The Life? - would go on to climb to number 80 in the charts when Cardiacs had another crack at it in 1988. And the fact that Is This The Life? (along with A Little Man And A House and R.E.S.) would go on to be re-recorded for their best known album, A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window, along with the changes in personnel marks The Seaside down as a transitional album. But it's still a breathless ride through Tim Smith's mind accompanied by the incredibly tight playing of the band. Fans of difficult music and fans of memorable choruses will find much to enjoy here.
 
To purchase the re-packaged version, go to cardiacs.com or, in the United States, via Wayside Music

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