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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Tim Smith and Cardiacs July 25, 2020

Posted by guestposter in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....

A very welcome guest post from Tiger2T

After a long illness Tim Smith passed away this week. I saw his band Cardiacs live only once in the late 80s, but his music and the everything surrounding it- the aesthetic, the stage show and the audience – were something I’d never experienced before or since.

In late 2018 I bought a ticket to see a few bands playing in The Garage in Islington on the Winter Solstice. I booked a night in a guest house nearby and secured a return flight to London City Airport. These bands were descendants, or offshoots of Cardiacs, my all time favourite band and obsession.

Long story short, four days before I was due to fly I fell ill. I spent 9 days in hospital up to Christmas Eve with suspected appendicitis and other complications. Hooked up to drips and drifting in and out of fevers I kept myself updated and frustrated on Facebook looking at photos and videos of the gig as they came in.

The bands were playing to raise funds for the medical care of Tim Smith, leader of Cardiacs who had been brought low in 2008 by a full cardiac arrest which in turn led to hypoxic brain damage and left him with a little known condition called dystonia (cardiacs.net). They were also playing to celebrate their Cardiacs lineage and to pay tribute to Smith.

In a nutshell, Cardiacs were formed in the late 70’s and delivered a beautiful/ugly cacophony throughout the 80s, 90s and early oughts. If ever there was a marmite band Cardiacs were it. Under the baton of Tim Smith, songwriter, guitarist and singer the many line-ups brought into the world a chthonic maelstrom of prog, punk, psych, pop, sweet, snarling, fairground nightmare, breakneck, whiplash, nursery rhyme, sea shanty, english hymnal, schoolboy shame, big important man, glitching, twitching ferocity and earthbound magic… for starters.

I was living in London in 1989 and was dragged to see them at The Brixton Fridge. I won’t say I was immediately smitten, it was more like the effect of a hallucinatory drug changing the way you see, hear and tolerate things from then on. I bought their album On Land and in the Sea and thought ‘this is awful, why can’t I stop listening to it?’

Cardiacs have a tight band of devoted fans/friends/followers referred to by Tim Smith and by themselves as ‘The Pond’. An amazing concert they played in Salisbury in 1990 was captured on film and can be viewed under the title ‘All that Glitters is a Mares Nest’. It wallops you with the full throttle Cardiacs experience from that time and a core of the Pond, there on the day, are still the Pond today. They’ve been joined by many later fish and the FB group, a reliable record of pond life, now boasts over 5,600 members.

In late 2019 one of the bands that played the night I missed, Spratleys Japs, announced another Winter Solstice gig this time in Brighton. “This time!” I typed into the FB comments. And so it came to be. I went to Brighton and had a brilliant night in the pond.

Cardiacs have been featured before on ‘This week I’ll be mostly…’ but they get another go because the work of Tim Smith has opened and blown our minds and holds such a special place in our hearts.

The assault starts here. The Duck and Roger the Horse is the first track on their ’89 album On Land and in the Sea and is probably my favourite Cardiacs live clip.

Irish composer Martin Keary (Tantacrul) gives an introduction to the strange and wonderful world of Cardiacs with the added value of a little music lesson

The first Cardiacs song on my radar, the video shares themes and images with a nightmare I had as a small child.

Everyone’s favourite Cardiacs anthem.

Is this the life?

A track from Some Fairytales from the Rotten Shed, footage of Cardiacs’ rehearsals of their early tracks.

Jibber and Twitch

The Sea Nymphs was side project for Tim and Sarah Smith and keyboardist Bill Drake

On the dry land

An amazing song from another of Smith’s bands.


My favourite album track, The Everso closely guarded line, from On Land and in the Sea.
One of their scarier songs. Yes it’s a prog-tastic 8 minutes plus but it rewards listening to the end.


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