Cardiacs’ Tim Smith, RIP
Tim Smith, frontman of the highly influential, impossible-to-pigeonhole progressive punk band Cardiacs, has died at age 59. Tim's brother and bandmate Jim Smith wrote on the band's website, "I’m sorry, on such a glorious day, to tell you the news that my dearest brother Tim passed away suddenly last night. Sorry it’s a brief message but I don’t have it in me to speak at length just now. Love to you all. Be safe."
Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson, Blur's Graham Coxon, Voivod's Chewy, Pinback's Rob Crow, Devin Townsend, Foetus' JG Thirlwell, and other musicians have paid tribute.
The Guardian reports that his bandmate Kavus Torabi also confirmed the news, and that another representative said Tim "passed away peacefully [Tuesday] night around 10.30pm."
Mary Wren of Cardiacs' label Alphabet Business Concern said, "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."
The band posted the song "Heaven Heven" by Tim's side project The Sea Nymphs to Facebook and quoted these lyrics:
I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.
And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.
Tim had suffered a heart attack and stroke in 2008 and had been suffering from a condition that was "complex and poorly understood" ever since. In 2018, a crowdfunding campaign was launched to help with his medical bills.
Tim initially formed Cardiacs in 1977 as The Filth, before changing their name to Cardiac Arrest and then simply Cardiacs in 1981. They released a handful of albums throughout the '80s and '90s, including such all-time classics as 1988's A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window and 1996's Sing to God. Their genre-defying sound never made them as popular as they deserved to be, but they've influenced so many bands, including Radiohead, Blur, Faith No More, Tool, Porcupine Tree, Napalm Death, Voivod, and more. And despite leaving an impact on so many other musicians, no one ever sounded quite like Cardiacs.
"Cardiacs were an early inspiration for all of us in Blur," Damon Albarn told Louder Than War in 2011. "I remember one of their gigs at ULU. It was amazing, one of the most magical live performances I’ve ever seen."
The Damned's Captain Sensible also spoke to Louder Than War about Tim in 2011 and said, "Tim Smith’s a genius in my book. I’d guess we share a similar record collection. You have to admire him for flying in the face of commerciality in a heroic and comprehensive fashion and making some bloody spectacular music along the way. It’s people like him that give psychedelia a good name."
"Tim Smith is in my opinion a musical genius," said Napalm Death's Shane Embury.
"I was blown away because it had all the things I liked about the music I had grown up with, you know - great musicianship, complex compositions, very literate music, kind of semi-surreal lyrics," Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson told the BBC in 2010. "But it had this energy that I recognised from punk and hardcore music so it kind of was kind of like a bridge for me to that kind of music for the first time."
"I was blown away by the uniqueness of their sound, composition and vibe," Voivod's Daniel "Chewy" Mongrain told Kerrang in 2018.
Listen to covers of Cardiacs songs by Napalm Death, Steven Wilson, and Chewy at Invisible Oranges.
Watch some classic live videos and their classic 1990 live film, and stream a few of their albums below. Read tributes from fellow musicians here.
Rest in peace, Tim. You were a true original and a true legend and you'll forever be missed.
Update: read our retrospective on A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window.