Underated tracks

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bellyeyed
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Re: Underated tracks

Postby bellyeyed » Tue Nov 09, 2010 22:01

my god, and i thought i listened to cardiacs :) a mixolydianphyrgian what??? hi bob and welcome. il go out on a limb and guess you studied music
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Re: Underated tracks

Postby schlep » Tue Nov 09, 2010 22:03

I've heard the similarities in those roaring Genesis grand finales and some Cardiacs tunes, Duck and Roger for sure, but I could never say or understand why or how! I'm going to listen again to Wooden Fish of Epping Forest right now...
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Re: Underated tracks

Postby bellyeyed » Tue Nov 09, 2010 22:10

Snardbafulator wrote:Top graf, my previous post: Meant to say Genesis' "The Battle of Epping Forest" fromSelling England by the Pound. The title track of that album doesn't suggest anything in particular by Cardiacs.

Speaking of early Genesis, for the sake of making this post only slightly less useless and self-indulgent (nods to schlep :)) than a correction, I can't resist noting that the intensely dissonant, non-diatonic chord progression in the Mellotron/organ outchorus of "Return of the Giant Hogweed" from Nursery Cryme seems to have served as some kind of template for the development of an important aspect of Tim Smith's harmonic language. Anyone else notice resemblances to the staccato chord sections of "The Duck and Roger the Horse" and "A Horse's Tail," not to mention other strikingly dissonant/out of mode chordal movements all throughout Cardiacs music?

Bob


i woudnt have been able to put it in that language but i agree.tim has a very distinctive way of writing.one of those chord sections also in vine by spratleys japs
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Re: Underated tracks

Postby Sterbus » Tue Nov 09, 2010 22:28

Remember, Tim and Kavus used to refer to them as "the devil intervals" :D
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Re: Underated tracks

Postby Snardbafulator » Tue Nov 09, 2010 22:37

> The Association, I thought...?

Just Googled it, and yep, The Association wrote the tune in '66 :) But you know what -- The Partridge Family had a hit with it in the early 70s, and somebody just uploaded David Cassidy's smarmy face with that version to YouTube ... :/

> Everyone knows I'm windy.

No ... everyone knows I'm windy.

> (Welcome to the nest Snard!)

Thanks, bro. You know, being Irish-American, there are only two things that make me strenuously wish I were English: Monty Python and Cardiacs -- and not necessarily in that order :)

Bob
Last edited by Snardbafulator on Wed Nov 10, 2010 00:30, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Underated tracks

Postby Snardbafulator » Wed Nov 10, 2010 00:29

Sterbus> Remember, Tim and Kavus used to refer to them as "the devil intervals" :D

Yeah: Tim, Kavus and Pope Innocent III. And that guy had the thumbscrews to back up his musical opinion! :eeeek:
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Re: Underated tracks

Postby prowler » Wed Nov 10, 2010 01:03

thanks for that Bob, great read :)

for more cardiacs music theory check out http://dfan.org/blog/ i think he also posts here sometimes

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clippa
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Re: Underated tracks

Postby clippa » Wed Nov 10, 2010 02:36

I have no idea what he's talking about. Where do I sign?

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Postby Made Of Worms » Wed Nov 10, 2010 12:33

I think he means it makes your tummy go funny. I'll have some too, or if there's none left, half an ounce of Disco Volantes.

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Re: Underated tracks

Postby eadric » Wed Nov 10, 2010 18:19

I definitely see some Tony Banks influence, chordally, in Tim's work (Watcher of the skies, etc). Except for that Tim's, harmonic sense always seems pretty one-off, sadly. I'd love to find more stuff like that.

Good call on eat 'em up worms hero too.

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Postby Snardbafulator » Wed Nov 10, 2010 22:55

Made Of Worms> I think he means it makes your tummy go funny.

*sigh* ... I dunno. You know, I can't really blame Tim for wanting to play his composer's cards close to his vest and all (and I definitely don't blame him for wanting to avoid all discussion of his lyrics entirely), but there's something ... I dunno ... "too cute by half" doesn't quite convey it.

I mean, Tim isn't Captain Beefheart -- a bona-fide idiolaliac who pounded out Trout Mask Replica on the piano, while poor John "Drumbo" French had to watch Vliet's hands in order to copy out the music in some form so the rest of the band could learn it. Tim may not be any Royal College of Music graduate like Kerry (Gentle Giant) Minnear (nor am I, for that matter -- self-taught like Tim and our mutual idol, Frank Zappa), but I've seen his hymn to Jim. The guy does know how to draw dots on a stave system and parse standard guitar chord symbols, so he's got to have at least some rudimentary idea of what he's doing and why he's doing it ...

Maybe it's just me, but I fantasize sometimes about being a journalist for some underground rock music theory magazine (fantasy, indeed!) and eventually pinning Tim down in words on whole tones, suspensions, hemiolas, polytonality -- why? -- because I dig knowing about that stuff, so nyah :butthead: Seriously, because Tim's genius is real, and it deserves careful study every bit as much as does Beethoven or Stravinsky or Charlie Parker or John Coltrane ...

Made Of Worms>I'll have some too, or if there's none left, half an ounce of Disco Volantes.

Oh my goodness, it's the same deal with Trey Spruance. Back in the early 90s after a Mr. Bungle gig in New York, I got a chance to talk with Trey for about 45 minutes while he was packing up his gear. I kept pressing him on whether Zappa was an influence and he kept claiming he'd never heard Zappa, that the band's only two influences were Slayer and Nintendo.

I mean, c'mon, we have a horn section here. I stick to my theory that these guys, as young as they all were when Bungle got off the ground, had to have been highschool stage band virtuosos.

Part of it is that this is what the culture wants of our one-of-a-kind geniuses. It's part of the whole indie, DIY, "rockist" ethic -- we want them all to spring as if fully formed out of the head of Zeus. We don't like too much explanation -- from critics or even fan obsessives like myself, or even from them themselves. We'd much rather know about why Jim submits so stoically to getting beaten up by his younger brother, etc. etc. As if too many words might somehow spoil the magic.

But I continue to plane, plane against the grain in this regard. Oh well ...

Bob
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Postby Made Of Worms » Thu Nov 11, 2010 14:51

No no, it's all fascinating, really, I'm positive your posts are being thoroughly enjoyed by everyone, and I've been known to get the graph paper out to work out what Bill Bruford was doing myself, but I'm afraid it's any excuse to post facile pictures of seventies sweeties. We all have our cross to bear. Anyway clippa started it sir.

and I definitely don't blame him for wanting to avoid all discussion of his lyrics entirely

Go orrrn, get yourself over to Lyrics. "The coldest and loneliest part of the Forum" - dogsetc. Some insightful analysis there, and some utter, utter bollocks :D. Nothing is sacrosanct, sorry Timmy.

He said in some interview that he used to write all the music down. I guess we don't know if he wrote it all down 'right'.

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Re: Underated tracks

Postby shiroihage » Thu Nov 11, 2010 15:37

Loving the posts from Snardbafulator but... can't help thinking there might be a tad too much overanalysis there. I meant that I bet Tim's work isn't as contrived as that. Mostly from the heart than the head isn't it? If you know what I mean...

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Re: Underated tracks

Postby Snardbafulator » Thu Nov 11, 2010 23:49

shiroihage> Loving the posts from Snardbafulator but...

Well thank you, very respectfully. I know I've been sounding a little pre-emptively defensive and it's for several reasons. First, full disclosure: I'm currently unemployed and thus have a bit too much time on my hands right now to do things like post on music fora. Second and more poignantly, Tim's recovering from a stroke, so the whole future destiny of Cardiacs is currently up in the air, traffic on sites like this is down, and I'm trying to be sensitive and respectful of what it might look like to the hard-core regulars when some new fish comes around and starts posting lots, contributing to threads that hadn't had a reply in three years, etc. ...

I appreciate the good words and will try not to let them go to my head (or, too much, to my fingers).

shiroihage> can't help thinking there might be a tad too much overanalysis there. I meant that I bet Tim's work isn't as contrived as that. Mostly from the heart than the head isn't it? If you know what I mean...

Well yes, of course, and this is the huge cultural issue that I wanted to begin to address (here I go again, wheee! :)), mainly because it's part, along with disco, punk and (in America) stagflation, of what killed the progressive in rock music. And a fascinating part of this story is how Cardiacs answered this cultural current and helped restore prog values -- at least to one beloved community.

Oh my gracious this is going to be a long post. Okay then. Deep breath. I'll simply attempt to begin the discussion by noting that all art, in any form, exists in a balance between expression and communication, and that pure forms at either end of the spectrum (e.g. a child smearing scat on the crib wall, press releases/advertising copy) are not art. Any expression, no matter how deeply felt, no matter how obscure or anti-commercial, must contain within it the seeds of a communication strategy if it's to get its message across and be percieved as art. And any attempt at communication needs to express something, often inchoate, in such a way that goes deeper than a mere description, to be art. "You can't explain poetry" and all of that ...

In the worlds of art, poetry and music, these two poles war with each other dialectically and at various times produce partisans of one side or the other. In classical periods of art and music, it's obviously more about the extraordinary artisanship of communication, since the forms involved are platonic givens and it's up to the artist or composer to merely discover them. In more chaotic times, usually after great upheavals like wars, the ideals of communication are thrown to the wolves and art becomes Expressionist, eventually beginning to resemble that scat flung at the wall.

Okay, thesis statement done.

In the late 60s/early 70s, international popular music culture (as broadly defined here as possible) was moving from a classical to a rococco phase. There were tremendously skilled composers and arrangers, many with Broadway experience (I'm thinking Burt Bacharach, Sondheim, Bernstein, etc. etc.), working right alongside The Beatles and others to push the givens of Tin Pan Alley and the American songbook past the jazz-inflected limits set mainly by George Gershwin. Odd meters were beginning to pop up in places little expected (e.g. the "Mission Impossible" theme), adult-contemporary radio singles like "Classical Gas" and "MacArthur Park" were stuffed with dramatic time changes, nods to classical and baroque (broadly defined) too many to begin to mention.

This was the milieu out of which arose progressive rock from the psychedelic underground. The point in all this background is quite basic: the culture fully supported this sort of innovation.
Of course, mainstream support of any sort of artistic innovation is never less than a mixed blessing -- sort of like having your parents cheer you on in the wings as you and your rock band buddies perform a free-form noise jam during a highschool talent contest. I'll never forget Time Magazine's 1974 article "Rock Goes to College," which heaped equal amounts of praise on both Focus' entirely laudable Hamburger Concerto and Rick Wakeman's execrable Journey to the Centre of the Earth. But hey -- Lester Bangs was doing it. John Peel was doing it. Progrock -- including all the indulgences self- and otherwise of Krautrock -- was considered the future of rock music.

Well what happened? I don't need to tell most of you, since most of you I'll bet lived through it, or at least some of it. We all have our own theories and the general consensus appears to be that after the smoke cleared, it was on balance a good thing that all those 40-year-old dinosaurs had been slayed by new blood and new energy. And then CLASSIC ROCK RADIO came around. Yikes. Turns out as long as the Baby Boomers, as the biggest demographic you could sell things to, had their hands on the reins of culture, killing 70s rock was going to be infinitely harder than Dracula.

But progrock indeed had the stake driven through it (three acceptable songs by Yes, two by ELP, one by King Crimson on classic rock radio don't count). The only thing I'd say is to remind folks of just how important the changed economy was in spooking the major labels (much more the only game in town back then) into dropping their indulgent support for their cult favorite loss leaders.

As someone who's always had a soft spot for neomarxist cultural analysis, I think it's important to understand how this change in material conditions -- the '78 OPEC oil embargo-induced global recession drying up large-scale corporate support for non-mainstream music and the subsequent rise of genuinely independent labels and consequently the DIY ethic -- is what necessitated a radical shift in the ideology of rock music criticism from the punk era onwards, and not the reverse. I mean, does anybody really think that Lester Bangs -- the dean of American rock critics -- whose tongue was slavishing lolling for the likes of Rick Wakeman ("a Real Composer. The 70s Edward Elgar." -- good fwocking grief!), Grobschnitt and Amon Duul II a year before -- became a hardcore Sex Pistols booster out of the logic of some purely aesthetic argument?

And so today we have the "rockist" ideology, which saturates the air that music journos breathe (which is why they don't notice it). And remember -- there's no "right" or "wrong" here, just periodic historical shufflings along the arc of a dialectic. The mainstream music press's ideology, since about the mid-80s, has heavily privileged the "expression" side of the equation. We want our music heroes to come to us unencumbered by all the -- absolutely granted! -- often cynical appurtenances in what it takes to communicate their genius to us. (This is also why we love "American Idol" and "Britain's Got Talent" -- these folks pop up out of nowhere with zero promo baggage.) But the communication side, as it were, includes not just the unversally-despised promotional apparatus, it also includes the very language it takes to communicate aesthetic ideas. So we learn to worship yobbos who claim to have zero -- less than zero! -- knowledge of what they're doing musically ("It just comes from within!") and we lie to ourselves that this can in any way be true for a rock band that needs to rehearse to play even the most rudimentary of tunes.

Before I speak of Cardiacs directly to wrap up my argument, I'll note in passing that one of the most pointless musical debates I've seen in a while is over on YouTube in a Cardiacs thread about who is "better," Cardiacs or Zappa. In my view, they're not strictly comparable, but the vehemence I think comes from the fact that Zappa -- for all the intensity of his expressiveness -- is a communications guy at heart, with an advertising background, who went to bed after every new release sweating how popular he thought it might become, who wrote tunes specifically for audience members who didn't get avant-garde -- sucking them in with comedy or broad stylistic parody just so he could whack them with, e.g. a wild middle section. And from what I gather from the thread, this approach seems alienating to some Cardiacs fans because it seems so "contrived."

So here come Cardiacs, plopped into the middle of this upheaval. On the one hand, considered objectively, they use some of the most progressive compositional devices in rock music (I don't even think Art Bears or Magma take time signatures or dissonant chord progressions as far -- and as early in their careers). On the other hand, culturally they're working-class punks (or at least striving to appear that way; Tim Smith is obviously a highly educated person). So as the culture begins to rip apart some of the most important music they grew up with (was pleased to read on the official site that Egg was an embryonic influence), how do they resolve this contradiction?

I think they at least make a college try with the over-the-top grotesquerie in all those otherwise inexplicable early promo videos, including Seaside Treats. Expecially William D. Drake, with the overbite and the two notes in an early part of R.E.S. It's as if they're saying (no, veritably shrieking) "Hey, we ain't no snobbish 'prog rock' musos -- how can we be, look at us! We're all institutionalized retards!" -- even as the music itself opens up all sorts of questions. It's a way to wear their DIY on their sleeves and violently reject the elitist image of prog -- while playing prog.

How did that defensive strategy work out for them? Horribly, of course. They lost cred with the remaining progrock fans out there (Marillion tour, anyone?) and, despite "Is This The Life?" brilliantly capturing the late-80s MTV Zeitgeist, ultimately gained little from New Wavers. Do you think I heard of Cardiacs on the radio or saw them on MTV? Of course not -- word of mouth, like virtually everybody else in the community. In my case a transatlantically mailed cassette.

So in sum, can Cardiacs be explained? Can Bach? Can Shakespeare?

All we know for sure is that explanations such as the above always remain subject to revisionism ...

Bob
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Re: Underated tracks

Postby Bubby » Wed Dec 01, 2010 00:25

Victory Egg is doing it for me at the moment after years of it being just another album track.I have to say the lyrics seem rather pertinent considering what's happened :( Can anyone confirm? Don't have them to hand y'see.


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