Cardiacs Frontman Tim Smith dies at 59— Matthew Leonard -
Tim Smith, 59 years of age.
A life already debilitated by a series of heart attacks and stroke 12 years previous has ended today. ( 22/7 )
Leader of Cardiacs – a more cantankerous, brilliant and oh-so-British band than it would usually be possible to find – much lauded figure to a legion of fans and of his work world-wide.
Tim with his band made music complex, childlike and sinister. Songs that took us into a world of innocence and darkness. The music sometimes difficult to follow, at times purposefully harsh on the ears but fired synapses that other bands could not even dream. They took you by the scruff and once taken you were never let go.
For these reasons they were also just as derided. Friends of mine who saw Cardiacs support Marillion (!) in the mid 80s still say they were “the worst band (they’d) ever seen-dilly-dilly.” Unlistenable and creepy are words often banded about by haters.
Cardiacs didn’t shy away from making their presence felt.
During the 80s dressing up like a 8 piece marching band from a mental institution – all epaulettes and powdered and blushed faces – their stage presence was confrontational with ‘fights’ breaking out between bands members, the occasional snog and Tims relentless ‘bullying’ of brother Jim (bass) and hectoring of the crowd.
This was a full performance: assault on both eyes and ears.
Even in later years down to the trim four-piece as how they would remain, supporting Blur at Mile End in ’95 the band were showered with coins by the non-plussed indie kids. Cardiacs really could bring out the hate in the most placid of fan bases.
To their own fans in “the pond” they were held aloft with Tim – at the centre of things – the deity. If you “got” it – like famous fans Blur, Radiohead, Mike Patton, Biffy Clyro and Steve Davis – this music could really change you, help you, empower you.
Heavily influenced by prog and powered by punk energy Cardiacs occupied a place all of their own. From a musicians perspective their work is difficult to play but just as exciting.
Cardiacs self released cassettes from the late 70s til early 80s then following 9 lps of near faultless quality which would have stretched no doubt to 10 – album ‘LSD’ remains unfinished – but for Tims ill health in 2008.
Mary Wren, from Cardiacs’ label Alphabet Business Concern, said in a statement: “Despite the struggles Tim faced over the last 12 years, we all somehow felt he would never leave us. This is, in part, because he looked at death square in the face, with his good and true eye, so many times and won … At this time, we are comforted by the fact that he left us quietly, albeit suddenly.”
After Tims heart attack and stroke his brain was starved of oxygen leaving him and was diagnosed with dystonia, an ailment which causes muscles to contract uncontrollably. Tim was still able to communicate by only by pointing at letters sewn on to a specially made cushion.
In 2017, he described his condition: “Imagine if you were wearing a skintight bodysuit made of fishnet all around you, with electrical pulses going all the time. This is what my body feels like unless I fall asleep.”
Mary Wren continues, “His fans adored him. He changed people for the better. He saved lives. His music was a refuge for those in need and he never locked his door or turned anyone away. I feel as if church bells across the land should be ringing out his name.”
The erstwhile leader of the starry skies has now left us. May we sing of his life.