Cardiacs
On Land and in the Sea


4.0
excellent

Review

by Will Robinson STAFF
January 17th, 2013 | 11 replies


Release Date: 1989 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A difficult but rewarding foray into the weird side of art rock.

Let's not beat around the bush: On Land and in the Sea is a weird album. It takes relatively normal musical elements - constant tempos, 4/4 time, keys that are defined firmly as major or minor - and essentially throws them out the window in favor of an art-rock style that's sure to ruffle a few feathers. Songs like "The Stench of Honey" and "Two Bites Of Cherry" employ rapid tempo and meter shifts with no warning, relying on staccato guitar chords to anchor the song rather than the drums. "Horsehead" is ominous with its alternating male-female vocals, both with an incredibly strong British accent, over a creaking, whirring beat and psychedelic piano line, an ordeal that lasts for less than a minute and a half but makes its presence felt over its entire runtime. "The Everso Closely Guarded Line," as the title might suggest, is an exceedingly odd song, mostly staying in 6/8 but changing up its tempo at unexpected times. What really makes it weird, though, is the cacophony of instruments that surround the song - organ, synth, strings, and some sort of percussive instrument like a xylophone, a baby's cry, and other similar instruments surround the song's art-rock core.

The most curious thing about On Land and in the Sea, though, is that it's never actually unenjoyable. The entire thing is mysteriously catchy, and Cardiacs have done an exceptional job of straddling the line between trite and impossible to listen to. It's difficult, no doubt, and listening to the whole album presents a daunting task. However, said task can in fact be construed as fun, even if that definition of "fun" does not include sadomasochism. Every song, even the aforementioned tempo shifting ones like "The Stench of Honey" and "Two Bites Of Cherry," keeps a coherent structure throughout the entire piece, and it's almost possible to see the so-called method behind the madness that Cardiacs utilize quite well. For example, "Baby Heart Dirt," while difficult to describe without nonsensensical techno-jargon, is somehow fun with its crunchy guitars, strings and piano, and mostly understandable format. It's incredibly complex, but at the same time it's accessible given just a little bit of auditory work.

That being said, though, it feels like sometimes Cardiacs are being avant-garde for the sake of being avant-garde. It's a phenomenon that's difficult to avoid with this type of music, but for an excellent album such as this it's just a little too prone to following some sort of twisted formula. It feels like every song uses some sort of disorienting tempo change, meter change, weird harmonies, or some combination. This criticism may just be me looking too deeply into an excellent and influential album that's difficult but rewarding, though. On Land and in the Sea is quite an interesting work, and for all its weirdness it's still an endearing album. It won't endear itself to everybody, but it's fascinating nonetheless.



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user ratings (19)
Chart.
4.4
superb

Comments:Add a Comment 
Brostep
Staff Reviewer
January 17th 2013


3459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Originally posted at www.muzikdizcovery.com

My entry for the "Review A Random Album Game" run by WeepingBanana. Excellent album, but this one is definitely a step out of my comfort zone. A meaningless review for an album that's surely full of meaning, enjoy both at your own risk

YankeeDudel
January 17th 2013


9313 Comments


great band, but someone needs to review Sing to God

Digging: Coroner - Mental Vortex

Chortles
January 17th 2013


17970 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

sing to god is so immense

great review, especially since it's pretty hard to describe. i agree with your points and you definitely did it justice, pos'd hard

this band desperately needs sput attention



Digging: Pinback - Blue Screen Life

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
January 17th 2013


3459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sweet, glad to know you liked it. It is indeed a pretty awesome album but I only gave it a 4 because I can't see myself listening to it on my own free time, and I feel like if I'm going to give anything a 4.5 or higher I'm going to come back to it over and over again, which I don't believe I will with this.

Chortles
January 17th 2013


17970 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

that's okay, at least you liked it. this kind of stuff is right up my alley so more props since it's
outside of your comfort zone

Jethro42
January 17th 2013


12456 Comments


Great band, but never heard of this album.

Chortles
January 17th 2013


17970 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

really? i was under the impression that this was the most popular one among cardiacs fans. either way this is amazing though, and if you like the band you'd surely like this

Jethro42
January 17th 2013


12456 Comments


I take good note, Chortles. I've only heard A Little Man and Sing to God. Both have the best ratings according to Progarchives.

Chortles
January 17th 2013


17970 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

that is curious, i might have been mistaken on that then

Jethro42
January 17th 2013


12456 Comments


No you're not wrong; Progarchives and On Land and in the Sea, general rating = 4.17 with 42 votes.
http://www.progarchives.com/artist.asp?id=1488

greg84
Staff Reviewer
January 23rd 2013


7397 Comments


Great review. I enjoy some songs of these guys.

Digging: Lo-Pan - Colossus



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