It’s horrible but in some ways fitting that recent years have seen some historical revisionism to the way that Cardiacs are viewed by the music press. Horrible in that the long overdue good press was received after front-man Tim Smith suffered a near fatal heart attack and stroke but fitting as they were a band that sought to confuse and confound with their next millenium prog/punk/pop. Devotees Mike Patton and Damon Albarn definitely knew where they were coming from.
Arguably the second most important part of that cult outfit behind Smith was William D. Drake, who from 1983- 1992 played keyboards and shared some songwriting with such distinction that on leaving he could never be suitably replaced by a human – the band subsequently relying on a recorded version live. Indeed even after leaving the band he appeared on two Cardiacs albums, various live performances and stayed in Tim Smith’s side project The Sea Nymphs.
The prodigiously talented pianist kept himself occupied in a variety of projects such as Nervous, Lake of Puppies and Wood before taking the decision in 2001 to go solo. He was convinced by Tim Smith of Cardiacs to write lyrics for a number of piano pieces that he had written, the result of these efforts being his self-titled debut album which demonstrated his beautiful, complex playing with the minimum of accompaniment. 2007 saw the release of Briny Hooves a more song orientated affair that caught the ear of Q Magazine and Yews Paw an album of unaccompanied piano pieces.
All of which seems to have worked up to most recent release The Rising of The Lights, his best solo work to date. It sees Drake producing his most band focused and coherent sounding music since Cardiacs. For a musician who has long written off as willfully obtuse, it is remarkably accessible stuff, as English as cream tea, melodic yet eccentric and jolly good fun. 2015 will see the release of his new record Revere Reach so we expect plenty of new material to be shared.
In support Stars in Battledress also have connections with Cardiacs, not only in having supported them live but in their desire to break conventional songwriting boundaries. Using just a guitar, paino and voice they manage to convey an indefinable sense of British nostalgia through their songs. They also play in William Drake’s band.
Opening the show is another barmy but endearing British piano based songwriter, Worthing based Crayola Lectern, who may well be the local area’s best kept secret. His music comes at a slower pace than the other two acts but is injected with such a keen ear for melody in invokes memories of classic British songwriters such The Beatles or Pink Floyd whilst remaining completely on its own path.